I have been in the kink/leather community for the past 5+ years and I am also a gay man living with HIV for the past six years. I know all too well what it is like to have stigma attached to my life. I have navigated the sex sites, the apps, and sexual encounters, during which time I have been marginalized by more people than I would care to mention.
I have hooked up and played with people from all different walks of life, but still to no avail. I continue to be labeled. Some of the worst disparagement comes from the people who do it unknowingly – saying things like “I have lots of HIV positive friends, but I would never sleep with any of them.”
Words can drag people down. When you think you’re on the right side of the fight but say things like this, it feels as though you are saying it to make yourself feel like some worldly person who loves everyone. In actuality what is being said is similar to “I am part of the KKK – but I have tons of black friends.”
Another example comes from when I was on social media apps (Grindr, Scruff, etc). I would occasionally change my name to “Daddy X” I would get lots of responses like “You’re not old enough to be a daddy,” or “Why are you saying ‘Daddy?’ Are you trying to find young guys?” This is stigmatizing people for not fitting into what it is you think they should be.
Stigmatizing people is an everyday event, especially when it comes to sex. In a world of different body types, ages, skin color, kinks and position, we have no room for people to judge each other. Life can be a bitch, but why would you make it harder for others?
Editor’s Note: The Center is a place where many different communities, groups, identities, kinks, and subcultures intersect. As X reminds us, in a sex positive world, there is no room for judgment.