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Author: projecthim

29
Sep

CLEAR Tips: Deep Breathing

by Conner Spinks, CLEAR Counselor
Life is stressful and sometimes, it’s hard to deal. Here’s some tips on ways to calm your mind and deal with stress:
Perform diaphragmatic or “deep breathing” exercises.

  1. Lie face down on the floor and begin breathing deeply and slowly, with your hands resting under your face. Do this for five minutes.
  2. Sit in a reclining chair. Put a hand on your abdomen and a hand on your chest. As you breathe, make sure the hand on your abdomen is moving up and down rather than one on your chest. If the hand on your abdomen is moving you are breathing deeply and slowly.
  3. Try progressive muscle relaxation or “deep muscle” relaxation. Progressively tense and relax each muscle group in your body. Learn the difference between muscle tension and relaxation.
  4. Meditate. Use visualization or guided imagery to help you learn to be one with your thoughts. Sit quietly with your eyes closed, imagining the sights, sounds and smells of your favorite place, such as a beach or mountain retreat.

The CLEAR program goes over ways of dealing with stress and much more! In addition, every session you attend you will receive a $10 gift card. If you are interested in seeing if CLEAR is for you, contact Conner at 515-248-1584.

Workshop Contact

1
Feb

5 Reasons Why You & Your Partner Should Get Tested Together

5 REASONS WHY YOU & YOUR PARTNER SHOULD GET TESTED TOGETHER

Most guys are pretty routine with their sexual health testing, but what happens to that routine when you’ve got a steady partner? Or a new partner? Instead of letting your testing behavior slump, why not consider Testing Together?

Here are four reasons you might want to consider Testing Together:

  1. QUICK, (MOSTLY) PAINLESS, & FREE – In about the time it would take the two of you to Netflix and Chill you and your partner can both get tested for HIV, Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea. Your HIV test results are ready in as little as 20 minutes, with results for other STD screenings available in as little as 3-5 business days. Also, did we mention the tests are free of charge?
  2. STATUS UPDATE –Are you in a new relationship or have you added a new sexual partner into your rotation? Congrats! But unless you’ve both been tested during the last 24 hours, or have been abstinent since your last checkup, it’s a good idea to suggest mutual HIV/STI testing when starting a brand new relationship. Here at The Project, we use the Determine HIV test, which not only detects Antibodies but also detects Antigens, which could mean earlier detection for you and your partners. With this technology, you could both know your HIV status in as little as three weeks from your last unprotected sexual encounter or possible exposure to HIV. This way you’ll both have your most up-to-date HIV status – even if neither of you have had the time to update your relationship status on Facebook.
  3. TESTING BRINGS PEOPLE CLOSER – No, really. Whether you’ve been together 2 weeks or 2 years, learning how to have those conversations about testing habits and sexual health with a partner can be difficult. When you come in to test together with bae (boyfriend, partner, or whatever you call each other – because you’re “not into labels”), we can help you breach the subject. Doing this sets a standard for communication that can last throughout your entire relationship.
  4. OTHER PEOPLE –Whether you’re newly monogamous, choose to have a more open arrangement or recently stepped out on your fella – it’s time to get tested. This goes for whether you went all the way with your new playmate(s) or not. The truth is most guys won’t experience the classic symptoms of an STI and sex isn’t the only way to be exposed to an STI. Bacterial STIs like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea can be passed between partners through something as simple as oral sex. Other STIs like Syphilis don’t even require intercourse; heavy petting is all it takes. This all means that you might be putting others at risk, and when you think about it like that, testing just makes sense.
  5. BECAUSE YOU’RE BOTH WORTH IT The bottom line: Relationships are hard, and finding those individuals you want to keep in your life can be even harder. When you finally do find them, you want to protect them and you’d hope that they would want to protect you too. Getting tested is a quick and easy way to provide that protection and says a lot about where you stand. When you Test Together, what you’re actually saying is “I’m worth it, and I think you’re worth it too”.
Valentines day Testing Together

GET TESTED WITH YOUR BAE FOR VALENTINES DAY

FREE COUPLES GIFT BAG!

Sign up & complete “Testing Together” with your partner during the week leading up to Valentines Day (February 8th -12th).

CLICK HERE to learn more.

18
Jan

CLEAR Tips: New Years Resolution

Happy New Year! Have you made a resolution? If you’re still working on last year’s resolution, you’re not alone! According to Forbes.com, over 40% of Americans make New Year Resolutions, yet only 8% manage to achieve their goals. Here are some tips to help you achieve your goal in 2016.

  1. Make sure your goal is important to you. It’s going to be hard to stick to a goal if the result isn’t valuable to you. I’ve found just questioning the importance of a goal can motivate me to commit to it.
  2. Is your goal realistic? If your goal is too difficult to achieve, scaling it down to a more attainable level may help lead you to success.
  3. Keep it Simple. It’s important that a goal can be stated briefly and clearly, this helps you to know when you’ve accomplished it.
  4. Be Accountable. Have a friend to help check in on your New Year’s Resolution. It can help to be reminded of your goal throughout the year.

If you’d like help sticking to your New Year’s Resolution, consider CLEAR the Project’s free self-growth workshop for people living with HIV. You can check in with your CLEAR counselor each week to keep track of your progress throughout the year. For more information contact Brandon, 515-248-1584 and schedule an intake session.

5
Oct

Here’s What’s Up: Week of October 5th

Happy Monday and hello October!

As the scent of pumpkin spice everything fills the air, we are sad to say goodbye to our Prevention Specialist, Maggi. She is now at the Iowa Department of Public Health. That means that there is an opening here at Project HIM/The Project of Primary Health Care! The job hasn’t been posted yet, but be sure to check out phcinc.net for our latest job posting.

While we are looking for a new Prevention Specialist, Brandon, our CLEAR counselor will be filling in Maggi’s clinic hours at our University Avenue location. There shouldn’t be any changes with our hours, nor do we anticipate any interruption of services.

Primary Health Care – Des Moines (1200 University Avenue)

  • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • Friday 9:00 – 2:00 pm

Click here to schedule your appointment.

Primary Health Care – Ames Clinic (3510 Lincoln Way)

  • Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (HIV test only, no STI screening available at this time. No appointments needed.)

 


Live Out Loud 2015 Lineup

LOL2015-Lineup-Timeline We are excited to announce the entertainment lineup for this year’s Live Out Loud.

Scheduled to perform are:

Jupiter Phuckit Belle, Ballet Des Moines, Boylesque, Club B Fit, Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus, The Garden Show Cast, Rocky Horror Picture Show Cast, Tyona Diamond, and much more!

We are also pleased to announce that the Imperial Court of Iowa will be inaugural recipient of the David Vitiritto Community Engagement Award.

Please join The Project of Primary Health Care at Wooly’s (East Village) on Sunday, November 8th at 7:00 pm.

Tickets are only $15 in advance, and can be purchased at bit.ly/LiveOutLoud2015

Click here to visit the Live Out Loud 2015 Facebook event page.

28
Sep

Here’s What’s Up: Week of September 28th

It is the last week of September, it seemed like the month just flew by.

Last Saturday’s mobile testing event was a success.  We’ve provided 32 rapid HIV test.  We want to thank The Blazing Saddle, The Garden Nightclub, and other businesses in the East Village for their support.


Free HIV/STI Testing

This week’s testing clinic schedule is as follows:

Primary Health Care – Des Moines (1200 University Avenue)

  • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • Friday 9:00 – 2:00 pm

Primary Health Care – Ames Clinic (3510 Lincoln Way)

  • Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (HIV test only, no STI screening available at this time. No appointments needed.)

LOL – Live Out Loud 2015

Sunday, November 8 from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. (Doors open @ 6:30)

 Wooly’s (504 E Locust St, East Village)

Enjoy live music and exclusive performances from Des Moines’ best entertainers.
Spend your Sunday evening with The Project and celebrate nearly 3 decades of the community coming together to improve the lives of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Purchase your tickets today by filling out the form below. 

21
Sep

Here’s What’s Up: Week of September 21st

Happy Monday!  Project HIM and The Project of Primary Health Care is closed today for a team building retreat/outing.

