Staying Negative aims to emotionally engage, inspire and facilitate imagination in sexual health practices. The campaign profiles the real life stories of gay, bisexual and trans men who have sex with men (MSM). Men talk about all aspects of their life from coming out, relationships, sexuality and a broad range of other topics. While HIV and safe sex is an important part of all stories, it is not the exclusive focus.
Prior HIV prevention campaigns have traditionally focused on providing gay men with information that will encourage them to adopt safe sex behaviours. In reality, safe sex practices are influenced by a whole range of environmental and cultural factors. The campaign also provides an opportunity for HIV positive men to talk about their lives and discuss how their strategies to staying HIV negative were not successful. We understand that there is more than one way practice safe sex and adopt healthcare seeking behaviours, so let's be creative about it!
There are no real criteria for participants other than that they are MSM and happy to have their stories appear as part of the campaign. In addition to the personal stories, the website provides information on HIV/AIDS, sexual health, relationships and broad of the other relevant topics including domestic violence, drugs and alcohol and depression.
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I was born in Townsville in North Queensland to my mum Kylie who was 22 and my dad Troy who was 28. So by the time my mum was 24 she already had two kids. I lived with both my mum and dad until they got divorced when I was nine. When I was 11 mum joined the Air Force, so we moved across Australia on the East coast and I went to five different high schools; Townsville, Sale, Melbourne and two in Brisbane.
It was hard because I was a bit of a black sheep so to speak. I was different to all my friends and I guess you could say I’m still a bit of a black sheep in the wider society. Other than the fact that I’m Aboriginal, I felt quite trapped in my body and that’s why I found it hard to make friends especially through the early stages of my development. It was hard moving from school to school during puberty, going through so much, trying to make friends whilst having to deal with all these body things – it was really bad.
I had my little sister and my mum with me but I didn’t have my childhood friends that I grew up with and I found that really difficult. I had no close friends whilst I was going through all these things. When I was twelve and I got my first period I wasn’t even with my mum, she was away doing training and only my grandad was there. Can you imagine going to your grandad saying, “hey grandad, I’m a tomboy, but I’ve got my period, can I have a tampon.” It’s just not going to work like that so I kept it for the biggest secret for about six months!
I didn’t even tell my mum during that time and I was so naughty, I’d go and steal pads from the shops because I was so embarrassed to even buy them or ask my mum to.
So I’d go into shops, grab my schoolbag and get a packet of pads and run out because I was too afraid to confront the shop owners. I couldn’t even ask a friend to borrow some so I had no one and I feel bad for stealing now, but it was really bad to confront the fact I started menstruating. There were all these social pressures and I didn’t want to be a girl so I had to hide it from everyone.
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Growing up, I was really close to my dad, so moving away from him was really hard. I’m still close to him and he’s really accepting of me. He treats me well. He treats me like his boy and he always has.
That’s the thing about my whole transition, I may have been physically a female but I always felt like I had a boy’s spirit inside of me.
Dad and I never actually spoke about it until I decided to transition though, he would just call me his tomboy. With me it would be more like, “let’s go kick the football, let’s go boxing training.” My sister would be very disengaged with that sort of stuff, she was a “princess” type dancer and very feminine. A bit of a mummy’s girl, that liked makeup and dressing up.
When I was four, I strongly identified with the term ‘tomboy’ that was given to me where a girl acts like a boy. I so strongly identified with it that I’d get very defensive when other girls were called tomboys. I think it also meant something different to me because usually tomboys would be a girl who likes sports, maybe hangs out with boys, but for me being a tomboy meant I wanted to be a boy. I physically wanted to be a boy and I identified as a boy, deep down inside. I would say to those girls, “no, you’re not a tomboy, I’m a real tomboy,” and when I saw another person like me I’d say, “yeah, you’re a tomboy too.”
