It was the summer of 1999.
I was a 23-year-old freshly out of my first relationship with another man, a two-year stint that bore warning signs since our initial meeting.
While dealing with the emotional stress of picking up the pieces on that relationship, I was embroiled in a testy kinship with my father whose home I was living after the break-up. Though my relationship with Dad was never stable by that time, because I had not forgiven him for being an absentee father during my adolescence, our relationship was further strained by my coming out as a homosexual.
Though gay rumors surrounded me since I was in grade school and not aware of what sexuality or sex entailed, I felt comfortable at living in my sexuality shortly after the break-up with the ex-lover. Until age 23, I was always attracted to both sexes and did not want to confine myself to a sexual identification because I did not care to understand whether I was gay or bisexual. I was being me expressing my sexuality through making love rather than rumors, questions, classifications and assumptions by others.
Dad was the second person I came out to, after coming out to my then-best friend from high school. His reaction was surprisingly accepting until we had a disagreement two weeks later when he condemned my sexuality because of his Christianity, despite not abiding in that Christ-like walk himself with his own habits and indiscretions. That confrontation made me hate him and decide to move out his home and temporarily reside at my best friend’s apartment until I figured out my next move.
My next move, or savior, came at the courtesy from a guy named C.
I am not providing C’s name to protect his privacy.
C was a man whom I have communicated solely through the internet via WBS Chat for two years. When we first met online, he was a resident in Atlanta, GA. We kept in touch because I felt that we would cross paths since we frequently traveled to Washington DC and New York, NY during that time. I also chose not to be out in the gay scene because I was not out of the closet, essentially. Online chat was my primary gay social scene throughout the late 1990’s.
By the summer of 1999, C was living in Houston, TX. Our online communications decreased because of the stresses I dealt with family, a bitter breakup, finding a new apartment and looking for a second job for additional income. C showed concern in an online message, to which I replied about my circumstances. Because I finally owned a cell phone for the first time, we felt that we should escalate our communications to the phone. At that point, I confided to C in great detail about my complex circumstances.
After hearing me unload my life stresses onto his ear, C offered me a solution to help me overcome my woes. He suggested that I move in with him at his apartment in Houston, TX. Though I appreciated the gesture, the proposition needed time for me to think through on what the consequences in the move detailed. I was certain of two things. I would be able to run away from the present problems in Illinois. I would also run into the arms of a man of whom I can begin a new relationship with in hopes that he would be the faithful and considerate lover I hoped the previous lover would have been. Yes, C proposed that we would become a couple. He expressed how he wanted to see me pick up the shattered pieces of my life — physically, emotionally and professionally.
I chose to move to Texas to live with C and so that I may leave my troubles in Illinois. I said my few goodbyes to the few friends I had in the Chicagoland area. I packed two suitcases and moved to Texas to be with C.
Between ages 18 and 23, I resided in three states – Kansas, Illinois and Florida. Moving to another state via a Greyhound bus and two large suitcases almost seemed like a normal activity.
Once I arrived in the designated Greyhound bus terminal to meet C for pick-up, I believed that I would find my happily ever after.
In a few weeks, I learned that the move was a big mistake.
Though C was initially very welcoming of my move-in in his apartment, our romance was short-lived because we realized that we were incompatible. Actually, C realized that we were incompatible as I was trying to force chemistry and harmony. As I began accepting that we were not working out as a couple, C quickly moved onto a guy I referred as “Waddie Pt. 2.” Like me, the man was also 23, dark skinned with a shaved bald head and a nice slim physique. Their courtship forced me to focus on dating around. I juggled time between an attorney, a chef and a bisexual computer programmer — all who gave me my most memorable sexual experiences and the difficulty of choosing one to pursue a relationship.
While working a full-time job at a financial institution in addition to dating and socializing, I purposely kept my mind and distance from C. That was irresponsible of me because I failed to acknowledge that I am an unwanted live-in guest in C’s home since I was no longer his lover. I also grew jealous of C’s budding relationship with his new boo because for the second time in three months, I felt rejected by another man with whom I felt I should have been in love.
With the mounting problems I acquired in Texas, I confided some to the bisexual computer programmer with whom I continued a friends-with-benefits relationship for a few more years. Whatever I did not confide to him was jotted down in a journal I bought. In that journal, I professed my emotions after explaining the actions that further strained my relationship with C to the programmer.
Some of the emotions I revealed in my journal were feelings of rage. I do not remember the words I have written, but I called C and his new boo unflattering names. Unfortunately, upon snooping through my belongings, C found my journal and read the vitriolic things I said about them and their blossoming romance.