Free HIV/STI Testing

Testing hours for Primary Health Care – Des Moines (1200 University Avenue)

  • Wednesday and Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • Friday 9:00 – 2:00 pm

Mobile Testing in the East Village

092615-TestingAdTo make up for it, we will have a mobile testing event on Saturday, September 26th, starting at 9:00 pm.

We will be somewhere in the East Village around The Blazing Saddle (during the first couple of hours) and at The Garden Nightclub.

No appointment needed.  It is free and confidential.

14
Sep

Here’s What’s Up: Week of September 14th.

Back to your regularly scheduled blog post.  Here’s What’s Up took a break last week due to the Labor Day holiday, but we are back now!

It is the third week of September and it is Rosh Hashanah (or the Jewish New Year).  The day is said to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman.

We just a few reminders:

Free HIV/STI Testing

Testing hours for Primary Health Care – Des Moines (1200 University Avenue)

  • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • Friday 9:00 – 2:00 pm

We are testing at our Primary Health Care’s Ames clinic on Thursday from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.

As always, you can schedule your appointment at projecthim.org/free-testing.


 

Client Picnic at Union Park

It is The Project’s annual Client Picnic this Friday, September 18th, starting at 5:30 pm.  Bring your family and join the Project’s staff, volunteers, and clients for a fun evening full of games, prizes, and carousel rides.  Food will be provided.

Confirm your attendance by calling 515-248-1595.

Transportation can be provided. Just let us know when you confirm you RSVP.


 

Live Out Loud 2015

You can purchase now your tickets for Live Out Loud 2015!

31
Aug

Here’s What’s Up: Week of August 31st

Good morning and happy Monday to all of you.  It is the last day of August, can you believe it?

Free HIV/STI Testing

Testing hours for Primary Health Care – Des Moines (1200 University Avenue)

  • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • Friday 9:00 – 2:00 pm

As always, you can schedule your appointment at projecthim.org/free-testing.

CLEAR

The new CLEAR webpage is now available.  You should also start seeing more literature about this wonderful program this week.  Brochures and posters are being distributed to our community partners such as Polk County Health Department and the local bars.

Save The Date!

LiveOutLoud-Teaser

The Project of Primary Health Care’s annual benefit is November 8th at Wooly’s in Des Moines’ East Village.  The official line-up will be announced soon, as well as ticket information.

If you would like to be a sponsor, please contact Marissa at 515-248-1595.

 

 

24
Aug

Here’s What’s Up: Week of August 24th

It is Monday, and for many it’s the start of a new school year.  That also means that our Project HIM crew here at The Project of Primary Health Care will be embarking on another campus tour.  More details on this in the coming weeks.

We are excited to announce that we are working on providing HIV/STI testing at locations throughout the Des Moines metro, utilizing The Project’s van.  We’re still in the process of figuring out the logistics, but be sure to be on the look-out for our Mobile Testing Van (MTV) (Yup! That’s what we’re going to call it. I just decided.) sometime this fall.  Be sure to follow us on Twitter to get updates on our MTV’s location, testing time, and wait time.

In the meantime, our regular testing hours are as follows:

Testing hours for Primary Health Care – University Ave. clinic

  • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • Friday 9:00 – 2:00 pm

Testing hours for Primary Health Care – Ames clinic

  • Every 3rd Thursdays 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
  • Reserve your spot on our online scheduler.  Select Primary Health Care – Ames for “Location”.

Schedule your free HIV/STI test here or call 515-248-1595.

17
Aug

Here’s What’s Up: Week of August 17th

Happy Monday from everyone here at Project HIM.  We’ve received a few questions concerning our recent post about the Determine™ HIV test.  We are happy to answer your questions submitted through our Facebook page, Twitter, or in the comment section.  Keep your questions coming.

Here’s what’s up for us this week.

Free HIV/STI Testing clinic.

Testing hours for Primary Health Care – University Ave. clinic

  • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • Friday 9:00 – 2:00 pm

Testing hours for Primary Health Care – Ames clinic 

  • Every 3rd Thursdays (August 20th) 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
  • Reserve your spot on our online scheduler.  Select Primary Health Care – Ames for “Location”.

Schedule your free HIV/STI test here or call 515-248-1595.


Become a Community Health Educator.

Project HIM’s volunteer peer advocate program, the Street Team, is now the Community Health Educators. Under this new program, volunteers will gain valuable experience while helping in our mission to stop the spread of HIV in Iowa. We provide our volunteers with the education and training needed to serve at-risk population without shaming and free of stigma.

Community Health Educators will help promote a better understanding of HIV – in prevention, in treatment, and in linkage to care – that enriches the lives of the community they serve.

Check out our Volunteer page for ways you can be involved.

 


Let’s Focus On You!

Looking to make changes? CLEAR can help. CLEAR is a free counseling workshop for individuals living with HIV/AIDS, as well as their partners.

For more information, visit our CLEAR page or call Brandon at 515-248-1584.

 

10
Aug

Here’s What’s Up: Week of August 10th

Happy Monday! The Iowa State Fair starts this Thursday. With plenty of out of towner’s visiting the fair, there are plenty of opportunities to connect. Make sure that your HIV/STI status is up to date.

Free HIV/STI Testing clinic.

  • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • Friday 9:00 – 2:00 pm

Schedule your free HIV/STI test here or call 515-248-1595.


 

Clinic VisitsNational Health Center Week is August 9th – 15th.

Join Primary Health Care in their campaign to raise awareness on the importance of health centers. The Why Health Centers Matter campaign will run the entire week on PHC’s Facebook page. It will feature fun facts, statistics, and testimonials that highlights the difference health centers, such as Primary Health Care, make in the lives of the people in the community they serve.

Be sure to LIKE Primary Health Care on Facebook and SHARE  their posts.

 


Periscope and SnapchatFollow Project HIM on social media!

Add @Project_HIM on Snapchat and Periscope to get exclusive content and live streaming from our events!

 

 

3
Aug

Here’s What’s Up: Week of August 3rd

I can’t believe it’s already August. Where did the summer go? I swear it was just Memorial Day a hot second ago. Next thing you know it’ll be Labor Day. But before then, here’s what’s up at Project HIM this week.

 

Clinic

Our FREE HIV/STI Testing Clinic is back on its regular schedule. We offer Chlamydia/Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and HIV screening.

  • Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday: 9 AM – 4 PM
  • Tuesday: 4 PM – 8 PM
  • Friday: 9 AM – 2 PM

CLICK HERE to schedule your appointment. You can also schedule an appointment for a PrEP consultation.


 

Live Out Loud

Members of the Live Out Loud (aka The Benefit) planning committee will meet this Wednesday at 5:30 PM at our 1200 University office.

You can still join the committee and help us plan this amazing event. If you are interested in joining the committee, or to learn more about the event, contact Callen Ubeda at 515-248-1591 or via email at communications@phcinc.net.

Live Out Loud is Sunday, November 8th at Wooly’s.


 

Red Hot Party

This Thursday, August 8th is The Project’s 23rd Annual Red Hot Party from 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM at the Iowa State Bar Association (map).

Sample food from area restaurants, drinks, and live music. Rekha Basu of the Des Moines Register and York Taenzer will be the night’s honorees. This annual celebration raises money for central Iowans living with HIV/AIDS.

Tickets are only $40 and can be purchased on eTapestry or at the venue on the day of the event.

27
Jul

Here’s What’s Up: Week of July 27th

Happy Monday! Here’s what’s up at Project HIM this week.

  • I was told that today is National Creme Brulee Day. Anyone knows who makes the best one in town?
  • Don’t forget that our testing clinic is closed this Tuesday, July 28th.
  • We updated our Appointment Scheduler to include “PrEP Consultation” as an option in the Testing Type. This is a 30 minute appointment that could include an HIV test. Also, all individual appointments are now scheduled for 30 minutes, even for “Full Screening”, which includes an HIV test, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis screening.
PrEP Consultation is now an option under Testing Type on the Project HIM appointment scheduler.

PrEP Consultation is now an option under Testing Type on the Project HIM appointment scheduler.

  • Speaking of PrEP, we are updating our PrEP page (projecthim.org/prep) to provide you with the most up-to-date  information about this form of HIV prevention.
  • We are also making some updates on our one-one-one counseling program, CLEAR. This includes updated information on our website, a new brochure and marketing materials. CLEAR is open to people living with HIV, as well as the partners of people living with HIV; regardless of gender, sex, or sexual orientation. Visit the CLEAR page for more information or to sign up.

