When did you first recognize you needed consent?

The first time I knew I needed consent.

It was May 2013. I had received a judicial order to return to my residential state that accused me of endangering my children and removing them without parental consent. In the months prior to this, my mother had ascended, I’d given birth to my second child, and found myself in a volatile domestic situation that had led to my homelessness.

The world was a dark place and I was ready to find my corner and settle in.

The dark place

I can’t remember the exact date I met Mike. Rewind to a few hours prior to our meeting, my mother in law had arrived to pick up the kids. She hadn’t seen them in a couple of months and I was exhausted. I scheduled the hand off and had planned to take refuge beneath the warmth and darkness of layers of covers: quilts, comforter and anything else I could pile on in order to block out the world and sleep away my existence.

Just as I was settling into my dark and warm, woman-made cocoon, a voice in my head said, “Fuck this shit.” I immediately popped out of bed. Not knowing how long I’d be displaced, I had tried to conserve the last $200 in my checking account knowing there would be no more coming in due to my inability to work the job I had recently secured.

I decided instead to go get a nice pedicure and temporarily forget about the fucked up situation I was in. And it worked, for as long as I was there.

When the Universe has a change of plans

As I exited the nail shop, I didn’t actually want to leave. I didn’t feel like going back into my depression. I don’t like it there. I thought of staying to get more stuff done because a girl can spend all day in the nail salon with great purpose. Then I had to realistically re-assess my money situation.

I walked towards my step mother’s red SUV digging around in my purse for the key when a voice in my head which had never been so clear before that moment said firmly, “STOP.”

I stopped and continued to search for the key in pockets and creases of my handbag. Found them and right next to them were my sunglasses. I pulled them out and placed them on my face. Then a voice said to me, “Is that what you were looking for?” Only this time it wasn’t in my head. It was coming from Mike.

Mister, Mr. Mike

Mike had been loitering in front of the barbershop next door, casually scrolling through his phone. I looked over at him, smiled from behind my sun glasses, made some brief statements and continued to the car. I sat for a moment pretending to answer a text that hadn’t actually come through silently asking the Universe to send him over. I felt like it was a long shot just because by now I was already inside the car, but I desperately needed someone to talk to.

Imagine my joy and surprise when the guy who had once been standing outside the barber shop was now at my window. I’ve never been a fan of small talk…not really. The conversations started with a bit of small talk age, place of origin, marital status, things like that, then quickly escalated to me spilling the contents of my current tragedy.

Mike decided not to join me on my pity party. Instead, he made light of it and that made me smile uncontrollably. Then to me smiling so much he responded, “That is why I had to come talk to you. Your smile is so gorgeous.” More uncontrollable smiling followed. He asked me for my phone number. I recall him say, “You said yes so fast I thought it was a no.”

When did you first recognize you needed consent?

 

I can’t put my finger on it but it’s different

I’d never met anyone like him. He asked me out on odd outings. He was extremely soft spoken. Often I had to ask him to repeat himself. He had a calming energy and the sexiest swag I know to date.

After several dates, conversations, and hand holding sessions, I wanted to take things farther. Actually I wanted to take it further days prior but I was still adjusting to my new self and trying to exercise some self-control. Which is not something I’d had to do in such a long time. Mike made it easy though.

One day he called me up and asked me would l like to go out…he listed off a couple of places to which I said no to them all. He then asked if I’d like to get a room. I promptly responded affirmatively.

It had been a while since I’d had sex with anyone besides my soon to be ex husband and it had even been several months since that had even occurred. I was a lactating mess and a nervous wreck. Mike did not care. His energy said so.

Insert Consent [HERE]

We sat on the bed beside one another almost as if it were our first time and in some ways, it was his first time with me, my first time with him, our first time experiencing such a CONNECTION which is something I would later learn.

It was so funny because I was pretending to be deeply entrenched in what was happening on the television when he tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to face him and he said to me, “Do you like to kiss; Would you like to kiss me?”

I SMILED so hard it still hurts my face when I think about it. I could not recall a time before or after that any person has asked permission to access my body. That was the most AWESOME kiss ever in the history of my life. He’d actually asked before kissing me! That was such a huge, “WHOA!” moment for me.

I love you, Mike!

Now, there is such a thing as nonverbal consent and I’m really big and obvious when it comes to this type of consent. However, it was at this moment that Mike asked me for a kiss that I realize how much validation, security, openness, and vulnerability comes with certain verbal consent. How wonderful to feel both VULNERABLE and SECURE as a simultaneous emotion!

I still have the best orgasms with him.


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To Love Someone with HIV

I wonder why you clicked this link. Is it because you truly want to know what it’s like to love someone with HIV? Is it because you want to know if my feelings of loving someone with HIV are the same as yours? Or maybe it is because you couldn’t pass up an opportunity to stigmatize and judge yet another person with HIV?

HIV is an illusion to many of us who are not directly affected by it. It isn’t real to us: some distant celebrity or unknown persons with a substance addiction, some local fear tactic. It just doesn’t exist to us; it’s not our concern. Not knowing quite how to care.

