As we enter a new decade, I have a million thoughts swirling around in my head. I am a survivor, a warrior, and a champion. I've been down many times, but I always manage to rise stronger than before. The one thing that has kept me down the longest is my desire to share my life with someone else. Let's be honest, dating is hard. I was so shy as a teen that I would literally panic every time I thought about simply saying hi to any person I had a crush on.
Growing up positive added its own layers of difficulty to the equation. I used to describe myself as poison ivy. I let the negative viewpoints of society and the stigma that I felt whenever people indirectly insulted me by joking about HIV alter the way I perceived myself.
By the time I was 16 and in love with my first boyfriend, I had to find the courage to disclose my HIV status to him after we had already had sex. I was terrified. I just knew that he would leave me. We sat on a picnic table at the park and I closed my eyes and let the words rush out of my mouth. "I'M HIV POSITIVE AND I'M SORRY I DIDN'T TELL YOU SOONER IF YOU WANT TO LEAVE I UNDERSTAND..." I sat quiet with my eyes closed tight for what felt like an eternity. I didn't want to see him walking away and if he had a violent reaction I told myself that I deserved whatever pain he would inflict on me, but I didn't want to see it coming. So I sat there. I could feel him move from my side. I kept my eyes shut and fought to keep the tears from falling. I heard him sniffling. He was crying. When I opened my eyes he was standing in front of me repeating, "How did this happen? How did this happen?" He wrapped his arms around me and told me he loved me. At this point I was sobbing! He was upset. Not because I didn't tell him, but because he couldn't make it go away. If he would have reacted in any other way I don't believe I would have ever dated another person.
I have encountered great people like him, along with not so great people, like the guy who spit in my face when I disclosed before he even asked me for my name. Recovering from that experience was challenging. I was 19 years old. Leaning against a light pole waiting for the public bus, I noticed a car approaching and then stopping right in front of me. The window opened and I could hear his voice before I could even see a face. "Damn ma, where you goin lookin all sexy?" My response: silence. He asked "Did you hear me? Where you goin?" I still couldn't see his face so I said, "Don't yell at me from inside your car, that's so rude." He got out and walked over to me and continued to question me. I said, "You don't want to talk to me, have a good night." He started to say something else and I just cut him off. "You don't want to talk to me, I'm HIV positive." He spit directly in my face and said, "Get that away from me. They should throw all of y'all in a pit and shoot you so they can end that shit." I started running, trying to create as much distance between he and I as I could.
I'm now 34 years old, healthy, unashamed, single, and in love with the woman I am. I've been loved, I've been heartbroken, I've been desired, and I've been denied. My fear of passing HIV to another has caused me to experiment with my sexuality, and my fear of being alone has caused me to tolerate domestic violence, because I thought I deserved the abuse, and I thought I couldn't do better. Through it all, I have found me. I am a strong, brave, positively beautiful Queen! I am my own cup of tea.