Have a great week!

Got more to add? Add your comments bellow.

21
Jul

CLEAR TIPS: Finding Your Breath

Can you think of the last time you were very uncomfortable? Perhaps it was in an over-crowded bus or before an important meeting?

You may have noticed some physical changes like sweaty palms, a rapid pulse, or tightness in your chest. This is because during stressful moments our body activates our “Flight or Fight” response. Our body is preparing to run away or to fight, by sending a surge of hormones through our body.

But as we know, it isn’t always helpful for us to be in “Fight or Flight” mode. What can help?

When you notice you’re “activated” by stress, find your breath. Be aware of what it is doing. Just putting our attention on the breath can calm us down. You can take it a step further by slowing the breath down. Take longer, slower breaths that make your belly expand. Exhale slowly. Go ahead, try it.

Take a few minutes to sit comfortably, find your breath and spend some time with it. With practice, finding your breath and taking longer, slower breaths can be a guaranteed stress buster.

For more ways to relax, consider our CLEAR program. CLEAR is a free one-on-one workshop for people living with HIV and the partners of people living with HIV.

For more information about CLEAR, contact: Brandon 515-248-1584 or complete the form below.

6
Sep

Putting The At Home HIV Test Kit To The Test

There has been a lot of talk about at-home testing lately. In fact, a few people who have been newly diagnosed as HIV positive have found out their initial result through an in-home test. Now, I have been tested several times, both for personal reasons and also because I seem to be the guinea pig whenever we have someone new who is learning the procedure, but I have never taken the at-home variety. I figured I would see what all the fuss is about and see how the process went.

 

Come along with me… won’t you?

Come along with me… won’t you?

First off, there are a couple different ways of acquiring the test. You can go into a pharmacy and request one (they are usually behind the counter) or buy one on the internet. The price is pretty comparable, so it’s really about preference or accessibility. Not everyone is going to have the ability to waltz into a gay-friendly pharmacy and feel empowered enough to purchase one.  Unfortunately, the Wal-Mart pharmacy in BFE rural Iowa miiiiiight not carry them. And even if they do, a lot of people in those communities might not be comfortable asking for one.

 

visit: www.oraquick.com for more information

visit: www.oraquick.com for more information

 

For purposes of this article, I went ahead and ordered a test online. It came in a discreet package and arrived within a couple days. I settled in and got to business. The plastic case it came in was very official and the instructions were pretty user-friendly. Granted, I test people for HIV as part of my job, but even if I had never done it before I feel that I would have been just fine. Luckily, it was an oral swab test (if you couldn’t already tell by the product name, OraQuick) so that user error is reduced. At the office, we poke people’s fingers and take a small drop of blood for our antibody test. That works great in a clinic setting, but I can’t imagine that the average person would be too thrilled to puncture their own finger. I mean, I would probably pass out if I had to.

Warning!

 The oral swab means it’s sanitary, safe, easy, and the lack of blood means that the risk of HIV-infected fluid isn’t present. And like I said, the instructions were easy to understand. But even though I “knew” my status going into this process (I had been tested very recently) it’s still a nerve-racking experience. As anyone who has gone to a doctor or clinic or AIDS organization for testing knows, even when you think you “know” it makes you sweat a little. So, being by myself during this process was a little intense. What if I messed up? What if I’m positive?

 

Instructions on how to read your test results.

The OraQuick company gives detailed instructions on what to do if your result is reactive, but how would it feel if you found out you were positive while you were home alone in your bathroom like me?

OraQuick provides a toll-free support hotline if you are to test positive.

I know I’m a little biased, but I think if I tested positive I would want someone with me. Someone who could explain the process and next steps to me. Someone who could hold my hand or give me a hug or be there if I needed anything. And while having access to an in-home test is beneficial for those who don’t have access to testing resources, face stigma in their community, or don’t have open-minded doctors, I feel that when given the option, I would rather get a test with a real human being. I know a lot of you have used in-home tests before and it might work well with your lifestyle and schedule. So share your thoughts and experiences, would you?

 

To schedule a free and confidential HIV and STD test, visit our “Get Tested” page on our website. 

12
Jul

FC2 Not Just For Females

female-condomThese days, there are a lot of “tools in the toolbox” when it comes to keeping yourself safe during business time. Gone are the days of having condoms as the only option for playing safe (although there are endless options of those, but more on that another time) and now more than ever, fellas have a treasure trove of ways to protect themselves. One of the most popular alternatives is the Female Condom. Yes, that’s right the Female Condom. However, because it can be used by both ladies AND gents, a more popular term is FC2.

 

The FC2 gets a bad rap. Not only does the name throw guys off, but it seems that they are a bit out of the comfort zone for many. I get it, they’re weird. But they’re also AWESOME. I’m going to shout my praises of the FC2 from the rooftops and by the end of this, I hope to have converted you into a believer.

 

Does your partner not like to wear condoms? Maybe he can’t stay hard or finds them uncomfortable? Never fear, FC2 to the rescue! The beauty of these bad boys is that the top doesn’t have to wear a condom… the bottom dons the FC2 and the top gets to enjoy the ride. In fact, you most definitely DON’T want to wear a traditional condom at the same time as an FC2; the two don’t mix so it’s one or the other.

 

Another bonus is that the FC2 is latex-free, which is really nice if you or your partner have an allergy or sensitivity. They’re made of a very strong and soft poly material that can warm and adapt to the anus, which feels great. And if regular condoms “ruin the mood” for you, another nice thing about the FC2 is that you can put it in hours before sex, so it’s already in and ready.

 

Now, here is the tricky part: insertion. When using the FC2 anally, it can take some time and patience and little ingenuity to make it work. See, there is an inner ring that is meant to serve as a kind of anchor when used vaginally. But, when used in the bum it’s not needed so a lot of guys choose to remove it. If so, you can either manually insert it into the rectum or have your partner place it on his penis to get it in. However, if you want to use the ring to help with insertion you can. Then, either leave it in for the duration or remove it once the FC2 is in. Don’t you love options?

 

But don’t just take my word on how great they are (full disclosure: I have used them. Ladies have butts too!)… you should try the FC2 yourself. And lucky you, we have them available at Project HIM for free! All you have to do is stop by and we will fill your pockets with the glory that is FC2. Are you a believer yet? That’s what I thought. Halleloo!

 

Resources:

8 Feel-Good Reasons To Use Female Condoms

Female Condom Use For MSM

26
Jul

Communication – Overcoming Dating Barriers

iStock_000001341102Small“I just know that if it comes out positive I’m going to be alone and lonely for the rest of my life.”

 

As I looked at the young man across from me who spoke those words as he waited for the results of his HIV test, I realized how many times I’d heard that same sentiment – both from persons waiting for their results and from clients that found out their HIV+ status some time ago.  The fear of being lonely and alone is one that most individuals can relate to.  In the search for a relationship and working on improving a relationship, there are always barriers and issues to work on and through.  HIV is just one of those barriers.  But, you know what the most important thing about barriers is?  They can be overcome.

 

In all relationships, communication and knowing your partner are the key factors in overcoming barriers.  Talking about finances, decisions with children, education choices, health choices and all sorts of other life events and factors is immensely important and should be a part of all healthy relationships.

 

As antiretroviral medicines have increased in effectiveness over the years, HIV+ individuals are living long and healthy lives.  As health increases, so does the number of healthy serodiscordant relationships.  Serodiscordant relationships are those where one partner is HIV+ and the other is HIV-.  The term serodiscordant originates from the word “seroconversion”, which is the medical term for becoming HIV positive, and the word “discordant”, which means “at odds”.  These relationships have been able to survive for years with the HIV- person maintaining that status.  Individuals remaining adherent to medication and maintaining undetectable viral loads have a much, much lower chance of transmitting the virus to a partner.  So, when you’re getting involved with a partner who has disclosed their HIV+ status, ask them about their viral load.  Ask them about their medication adherence.  Those are the keys.  Ask.  Communicate.

