Dating Politics as a Black, Queer, Trans, Hiv+ Since Birth
Aromantic and Asesual: Navigating my place in the 'romantic' world
Positively Positive Education Productions is a black, transgender person living with HIV since birth; dating is difficult even more of a challenge when you are aromantic and asexual too. For starters, my HIV is not a death sentence; I am a longterm non-progressor, sometimes called elite controllers who are individuals infected with HIV, maintains a CD4 count greater than 500 without antiretroviral therapy with a detectable viral load (Kumar, 2013). Basically, my immune system is like a normal person without HIV; I never had to take medicine; however, I still go to the doctors twice each year to complete labs to make sure my viral load is manageable (I've been doing this since I was born). Currently, now I take a HIV medicine called Genvoya (a $1,000 a month medicine for 30 pills) and I've been taking it for about a year now at the age of 29. I'm glad I have health insurance or else I would be struggling.
The question you are probably asking, "How does HIV impact your dating life?" Stigma is a deadly disease (it almost got me fired from my job several times for disclosing my HIV+ status to my employer voluntarily), and I've lost friendships and potential romantic connections based on my HIV status. There are people who still believe that you can 'catch AIDS' from holding hands or from sharing food.
A common misconception that people may have ‘is to reject HIV+ who are dating because of safety issues when engaging in sexual activity—it is a high-risk activity to “do it” with someone living with a sexual transmitted infection (STI).’ I wrote this statement in a previous issue of this blog post and it is problematic because it undermines the purpose of people taking important lifesaving drugs, such as antivirals. Plus the “Undetectable=Untransmittable” U=U is scientifically backed research and a human rights movement which states that people living with HIV whose virus is completely undetectable WILL NOT sexually transmit the virus to their partners.
Another thing that is hard about being HIV+, most people assume that everyone in the entire world desires and or wants to have sex—I've lost potential friendships especially from people who've assumed that I only want sex so basically I'm not even allowed to have 'platonic' friendships because of my HIV+ status. This makes building and connecting with community hard. It is complicated being HIV+ and dating; it is even more of a challenge being an aromantic and an asexual person.
I am asexual and aromantic because of my lived realities as a child, teen, and adult life. I've never dated. I never wanted or desired sex while growing up as a child and as a teen. Asexuals are people who generally do not experience sexual attraction. After turning 21, my sexuality shifted to a person who is grey-asexual (grey-ace) because of my interest and desire for sex while acknowledging my asexuality growing up as a kid and as a teen. My aromantic identity is important to me, I never dated or desired a romantic relationship; that was many of my experiences as a kid and as a teen. Aromantics are people who do experience ‘little or no’ romantic attraction and or romantic desire. I've began to identify as grey-aromantic (grey-aro) in my early 20's because of my desire to build intimate, long-term, romantic partnerships with people. I was born this way; sometimes, I do wonder if my HIV+ status since birth and my childhood trauma contributed to my asexuality and aromantic identities.
I lived over 25 years dealing with domestic violence and childhood trauma. My father was abusive and an alcoholic; he was incarcerated several times in and out of jail and prison for most of my life. There were often arguments between my parents almost every single night. I lived in poverty. It was difficult being born with HIV especially being the only kid in the classroom with personal experience with HIV when the textbook and the teacher would like about the HIV+ experience and misinformation. I didn't date because of trauma. I did not want to experience a romantic relationship because of the abuse from my father. I didn't want to have sex because of my HIV+ status.
It is a challenge to build supportive community with friendships, especially in the era of desirability politics, the context of HIV/AIDS, aromanticism, and asexuality. Many people don't want to date an HIV+ person because it is 'risky' and many don't want to date black people, people of color, or disabled people. Another thing that is difficult with dating, people assume that everyone in the world wants to have sex and to have a romantic relationship and it harms asexual and aromantic people.
There are many people who rely on friendship and community support to survive. It is so sad to witness the trend of romantic supremacy and its failure to recognize the important of friendships and 'platonic' friendships too. It is It is disheartening when people 'ghost' (I do it too). Ghosting is when people don’t respond at all to people sometimes it can be for desirability reasons, trauma reasons, or for not having the spoons to communicate because of a disability. I notice this to be a trend of people 'ghosting' especially within the dating realm and this is true for chosen family, friendships, community, and for family not to show up in the time of need. Basic needs that are hard to have met in friendships and by family because it seems like those needs are only obtained in romantic relationships: emergency trips to the ER, help move to another house or an apartment, to help with basic chores: to cook, to clean, to mop, and to help finances (like paying the bills), and to help meet the need of social interaction with humans. It seems like I am always in a scramble to have friends show up and family members to meet these basic needs when I know thousands of people and over twenty people in my family. When I ask for help from my friends, only one or two friends show up and only three members in my own family show up too. It seems people bend over and backwards for their romantic partners to meet these basic needs while leaving asexuals, aromantic, disabled people in the dust when so many of our people thrive and need friendships to survive.
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Kumar, P. (2013). Long term non-progressor (LTNP) HIV infection. Retrieved from Indian Journal of Medial Research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3818590/