A bit shook up after my interaction with a very angry man last night who began by calling me a PrEP slapper because I was promoting its use and unclean (among other things) when told during the ensuing conversation that I have HIV, well I conversed he shouted abuse.
There are many incidents of prejudice in this job but the odd time, like last night, an individual tests my nerve because their anger is so extreme and like in this case comes out of nowhere because I have not interacted with the person first, they have came at me simply through observing what I’m doing.
On the few occasions an individual has been that aggressive I have felt as vulnerable as this it has led me to question for a moment if I have the nerve for it all anymore, for a moment, then I think fuck them. If everyone bowed down to those types of bullies society would get nowhere, and also it might sound strange given the subject matter along with how I got here but I love what I do.
Having explained all this the message I want to get out is not one of discrimination or stigma but one of tolerance.
I am a gay, Republic of Ireland born Catholic who historically for that reason alone would most likely have an issue with a loyalist politician, however with the DUP currently withholding marriage equality a lot of people would say I should be against any such politician, lock heads with them and have had quite a few fellow LGBT members turn their nose up at me since a picture was uploaded to social media of me and Paula Bradley, a DUP MLA, having coffee.
Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Paula through the course of my HIV work. After this I was invited to Stormont where we had that coffee and spoke about the rise in diagnoses here in addition to our common social goals.
Even though it angers me to feel like a second class citizen by Steven and I being forced to have a civil ceremony, not the recognition of marriage we deserve, putting aside different views and letting go of this anger to work for a common goal was/is one of the most freeing feelings I have ever had.
I left Stormont that day and on the steps gave Paula a hug,
arriving home I said to Steven, what a shame there was no picture of that moment because it will probably be the most surreal and educational of my life, here are two people who have every reason to lock heads because of what some might call indifferences but instead work together and I now get the warmest hug each time I see her (experiences that have left me with nothing but respect as well as admiration for Paula).
If you don’t like PrEP don’t use it, if you have concerns about the side effects, who should pay for it etc then open a constructive dialogue.
If you want to view me as unclean because I have HIV I will give you the facts in hope of educating you but if fear still blinds you and your opinion on these or any other matters remains different to mine talk to me and let’s work together but there is no need to shout me down with a torrent of abuse like a common bully.
Think differently and help the world progress, so long as your being tolerant to other people’s way of thinking too.