 

In any relationship, there are many, many things to discuss.  Specifics to discuss in a relationship are as unique as each relationship itself; however, there are some commonalities in all relationships.  We all need to discuss our emotional health in a relationship – talk about our fears of loss and grief if something happens to one of the partners.  We all need to discuss sex – what are both partners comfortable with?  How do we keep safe?  Ask. Communicate.

 

Fears of being lonely and alone are natural and experienced my most individuals; fear of being lonely and alone solely because of your HIV status?  That’s the one that shouldn’t need to exist.  All individuals deserve respect and love and to find that person that makes them happy.  People fall in love with an individual, not a health status.  HIV is just that, a health status, a barrier that can be overcome.  Know your partner, communicate with your partner; those are the keys to any relationship.

 

Related post: Sero-discordant coupling: Looking after each other in a Pos-Neg relationships.

13
Sep

Well-Hung Hung Ups

Oy sweeties, welcome to my first blog eva… Jewels from Jewetta, and I’m not talking about that pearl necklace around your neck either.  Ok, maybe I am.  That’ll be a topic for later discussion.

 

I thought loooonnnggg and hard about what I wanted my first blog to be about, and then it “donged” on me… PENISES!  They say talk about what you know and I’ve “known” (in the biblical sense) plenty of them.

 

Size2Why is it that a lot of guys, especially the gay ones, are hung up on the size of their tool?

 

Well, after hours of research at the local book stores, truck stops and Google, I have found this to be true… sometimes penis size matters and sometimes it doesn’t.  There are some who have unique personal tastes (affectionately known as size queens) while others, like myself, prefer a variety pack.  Let’s put it this way… some days I’m happy driving a Smart Car and then an Escalade the next.  

 

I know a lot of you boys get your penis complexes from watching porn, which to be quite honest, is a terrible way to learn about sex (except perhaps that it’s fun).  Male porn stars have larger penises and there are lighting and pubic hair styling tricks that make them look even bigga.  Remember, the camera adds ten pounds sweetie. 

 

Penis Size

Although most studies report that the average erect penis size ranges from 5-6.5 inches long, and about 5 inches in diameter, how many of us actually carry a measuring tape with us on a date?

 

You can’t always judge a book by its cover, and you can’t always judge the true size of a penis when it’s flaccid either.  I did that once and almost poked my eye out.  It was a pop-up book, if you get the picture (wink, wink – Thank God for my sunglasses!).  Anyhow, what I’m trying to say is that sometimes guys with relatively small flaccid penises grow to a larger size when erect, while some larger ones don’t grow much at all.  Hence the phrase, “a grower not a shower.”

 

You know, a study I would really like to see is one correlating the guys with above average sized penises and their chosen sexual positioning (top or bottom).  I think we all know that outcome of that study.

 

Recently, I watched a British documentary on the size of the male penis, and whether or not guys would talk about it.  This was obviously a straight video, but I learned a lot of valuable information. Here is the link and I encourage you to educate yourselves.  http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/my-penis-and-everyone-elses/

 

If there is a topic you’d like my pearls of wisdom on in the future, speak up. Until next time sweeties – stay sexy and stay safe – Muah!

 

4
Jun

Thinking Out Loud: Strong Support

In the summer of 2010 one of my good friend Talia told me they knew someone who was also recently coming out and that I should talk to them about it, see if we could bond over it. Over the next few weeks I reached out and asked to meet up with Dustin. It took a few times of hanging out in a group setting for either of us to be comfortable to talk about our recent experiences coming out but eventually the hesitation gave way.
At the time I was living in Dubuque which did not have a gay bar and I was hesitant to use online methods as a way to meet other gay men. Dustin had started a relationship a number of months earlier with a man so he was more comfortable with his sexuality. My friend Talia and I would regularly plan trips with Dustin to bigger cities to see what gay bars where like. Coming out is a mix of strong emoting and “going out” as a newly accepting gay man can be just as nerve racking and exciting. Experiencing all these new emotions at a bar rather than, for example, a chaperoned high school dance can lead to some decisions being made while badly drunk. As I look back I realize having Dustin as a friend was invaluable for me at such an important time. It was great having a friend who wanted to be exposed to gay culture as much as I did, never leaving me feeling like he was doing me a favor by going out. All the trips we made and people we meet it meant so much to me to know I had someone to go to talk to about the choices I had to make. I didn’t always make the right decision, but I know I would have been completely lost without both Dustin and Talia.
If you are recently coming out and excited to jump into a romantic relationship it is important to first consider getting to know others in the community who will become solid friends. Establishing and building strong friendships was such an important base for me to find out who I was during that summer and as I continue to grow and change those friendships are still vital to keeping me grounded.

18
Mar

Thinking Out Loud: Fear Less

I suffered from homophobia for the majority of my life. I’m not talking about the loud, intimidating, violence fueled homophobia that grabs the attention of headlines and fuels anti-gay protest, but the type of homophobia that lived pervasively and quietly in the back of my thoughts.

 

I knew I was gay at a very young age. I remember getting my hands on a Playboy when I was in grade school and thinking I was so cool for having been one of the first kids to see one. It was literally about two weeks later I saw an ad on some T.V. channel for an all male swimsuit calendar and being scared out of my mind because I instantly knew that I felt the way towards that T.V. ad that I “should” have felt for the Playboy.

 

As I continued to grow up I lived with this internal fear of what it meant to be gay and if my friends and family would realize I was. It was always internally uncomfortable when someone asked something like if a party was “gay”. I knew they were just asking if the party was lame but inside I would be thinking about how awkward it was going to be some day when I told them I was homosexual and they had used that slang all the time, plus it always peppers your doubt of if they will be truly mature enough to see you for who you are and look past the current social stigma.

 

Dating was always hard because while I wasn’t disgusted by girls I didn’t want lie to them because I knew I found their beauty to be on a platonic level. I distanced myself from music and theater programs because I didn’t want to standout as liking something my friends would consider “for homos”. The saddest effect of my phobia is that I didn’t feel comfortable enough reaching out to others, even up through college, who were going through the same thing.

 

I am by no means saying I should have gravitated towards musicals or ran around hitting on the guys in my high school because I’m a homosexual, but I am saying its ridiculous I let my homophobia get in the way of trusting my friends with what was going on in my life instead of being ashamed of it. I knew what my sexual preference was at the age most young boys do but I felt that I had to hide it to make everyone else like me. It takes everyone their own amount of time to come out, don’t rush it, and I encourage coming out at first to people you suspect will be accepting to form a healthy support, but ultimately stress less and take the fear out of equation.

 

What I hope a relating reader can take from this entry is to replace some of the fear with confidence. You’re not alone in what you are going through, what you’re going through is a normal healthy variation on sexual preference, a lot of people are aware of that, people who see it otherwise haven’t come to understanding it yet but if you’re able to replace the fear of coming out by showing those around you that you are ok with your sexual preference and that you understand that its normal maybe you will be the one to teach them.

 

25
Feb

Thinking Out Loud : Starting at the End

JPAs a child and teenager I knew two things about homosexuality; one, you didn’t want to be one and two, if you were, you better not express it.

 

When I entered college I realized public opinion on homosexuality was changing, hatred and bigotry still existed but it seemed as though the easier going and rational people around me were more frequently speaking up in objection when someone said something in ignorance. With a greater influx of gay friendly media influences, the subject of homosexuality was no longer becoming a taboo conversation subject. I am still unsure if my new college setting or increase in popular media exposure to homosexuality had a bigger impact on my coming out, but at one point I came to the conclusion that being a gay man was something I would eventually want to address because times were changing and I was ready to face the facts. With this hesitant outlook I set about what I thought would be the hardest years of my life.

 

I will use future blog entries to talk about different aspects of my experience over the last 5 years, but I want to cut to the chase (Spoiler Alert) in this opener as a way to offer hope to anyone reading this and considering taking a similar journey.

 

 

I don’t regret any of it.

 

I’m not just talking about the actions I have done, but I can say with confidence that if I were offered to go back and be born a heterosexual male, I would pass. I believe my life has been more interesting, exciting, challenging, rewarding, confusing, hilarious, and vivid because of my deviation from the conventional life plan.

 

5 years ago I challenged myself, my friends, and my family to find out who I was. Instead of discovering who I was, I instead set in motion a set of events that would constantly force me outside my comfort zone providing a wonderful, brilliant, and yes occasionally freighting range of experiences which have helped shaped the person I am today and which continues to change the person I will become.