The day I return to C’s apartment after hanging out and his reading of my journal, he informed me that I must leave his apartment within one week. My response was filled with disgust. I informed him that my thoughts of anger were real because of my jealousy about his new relationship as I wanted ours to work. C did not accept my apology or show sympathy and kept his order for me to move out.
I had one week to decide where my next home would be. I was too hurt and stressed to deal with the emotions of my fallout with C. Of course, I made the results seemed to be C’s fault. Looking back, I failed at making sure that I progressed to become independent of C’s generosity. Blame it on my youth, but that was the tough love I needed at that time.
Instead of accepting responsibility for my carelessness while looking for the next place to move, the urge of revenge against C festered throughout my mind as I felt that he needed to pay for snooping into my belongings and throwing me out of his home because of what he read in my journal. I refused to be accountable for my situation and determined to teach C a lesson about offending me.
Days later, I sat inside a computer lab at Texas Southern University passing time by e-mailing a few friends alerting them of my move to Atlanta, my next move out of C’s apartment. Though C was not on my mind until my time allowed to use one of the school’s computers was near expiration, an idea came to mind. It was a scheme to pay back C for I how perceived how he hurt me.
The idea sprouted a memory of when C and I chatted about my move to Texas when I lived in Illinois. In the communication when I unleashed all my stresses to him about broken relationships and how I did not know how to recover from them, C revealed to me that I had the strength to deal those problems as he was dealing his HIV+ diagnosis and estrangement from his family. C’s HIV+ revelation instantly stopped me from sobbing about my issues to focus on his. I told C that I would not mind pursuing a relationship with him as long as we wore condoms during sexual intercourse. At that time, HIV- people far more reluctant to date a HIV+ than the probability today.
When that memory came to me, I became envious and enraged again. I felt that C owed me a relationship since I moved down to Texas to be with him despite his HIV+ status. I felt entitled. I made myself to feel like a victim. As a result, I decided to the most dishonorable thing.
I signed out of my e-mail account. I subscribed to a new e-mail account as an anonymous user to send a mass e-mail to people C knew, including members of his fraternity, coworkers, family members, friends and people we knew through online chat announcing his HIV+ status. I also warned people about his lover, though I had no reliable information about lover’s HIV-status.
I thought I would feel liberated and justified for outing C’s HIV+ status. Instead, I was bothered by the realization that I did not break up C’s new relationship nor feel safe from any retribution for my evil deed. The guilt did not last long as I moved to Atlanta and onto my next chapter.
After moving to Atlanta, a couple friends I acquired over the years caught wind of C’s HIV+ status outing and assumed that I was the person behind it. When confronted by them on whether I knew about the situation or was the person who sent out the mass e-mail announcement, I denied involvement. Throughout my denial, my curiosity wondered how did they figure me out. One of them asked me a few more times over a span of the next few years, I continued denying despite that I figured he judged me a liar.
I wanted to come clean about outing C’s HIV+ status for the past few years because guilt took my conscious periodically since my evil deed. My maturity over the years forced me to understand what I did was unmanly as it was not my authoritative position to blast C’s personal business out for mass consumption.
Seeing the destructive behavior of YouTube personality Walter E. Hampton II outing Black gay men’s HIV+ status for his thirst of attention in the Black gay community over the past few years made me want to come out with my revelation because I cannot afford to be hypocritical at deeming Hampton’s actions as abominable when I have not offered any type of remorse for my immaturity and immorality. I chose to ruin a man’s social life and emotional health because of my selfish and delusional desperation for a relationship. Hampton chose to sully men’s social lives and emotional health because of his selfish and delusional thirst for attention disguised as his self-imposed community concern.
Regardless of whether a HIV+ person recklessly engages in randomly non-protective sexcapades or is a relationship with a HIV- partner who may or may not know the lover’s status, no one has the moral authority to inform the public about about one’s HIV+ status, especially exacted out of revenge rather than good intentions of community awareness. No country on earth has made branding of HIV+ people a required identification. Thus, Hampton or no other messy individual is justified in outing a HIV+ individual. Not only the HIV+ individual’s personal, professional, emotional and psychological conditions are in jeopardy, so are the outed HIV+ person’s former and current lovers’ conditions.
Before we decide to act on spilling the T about others, regardless of the T being about HIV+ status or the platform being in front of a few people or thousands, we must be aware of how our information will instigate consequences for the people we want to out, the people associated with the outed and ourselves.
Before typing this revelation, I have wanted to cross paths with C to apologize to his face. For more than a decade, I have been unaware of C’s whereabouts.
C, if you are reading this. I apologize for outing your HIV+ status. I did it as revenge being the immature asshole who I was. You did not deserve that, especially for being generous to me during a difficult period in my life. I should have moved on like a man and accept that relationships can end peacefully and without further regret. If you are reading this, I hope you accept my sincerity and my apology.