To love someone with HIV was the most painful experience in my life. You’d think I was the one who had been diagnosed.

But why, why was it such a painful experience? There have been so many medical advances when it comes to HIV and AIDS that such a diagnoses is no longer the death sentence it was once thought to be. Today, persons diagnosed with the virus can look forward to living long and prosperous lives. Am I right?

You couldn’t be more wrong. From a perspective of physical health, that is true, because of medical advances, some persons diagnosed with HIV can live healthy lives. We’ve even made advanced steps towards prevention with PrEP (coming soon in generic form). For others, this is not so. From a social perspective, an HIV diagnoses can absolutely become a death sentence; one of shame, of guilt, and of discrimination. The stigma of HIV is now more dangerous than the actual virus itself. Not just to physical health, but psychological well being most of all.

Eradicate the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV @PrettyPinkLotusBud

Robbery by Shame

I never realized shame could actually rob a person of their will to live. But I witnessed it with my own eyes, with my own beingness as shame and guilt sucked the life right out of my mother. To know that someone you love is suffering, dying a slow and excruciating death to shame, guilt, and heavy stigmas surrounding the diagnosis of HIV is excruciating to watch.

Shame is the plague to our journey of self-realization.

My mother was HIV positive. I remember when she sat down to tell me. She spoke with such somber disappointment; an air of defeat all around her. I responded with shock which wasn’t the best response, but it’s the one that occurs when something you never thought could happen happens to you.

It was exactly this moment that HIV became real to me. It didn’t take me long to process it. Despite my initial shock, there was nothing to process. She was my mother, I loved her just the same. Her diagnoses did not matter to me and soon it left my mind altogether, but it never left hers. How could it with the stigma of HIV lingering stagnant all around us despite medical advances?

Suicide by Diagnosis

During the time after my mother had been diagnosed, she had also been diagnosed with cervical cancer. I lived a distance away so I didn’t see my mom that often. When I did see her I was constantly reminded of her diagnoses as I watched her withdraw from the world, withdraw from family, from us, her children, from her grandchild, my daughter whom I knew was her most favorite something in this life…my best gift I could have given her. The stigma of HIV had my mother by the balls if there were such a thing for her. She was cornered in a depressing and lonely place.

The hugs and kisses became fewer and the distance greater. It was like she was punishing herself, so careful not to pass her virus to others. Prior to her diagnoses, I used to say to her, “Ma, you can’t contract HIV that way.” Then she’d tell me, “That’s what they tell you now, years later they’ll be saying something different.” As a nurse, she had a lot of inside information on the “unknowns” of HIV. Just a random tidbit.

She’d tell me about her experiences and encounters with people who were aware of her diagnoses. Sometimes she’d become so hurt by the judgement, she’d erupt in anger and other times she’d laugh hysterically about the facial expressions and reactions of others. Mostly she just stayed tucked away from everything and everyone.

Eradicate the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV @PrettyPinkLotusBud

Your love is my love; Your pain is my pain.

I hurt. I hurt because she hurt because even as her daughter, not judging her and loving her just the same was not enough to overcome the social stigma of HIV. No matter what I said, no matter what I did none of it helped…none of it convinced her to fight. She tried to fake it, but like me, my mother was never good at that thing…faking. She was pretending for us which also caused me terrible pain.

There is no shame in desiring death. Death is peace.

I cried often. I prayed for God to help her see how loved she was. But all she could hear were voices of judgment crowding her in shadows of shame. I know because that’s all I could hear from her.

It hurt so much to witness my mother in such a weakened state after seeing her be so strong for so long. So much that at times I could not stand to be around her very long without bursting into tears. I tried and often times she’d console me and apologize constantly for her sadness, for her desire for death. She didn’t need to apologize, I understood much more than I ever wanted to.

Stamp out Stigma and Discrimination

My beloved mother ascended into greatness on what was Wednesday, June 27th 2012 which also happens to be National HIV Testing day first observed on June 27th 1995. Not very many family or friends knew that my mother was HIV positive and still don’t however, I doubt I have to tell you why. Even in her ascension it is still only whispered about among those of us who do know. For awhile, I was the only one she told.

I wrestled a lot with myself about whether I should write and publish this post because of the same reasons…stigmas that caused my mother to withdraw from life. But I’ve found that the more I talk about it, the more open I am about it, the less need I have to hide it, and the less shame I feel about it.

Eradicating the stigma of HIV will not be easy but it is absolutely necessary.

To learn more about the stigma of HIV visit HIV Stigma and Discrimination and Stigma and Discrimination against Women Living with HIV.

You should also check out Angry Black Hoemo’s HIV Stigma: A(nother) Tool of Homophobia & Direct Enemy of Prevention where he gives his blunt and honest perspective on the stigmas of HIV.

Free testing is available in many places on June 27th. To find out more about HIV and how you can get free testing on testing day visit National HIV Testing Day on Chronicsex.org.

Eradicate the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV @PrettyPinkLotusBud

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Is someone you love living with HIV? How does/did it affect you?

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