31
Aug

I’m In a Relationship: We Don’t Use Condoms!

Many of us have accepted condoms as part of our sex life when we’re having casual sex outside of relationships, but it’s not unusual for guys who usually use condoms to stop using them when they get serious in a relationship.

 

Whether the relationship is monogamous or not, some guys feel that they’re willing to accept the risk of not using condoms with the person they’re in a relationship with, especially if they have an agreement about what kind of sex happens outside of the relationship. This is sometimes called ‘negotiated safety’.
When you agree to give up condoms, you’re also giving up some control over managing your own risk. That requires having a lot of trust in your partner.

 

Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re considering negotiated safety.

  • Talk about it first. A decision to drop condom use in your relationship requires open and honest talk about what kind of relationship each partner truly wants, and discussion about each other’s HIV status, now and in the future.
  • Condomless sex is not an expectation in any relationship, regardless of length, seriousness or commitment. Don’t feel pressured into giving up condoms if you don’t want to.
  • Don’t feel pressured into a type of relationship you don’t want either. Don’t pressure your partner into a relationship he doesn’t want, whether it’s monogamous or non-monogamous. Be aware what an abusive relationship looks like, and that most people in abusive relationships deny it. Click Here for more information.
  • Make your agreement with your partner clear and practical in terms of what kind of sex is allowed and with whom, and what consequences there will be that are realistic for both partners.
  • Get tested for HIV and other STIs. Be sure you’re making this decision based on the most up-to-date information. Keep getting tested on a regular basis.
  • Know all the risks. Maybe your agreement includes condom use with others only when you’re fucking. That reduces your risk for HIV, but you’re still at risk for other STIs that can be transmitted through oral sex.
  • Be prepared to start using condoms again. You might break your agreement with your partner. You might do something risky. You might have sex with others even though you agreed not to. In this situation, you’ll need to find a way to tell him so you can both re-negotiate your safety. So talk to your partner about what you’ll do if either one of you slips up, or suspects that he has an STI.
  • Breaking an agreement doesn’t mean the relationship is over. Be willing to extend the same understanding to your partner that you would expect extended to yourself. If your partner tells you that he has broken your agreement, it could be because he cares about you and doesn’t want to put you at risk.
  • You might not know what your partner is actually doing. Sometimes we make assumptions that our partners are monogamous or non-monogamous. Sometimes we break agreements. Sometimes he won’t tell you. Are you willing to accept the risk?

Gay and bi guys have pioneered new ways of thinking about sexual and romantic relationships. Whether a guy wants to be monogamous or non-monogamous, neither is a reflection of his commitment to his relationship. Some guys find it difficult to sustain monogamous relationships over the long-term, so opening up the relationship to other sexual partners can be a way for them to preserve the relationship.

 

Source:  The Sex You Want

30
Apr

Shortsighted

Ryan Bergby guest contributor: Ryan Berg.
When I met Charles, I’d recently moved back to Des Moines from New York City, a stop-off, I’d intended, on my way out west. I sat in a coffee shop getting some work done when my mind began to wander. I logged on to a smart phone social networking application designed for gay men, and received a message from Charles, a college freshman.
 
We exchanged pictures, made small talk, and before long he got to the point: He was eager to meet right away. He didn’t mince words about what he wanted.
I might have been drawn to his youthful longing. Maybe I was acting out because being back in Iowa felt suffocating to my sexuality, or maybe his boldness triggered my own desire. Whatever the reason, I met with him. And not only did we have sex; we had it without a condom. I knew better. Here was a person I’d been acquainted with for less than an hour. We’d exchanged little more than first names, and yet I still found myself jumping into risky territory.
I’d broken a rule of contemporary gay life. As long as I’ve been having sex, it’s been understood: Don’t endanger your sexual health. Everyone knows it’s a death wish.
 
But Charles seemed fine with our slip, almost encouraged it. There were moments during our rendezvous where I could have interjected, impressed upon him the inherent dangers of unprotected sex; I could have shaken us both from the irrational haze of our desire. I could have grabbed a condom.
I can’t blame my lapse in judgment on drugs, alcohol, or the shame of being in the closet. I’m educated about HIV/AIDS, having worked with queer youth in New York and volunteered for both the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and Housing Works. I get tested regularly, and have been scrupulous about maintaining my HIV negative status. I know the studies; have researched articles about the resurgent HIV epidemic, climbing syphilis rates, new drug-resistant strains of Chlamydia. So why would I chance my sexual health for this brief encounter with Charles?
 
Risk is a relative notion. Perhaps I qualified my safety by being in the Midwest where the numbers of HIV infections are lower. Or, because of Charles’ age, and my assumption that he hadn’t had many sexual partners, my risk was lessened. Whatever the calculation, I felt daring enough to engage in a way contrary to my knowledge of the subject.
 
The more I talked to young men on the smart phone application, both closeted and out, the more apparent it was to me that the younger generation of men who have sex with men in Iowa– like most places across the country– were willing, and often times preferred, to engage in unprotected sex.
 
When considering risk, public health professionals tend to focus on how rational or irrational a choice is based on the information available. Rarely is it considered how emotions, our sense of self, can alter our decisions. It’s easy to isolate a situation like Charles and mine, and examine it, define it as a momentary lapse of reason. How else could such careless behavior be explained? But new studies show that nearly 50% of gay men using hook up smart phone applications engage in unprotected sex regularly. Momentary lapses are becoming habitual, repeated behaviors.
 
I grew up watching AIDS patients wasting away on television, and listening to the cries for action by activists as they faced social indifference and political neglect. Witnessing the near-death frailty of once youthful men on TV frightened a whole generation soon to come out of the closet into being meticulous about sexual safety. Later, as anti-retroviral therapies became available, and the lives of those living with AIDS were prolonged, a belief seemed to permeate queer culture. Sex, it appeared, was losing its danger. Youth have become more brazen, often times ignoring a host of complications that come with living with AIDS. One young man I spoke with recently shrugged when I asked about his habitual unsafe sexual practices. He told me it wasn’t a big deal if he tested positive, it’s no longer a death sentence.
 
People are living with the disease, true, but people are dying too. Even when you’re able to pay for the medication, a litany of problems can arise. The drugs can having serious side-effects, particularly in advanced disease; if patients miss doses, drug resistance can develop; providing anti-retroviral treatment is costly and resource-intensive, and the majority of the world’s infected individuals can’t access treatment services; individuals who fail to use anti-retrovirals properly can develop multi-drug resistant strains which can be passed onto others.
 
Results from a recent review confirm that HIV-positive adults are at a higher risk for developing cancer than the general population. In particular, people with HIV are about four times more likely to develop cancer than people without HIV and are slightly more likely to develop cancer than people who have had an organ transplant.
AIDS education has seemed to wane from public discourse and prevention instruction seems sequestered to HIV testing sites. Remember the days when red ribbons were fastened to the lapels of a host of public figures, serving as a reminder of the epidemic?
 
Luckily, we might see the reappearance of such reminders this year. Films like the Academy Award nominated How to Survive a Plague, and Jim Hubbard’s United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, are bringing AIDS awareness back into focus.
 
Young men who have sex with men need to grapple with, and face the facts these films present.
 
Youth can be perilous without support and education. As men of a generation that remembers the devastation of the AIDS epidemic, there is a need to reach out to our younger counterparts. Gay male mentors are nearly nonexistent for young men. Most men, myself included, have allowed desires to dictate interactions with younger men. As a result, many like Charles get terribly lost before coming to a healthy, integrated sense of self. Now it’s time to step up, to present ourselves, and our knowledge, in hopes of making the lives of our youth a little less lonely and a lot safer.
30
Apr

Gay Brunch w/ The Small Town Queer

Remember those surveys you used to love to fill out on Facebook and Myspace? I’ve brought them back with some of my Best Brunch Buddies to have a frank, open, and honest discussion about life, love, and the pursuits of happiness as Queer Men.
Judson is 26 years old and self-employed living in Omaha.
Waylon is 33 and works for a Fortune 500.
Drew is 26 and works for a non-profit.
DiAndre doesn’t want you to know his age, but is an artist living in Chicago.

 

If you could go to dinner with any personality who would it be?
Waylon: I would have to say Madonna (which should be no surprise). She’s a fascinating person, but I think it would be interesting mainly because she has personally known every single celebrity who has mattered in the last 30 years and many from the previous eras of celebrity too.

 

Diandre: I would really enjoy dinner with Ryan Seacrest. I know it sounds cliché, but this is a man who started as a TV host, ended as “News Anchor,” and now runs an entire production empire. He has swirling gay rumors, and recently broke up with the prettiest dancer in Hollywood. I’m intrigued.

 

Is a weird sex-face or orgasm-face a deal breaker for you?
Judson: It will only be a problem if I am not allowed to make fun of it.

 

Drew: I probably have a weird one myself. I have yet to have the opportunity to be filmed while being fucked, unfortunately. No it is not a deal breaker; voting Republican or telling me you only watch Fox News: I hope you enjoy your lonely blue balls.

 

Have you ever dated someone who wanted to change you?

 

Waylon: Yes, both. That never turns out well. I think it’s good to learn from the person you’re dating, but it’s bad when you feel pressure to change to please them.

 

When someone attacks your friend publicly and they aren’t there to defend themselves, do you jump to their defense?
Diandre: I always defend appropriately. I wouldn’t say anything until it needed to be said. However, I’m always a recorder. I’m running to tell momma, honey!

 

Drew: Darling I read & write books. That should answer that.

 

Judson: What am I a real housewife? It depends on the situation. I would probably warn them with like “Oh stop it. I love them!” then immediately text the friend to see what I should do.

 

What words in the Gay vernacular bother you?

 

Judson: White guys can’t say “Hunty” and I think being called “Mary” all the time is annoying and weird. My mom’s name is Mary.

 

Drew: Tragic. I hate it I hate it I hate it. Where’s the camp factor in becoming a lame Valley-esque girl without the irony? The overuse of the word “class” gets to me too. So many gays use it like a dog marking its territory. The ones using it are the ones who lack restraint and decency. I prefer being filthy and sassy.

1
Apr

Small Town Queer: Life Lesson

The first day I met Mattie he yelled at me for telling an offensive joke in the Alliance office at Iowa State University. I was freshly 18 and thought I was incredibly hot shit. I’d spent that summer being told what hot shit I was by a group of very wealthy, very powerful, at times very beautiful, Queers.
My personality at the time was less than cute, so I usually tried to feel people out by telling a joke, checking the pulse of the room and trying to proceed. Mattie, at that time, was in the process of proving to himself that he didn’t take nothin’ off nobody, no how, no Ma’am. That day it was his delight to put me in my place and knock the tiara off my spray gelled hair.
Matt and I spent the next 5 months figuring one another out. We both had incredible things to prove that were much more alike than different, but to tell us that at the time would have been certain suicide. He thought I was vulgar and cut throat. I felt he was an uppity-assed Bitch. We would have made a great romantic comedy: I’d be played by Kevin James while Tina Fey took on his role. Box office gold!

It was late February and we’d just finished a fundraiser that I’d chaired. It was a modest success, but nothing you could squeeze praise out of for more than a weekend. At the board meeting I was being yelled at for not controlling the drinking going on backstage. I’ll say it today, “Yes, I knew they were getting sloshed. No I didn’t give a shit. Yes I could have tried to stop it. Had I not been getting sloshed with them, maybe better judgment would have prevailed. Alas, it did not.”
Like I said, I’ll say that TODAY.
On that late February day, I REFUSED to acknowledge that it was my fault. I cast a wider net of blame than a Real Housewife looking for a husband. Matt in turn, wasn’t havin’ it. She put on her calmest voice and her fakest Miss America Smile and read me for filth. I’m telling you a forklift couldn’t have picked my jaw up off the floor. This was the first time in my life I was ever terrified, busted, and turned on at the same time. To this day I haven’t felt that way again (Thank GOD!) and hope I never will. It’s the closest thing I think I have to the experience people get out of S&M.
Much to my chagrin, but having been busted, the next Alliance event was dry. I apologized to Matt after the meeting, and he and I set up a meeting for later in the week at Stomping Grounds, an incontinently located Ames coffee house. I went into that next meeting with a lot more respect for him, and strikingly enough, we started developing a friendship. I stopped trying to be impressive, and he started to laugh. He did something, and I decided maybe he wasn’t such an uppity Bitch. Through the rest of that semester, and well into the next we became very close friends.I like to tell this story because I think I’m so dramatically lucky to have Mattie in my life today. He’s an incredibly vibrant soul who’s classier than this “Bawdy Broad” could ever hope to be. I almost missed out on the opportunity to know him and learn from him because I was too scared to let down my defenses. He had to burn them down, in order for me to open up. I’m very thankful he did that.
The lesson I’m remembering today: I have never once regretted reconsidering an enemy.

20
Feb

Small Town Queer: Deep Thoughts

The hardest times come when I lose innocence; believing, perhaps innocently, that there was none left to lose.
Fragility is something you must grow out of. Like everything fragile, sometimes you break. There are gaps of putty holding you together. Not until you are fired in the kiln do you grow hard and learn how to hold water.
Love is not a patient, kind thing. Love is vigorous and ferocious. Love is visceral and cannot be forced. Love is the captivating emotion.
Anger is only useful if you are powerful enough to channel it. Anger can define your intentions. Anger will ache and masquerade as many things.
An infatuation can electrify you. Thousands of volts are screaming through you. Once grounded, letting go can be impossible.
To grow is to understand that nothing is perfect. Good, bad, ugly and unfathomable exist in all things.
Perspective requires growth. Perspective changes as we do, backing up from the image until we see new shapes. As those shapes change, so does our interpretation.
“No matter what bothers you now, in a year you will laugh at it” –Joan Rivers

2
Jan

Small Town Queer: The Meaning of Sex

Sex isn’t just sweat and an exchange of fluids. Sex can mean so much more, or sensationally, so much less.
Sex can mean hello. Firecly fast and unemotional. Dripping with curiosity and the fervor of discovery.
Sex can mean goodbye. One last shot at holding on to ten years of devotion. Silence breaking in where screams once stood. Ten thousand papercuts bleeding out painfully.
Sex can mean I love you. A tooth paste kiss leading to me mounting you on the sink. Your head banging against the mirror, legs wrapped around Me. Hungrily clinging to one another in mad passion that only thought can describe. Your arms needing to hold Me, while my lips must melt into yours.
Sex can mean red hot critical mass. Up like a redwood lasting for hours. Coming once, twice, then three times until you collapse, thoroughly spent and tired. Falling asleep with him still inside you.
Sex can be inapropriate. Vigorous fear of being found out. Knowing what feels right is wrong. If only for the moment, letting yourself go with tactile abandon with the rush of hormonal adrenaline. Forgetting that you are fucking yourself rather than truck number ten thousand.
Sex can remind you that you’re alive. When hands flush and tingle. Fingertips egnighting sparks on skin that erupt into uncontrollable flames.a forest fire as hot as hell telling you that today is all there is. That this world is too much to worry about how you’re surviving in it.
Sex can be a decleration. Announcing to yourself and the great wide universe that you’ll do whatever the fuck you want, when you want to do it. Forget ’em if they can’t handle our kind. Leaving the deniers behind to forge a brave new existence.
Sex can be a dire contradiction. Grinding unabashedly on one thinking of another. The question of who you came scross the one in your bed or the one in your head. Haunting you stiffly

7
Nov

Small Town Queer: Straight-Acting

This gay man’s crisis of masculinity has GOT to end. Not tomorrow, not after you read this and discover that I’m brilliant and that you should have been reading all of my thoughts all along; RIGHT NOW. It would seem as of late that every time a gay guy wants to get laid he takes to his social media to find a hook up with a “masculine” or my personal favorite, “straight-acting” guy. If you pay attention, however, you’ll notice that once he’s naked his legs are up in the air like a chorus girl in The Lion King begging for more lube.

 

What is this over-compensation and impossible standard of masculinity that gay men have? We work our bodies into toned, tanned, fit pieces of machinery, why? So we’re stronger? We’re constantly aware of things that make us “too gay” or might be perceived as feminine. We perk up like a gazelle at the watering hole when we encounter a group of “rough” looking straight guys. Okay, that last one might be for survival. A Gurl’s gotta watch herself. The best example of what I’m talking about occurs in porn.

 

If gay pornography were a study in academia, I would be a Ph.D. with honors. I’m not going to boast and say I’ve seen more than anyone else, but I’ve seen a lot. A lot, from many genres and qualities, from far-away lands and crappy basement sets in some filthy hotel. You get the picture? (I sincerely hope, mostly for you, that the image you got was not of me ferociously researching the topic.)

 

There’s not a lot of plot in gay porn. Pizza delivery guy shows up, “Yea, I can think of a few ways you can tip me, bro.” Student is failing the Professor’s class, “Let’s see if we can’t get you some extra credit.” Like most men, gay porn promises a real quick setup followed by the best sex you’ve ever seen. In reality you end up with a mess and a cramp in your leg. The formula is simple, but context is what intrigues me. In almost all scenes, the Top is often so aggressive, so dominant, that it borders on abusive. Some of us are into that, and that kind of desire is fine for fantasy, but to expect it in reality? Is that the kind of “masculine” guy you’re looking for?

 

My favorite thing is when guys say “straight-acting.” I read this and instantly think: “Are you fucking kidding me right now? How straight-acting are you with that dick in your mouth, honey?” I get defensive like this because it’s such a blow to my personhood. If you couldn’t tell, I’m a very effeminate male. I’m what they used to call a 100-footer: You can see I’m gay from 100 feet away. They say it’s because I sashay when I walk, but I sashay because of a back problem, not because I’m RuPaul. Being one of the
gays who can’t hide it, when someone puts straight above gay, my blood boils.

 

Back to GAY PORN, there are entire industries like BaitBus, dedicated to the “straight acting” thing. Evidently enough gay men so desperately want to have sex with a straight man that they are willing to pay $5.99 to watch a gay guy butch it up and verbally abuse another gay guy who he “thought” was a busty blonde until he’s offered $500 to bang the guy while driving the 405. I can’t argue with capitalism. As long as there are people willing to create a market for it, they will provide it. But I still hate it.

 

I sleep at night knowing I’ve fought for the rights of these guys who want to bang straight guys by creating a theory about them. I am only human, and as such I think about things in terms of categories. So forgive me if you feel my theory is reductive or hyperbolic, but I write this, not you, Darling.

 

I think these gay guys are so attracted to “straight” guys because of the pressures society has put on them. As we all know and have discussed more times than we can count, we are all programmed to be straight. Some of us swim against the stream. Because of that pressure we’ve all at one time or another attempted to fit in. Tried to be “straight.” I know a lot of people who experienced bullying and ridicule because they couldn’t or wouldn’t swim with the current. Is the desire to sleep with a straight man a way to reclaim those emotions? A way to erase the shame and fear you once felt at the hands of those people?

 

I have to tell myself it is.

22
Oct

Small Town Queer: 10 things I learned in Iowa City

Not suitable for view by those who pay for your education.

  1. The Mexicans at Pancheros are TOTALLY making fun of you, therefore it is TOTALLY acceptable to be dissatisfied with the flatness of your made-to-order-burrito.
  2. Everybody’s on something. Whether it’s blow or low blood glucose cuz you’re a crazy-militant-New Pioneer Food Co.-Vegan, or “Omigod! I have four projects due in 12 hours and I spent the last 2.5 weeks drunker than a freshman on prom night. Due to this fact, it should just be assumed that everyone’s on edge and ready to snap.
  3. It’s always time for a drink. I don’t care if it’s 10 AM or Bar close. It’s always time for a drink.
  4. If you flirt with the gay at Konnexions and tell him he’s pretty, you can get a discount.
  5. The best drag queens in Iowa are in Iowa City. There’s one or two in other venues, but Iowa City has the densest population of “WOOOOOOOOOOORK”ing girls.
  6. Really drunk girls at bro bars can’t tell the difference between Queers and Breeders, even when you tell her that her l.e.i. low-rise button fly jeans really don’t go with her pay-less b.o.g.o. strappy sandals.
  7. Walking down South Johnson at 3:35 AM can be hazardous to your homo-health. Like the Asians, stupid heteros travel in packs and carry razor blades in their cheeks.
  8. “I’ve got a meeting I’m late for.” is an acceptable fuck you that will get you out of any conversation with people you really don’t care to see. Like the guy you blew off on MH last night and then saw at Studs and wouldn’t dance with….
  9. Smart phones have been surgically implanted in everyone’s hands. You didn’t say it if you didn’t tweet it, you’re not friends unless you “like” my status on the face, you didn’t go unless you checked in on 4square.
  10. Your friends can get you through anything. Choose wisely, and once you do, you’ll have family.
8
Oct

Small Town Queer: Gay Bar Etiquette

When I took my friend Ollie, who is straight as a Menards 2X4, to a gay bar for the first time he had the natural reaction of sober fear that you would expect to see in a virgin. He was prepared though, before we went out, my friends and I schooled Ollie on some Gay Bar Etiquette. After a few drinks Ollie was havin’ a gay ol’ time and dancing with 7 ft. tall Drag Queen in butterfly wings, fake breasts, and pasties.
(Score for the home team!)
Sometimes following the rules is a good thing!

  • If it’s in a dress, and wearing enough face paint to recreate a Van Gough, you can call it a she. Tip her well and compliment her on how she looks. Yes, we all know she’s lip syncing Britney Spears. You’re supposed to ignore that and be dazed and confused by the millions of sequins.
  • If it’s wearing a shirt, tie, and a bowler hat, you can call it a He. Remember honey, it might look like a man, but you get down into those skivvies and you’re going to find some silicone. Up top you’re probably going to find a tight ace wrap.
  • It helps to start drinking the moment you walk in the door. If it seems your surroundings don’t make sense to you and you feel uncomfortable, remember that it doesn’t makes sense to us either. That’s why we drink. The rest of us are schwasted messes because we’ve learned this lesson already.
  • The lesbian at the bar with five drinks in her hand is buying for her underage friends. If you bump into her and spill something, you best be prepared to buy another round, or you’re going to have very angry gaybies snapping at your heels, and thirsty young queers bite. Hard.
  • That old man sitting at the end of the bar wearing a coat and 300 dollar jeans chatting up the bar tender is the “bar Bitch”. In his younger days he was hot and banged it out with many a boy. Now he’s just irritable and bitchy. Stay away from him unless you wanna get told the twelve million things that are wrong with you.
  • If you tip the bartender well, you will get better service and better drinks. They’re only acting uninterested in you because they are. They probably have a headache and are NOT looking forward to cleaning up the bar after you drag your happy ass home.
  • Do not worry about people of the same sex hitting on you. If you’re not interested, that’s fine. You just point to someone over in the crowd dancing and say “That’s my boyfriend!” Don’t tell them you’re straight, because then you’re creating a challenge.  If you’re hung up and worried about people of the same sex hitting on you, get out of the bar and go drink with the red necks.
  • The kid with his shirt off and hands above his head swinging around the dance floor is on an entirely different planet. Try to avoid bumping into him; he’s probably going to fall over. If he dances with you, gyrate for a moment and move on, it’s in your best interest.
  • Now if you’re standing outside the bathroom and it’s been five minutes, bang three times real hard and say, “Cum already you trashy piece of shit.”
  • The lesbians will be divided up into Polo shirts and dresses, the gay boys into scarves and t-shirts. Now, they’ll mix if one is sleeping with the other, but rarely will they be screwing each other. Don’t try to wrap your mind around sex yet, it’s early.
  • If you go outside to smoke, you’re going to see some shit. Be prepared. I can’t begin to explain to you what’s out there, but don’t make eye contact. If a 7 foot tall thing in a wig is screaming at someone, and their face happens to be REAL thick, it’s probably a “tired” entertainer. If she asks for a cigarette, give her one. If she says something smile and acknowledge that you understand. If you start talking, they will find something wrong with what you’ve said and eviscerate you for it. This is what Drag Queens do for fun.
  • At the end of the night, there will more than likely be a large man or woman yelling at you to get out of the bar. Understand that s/he wants to go home and is sick and tired of looking at your drunk ass. Bottoms up and out ya go. If you’re lucky you found something to keep ya warm that night. If not, you’re drunk and have more than likely ingested a few things that you’ll regret the next morning.

May all your nights be ones to remember
May all your dreams come true
May all your friends be at the ready and always surround you.
Love!

–Nate

24
Sep

Small Town Queer: Strange Sex

What the hell has happened to sex? Yesterday I heard about someone being into “rain coating.” Now I’m nothing if not a sexual anthropologist—ever in search of new and interesting information and a good dig—so I had to explore this “rain coating” thing. But when I asked about it, I was told this:

 

“Basically I like to bottom while the other guy wears raingear.”

 

“Like fireman raingear?” I asked.
“Yea! I love the feel of PVC against my skin! I usually have the guy turn it inside-out so I can feel the shiny side of the plastic. I also love when they wear steel-toed boots. I love to lick them clean.”

 

I was shocked! Not because of his sexual desires, but because I was expecting it to have something to do with urine. (Weren’t you?) The gay sexual arena is full of many different players of many different teams. Some even have uniforms! I, along with other folks my age, have had to learn much more than we ever thought possible about sex. Nowadays it’s just as important to know what you’re not into, as what turns you on. Having slept around for the better part of my twenties, here are a few things I’ve learned:

 

  1. You will learn more by going out to some open houses before you make a purchase, than going with an impulse buy in the sexual real estate market.
  2. When you wake up in the morning and see several hundred bird sculptures around the room, leading to a bathroom filled with even more renditions of aviation; it’s probably best to be as quiet as possible, get out, and get on with your walk-of-shame before he wakes up!
  3. If you’re above the age of 20 and he opens up the Britney Spears station on Pandora Radio, GTFO.
  4. Don’t completely shave your groin and its surrounding area—“You can’t play ball if there’s no grass on the field.”

 

Not to be trite, but I often miss the Disney interpretation of sex I had years ago, before I knew about things like “rain coating.” Back then I thought I’d find a nice girl (man) and settle down (get a dog) together and live in a nice part of town (a split-level far from the bars). We’d grow herbs in our back yard (till the dog dug them up) and plant lavender by the garden gate (which the neighbor’s cat would eat; causing it to die, resulting in a feud that lasted decades.) We’d have our friends (former lovers and people we met at the bars) over for cook-outs. (“Let’s all get drunk and talk about people!”) She (he) would handle the grill (He always burns things so I have to eventually take that over) while I handled the potato salad and other side dishes (recipes I learned from Ina Garten that I’m sure will make everyone think I’m a fabulous cook.)

 

But this is not how love is in our modern day. With a myriad of sexual tools at our fingertips, people are having more sex with less meaning than ever. It used to be about chemistry and flirting with someone from across the room, only to meet for a drink and charm the pants right off one another. Today it’s about how quickly you can text a sleazy message, and how good you look in your profile picture. Sex has become like Domino’s Pizza; “30 minutes or less!” In ten years, I think you’ll be able to teleport to any bath house of your choice.

 

I went to a family Thanksgiving with my boyfriend at the time, Michael. He was giving me information about what to avoid with his Mother this time, and he told me to make sure I talked to his Dad about old music again, because “He really feels like he connects with [me] on that.” I was warned not to encourage his Grandmother to talk about her health problems, to avoid the topic of politics with his Uncle Geoff, and above all “Don’t do that thing you do with your face when you don’t like something but you’ve decided to suffer through it, everyone can tell!” I let him go on like this not only because I could tell that he was nervous, but because I was very excited to finally meet his Mother’s sister, Teresa.

 

From Cuba, Michael’s mother and her family immigrated to the United States from Cuba sometime in the 1960s. While all of her siblings had done their best to conform to an “American Dream,” Teresa earned her living the old fashioned way. She decided to prostitute in Chicago for 20 years, and I was dying to pick her brain.

 

After dinner, I asked Teresa if she’d like to join me for a cigarette in the back yard. “You bet your sweet ass I do!” She said as though I’d asked her if she’d like to take a huge bong rip at a college party. We went into the back yard and exchanged the usual small talk until she pulled a joint out of her pocket, lit it, and said “So what has Mikey told you about me so far?”

 

I went straight for sentimentality, which was a mistake. “Only that you’re one of the most loving people he’s ever met, and that when he came out you hugged him and told him to quit crying like a bitch.” She laughed, took a deep inhale—smiled—and exhaled. Then, she looked at me and said, “Mikey and me, we’re the black sheep of the family. I’ve seen more dicks than a 3rd shift cashier at Wal*Mart and Mikey….”
“Is gay?” I asked, trying to stifle my laughter.
“Something like that,” She sighed. We stayed in the back yard for over an hour. I tried to get her to talk about her career, but she wanted to talk about Michael. When we went back in the house, Mike shot me a look, and his mother shot her sister the same look, it said: “Where have you been and you sure as hell better have not been getting stoned in my back yard!”

 

On the way home, he asked me about our conversation, and I filled him in on my new favorite member of his family. “She’s a trip!” he said, as we pulled into my drive way. “All she wanted to talk about was you! I kept trying to get details about little black books and horny politicians, and she wanted to talk about how darling you were when you ate your first bowl of mashed potatoes. I wanted Sex and the City, and I got Family Ties! I want a refund!” I snapped back. Suddenly Michael turned off his truck, and leaned over to kiss my cheek.

 

“Sex isn’t always that glamorous, I guess.”

 

–Nathan

 

About Nathan: Nathan is a 25 year old activist living in rural Iowa. He enjoys late night conversations, Autumn weather, an open window next to a sweaty dance floor, and a divine Bloody Mary. Nathan left Iowa State University in 2008 with an English degree.

 

5
Jul

Message from Greg- July 2013

Greg - HIV Program DirectorProject HIM debuted Troy’s video at Pride. In the video, Troy shared that someone he slept with had been with an HIV + partner and that he was nervous about the possible risk of HIV. What wasn’t shared was that Troy was nervous because he’d slipped up and had sex without a condom with the guy he slept with.

This omission caused a stir on Project HIM’s Facebook page. Some comments on Facebook made it clear that there were people living with HIV that were hurt by the content of the video. A few of the comments became heated to the point where battle lines were drawn between those who are HIV-positive and those who work to prevent HIV. (To read all the comments, see the June 9th post on Project HIM’s Facebook page. Link)

Divisiveness hurts us all.

We apologize to those who were hurt by the video. Project HIM staff care about people –whether you’re positive, negative, or don’t know your status. In response to the expressed hurt, the video was temporarily disabled.

Truth be told, there’s more to the video. Another segment that explains Troy’s slip ups and gives some background about Troy isn’t through with our videographer’s refinements yet. When it is, the two segments of the video will be presented together.

Notably, all the videos produced by Project HIM and any educational materials we distribute undergo a mandatory review process by the Materials Review Committee for the Iowa Department of Public Health. In addition, Project HIM’s advisory committee, a group of gay men of various ages, professional backgrounds, and varying HIV status, review and provide feedback on each video’s content.

Inevitably though, questions still surface: How do we react when the personal stories shared by others aren’t exactly how we (as HIV prevention staff) think we might respond (armed with the knowledge and experience of working in the field of HIV prevention)? Do we jump in and explain—or uphold the dignity and worth of each person’s story —as it is? There’s no perfect answer.

Each misstep is an opportunity for healing and change.

Project HIM hopes to make the hurt and anger —the underlying passion—a starting place for conversation. Do we have to stigmatize HIV in order to prevent HIV? How can we work together as a community? These are the questions we’d like to discuss at a forum this fall that brings together HIV prevention, HIV care, those living with HIV, and those who are not. We can’t move forward together if we don’t tackle the thorns that keep hurting us.

Before Troy’s story was debuted, Project HIM and its advisory committee developed the summer campaign “Know Pride. Know your status.” We wanted to take away the stigma of HIV status and emphasize the importance of knowing what your status is. A disproportionate amount of new HIV infections happen because of those who have HIV but don’t know it. People who are HIV +, know that they are, and are getting treatment, aren’t spreading the virus and chances are they’ll live a long and healthy life—just as Troy astutely notes at the end of his second video.

Pride is knowing. Pride is taking charge of your health—whether you’re negative or positive. At this critical time in history, having experienced the repeal the of DOMA, what better to do than to take pride in who we are and push the stigmas we’ve all felt to the periphery—while we move toward the center. Where we can stand united.