I grew up with this mentality and wanted to be a boy from a young age but not knowing the word transgender or not knowing much about it. I found out a few things through social media like Tumblr and read up on people like Chaz Bono. It’s so confusing but it exposes a lot of the real world out there. It’s a real safe space for queer people because they’re just themselves. New queer identities pop up on Tumblr and because it’s like a blog anyone can share their expressions through pictures, text posts of videos. Anyone can see them and you can search different topics, so if you put in FTM transgender it would come up with everything related. It’s a little community in that way.
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When I was about 11 I went to school in Sale which is like country Victoria. I had no friends and was one of the only Aboriginal kids there, talked like a black fellow and came from hot, hot Queensland so was complaining about the cold winter constantly. I didn’t have a single friend. All the girls in Wantirna College were wearing those Mary Jane buckle-up black leather shoes and I wore those chunky DC skate shoes with my school dress.
When I was about 13 I ended up moving to Brisbane and was like, ‘fuck it, I’m going to try and fit in.’ I even tried doing that whole girly thing with the makeup, doing my hair and wearing the short shorts. I did it for a whole year and it wasn’t worth it. I did make a lot of friends though, it was weird. They were so big on doing each other’s makeup and I just didn’t want to be a part of that but they just said, “come on Kaitlyn, let’s do your makeup!” So they did me up every day. Doing all that was terrible, I just felt so uncomfortable so I just went back to being a tomboy. Some of them understood the things like me not wanting to get changed in front of them though.
There was one thing I couldn’t keep hidden though and that was me liking this girl. I didn’t care about what people thought because I was so deeply in love with this girl. Well maybe not deeply in love at 14 but I was so attracted to her and I just couldn’t hide it. So I had a girlfriend for a while I guess. She wasn’t even a lesbian. I believe she was attracted to my boy spirit. And that’s also my theory to why I attracted so many straight girls.
We were hanging out in PE and because she doesn’t like sports, I sat down with her as her friend and talked about stuff in this little back room behind the stage where PE was held. We were just talking about random stuff and we were all by ourselves and she said something like, “have you ever kissed a girl?” I said I hadn’t and she said, “neither have I.” We looked into each other’s eyes and you know that tension you feel between two people when there is an attraction, it was so strong. So I was like in my head, ‘fuck it’ so we ended up hooking up in this back room. It was actually really cute and I said, “that was amazing” and we did it again and it didn’t really progress but we chatted on msn heaps.
After a couple of weeks I said to her, “I think I like you like a boy likes a girl,” and she said, “I think I like you in the same way,” and from there we started dating. This kind of went on and off for about two years but her mother hated me and we ended up being sent to different Catholic schools. Her mum was homophobic.. It ended after I said I couldn’t come between her and her mother anymore.
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Up until puberty I was very masculine tomboy, then this physical difference started happening to me and my male counterparts also started to notice it. It really plays with your head because I felt like society was telling me, ‘you’re different, you’ve got to be a girl and live up to what a female is.’ So I tried that and it didn’t work, it just felt more and more uncomfortable. It also felt uncomfortable being separated as a young Aboriginal person from the boys.
Before my transition I was sort of attracted to guys and now I don’t like to say I’m attracted to females as such but I think sexuality is fluid. I find myself attracted to more females than males though but in all honestly, I am looking for a good personality.
When I was 17, I decided to transition. There was no questioning it, I decided straight up, ‘yes, this is who I am.’
I started seeing a psychologist on my own accord behind my mum’s back with my own money. I had been working at Woolworths so I had a bit of dough. I probably used my whole week’s pay to go see a psychologist for six months when I was 17. When I turned 18, it got to a point where I could start hormone treatment without my mum’s consent so I did it behind my mum’s back. After the psychological assessment I went to a GP to get the hormones prescribed to me. I wasn’t afraid of what Mum was going to think because I was an adult now and I can do what I want.
I get hormonal injections in my ass once a fortnight. When I’m travelling around the country I administer it myself and bring scripts with me. I’ve been on the treatment since February 2014 and I’ve noticed my hair colour has gotten darker, my body is hairier, my face is fatter, my voice is deeper, I’ve got a little facial hair and I’m heavier now because of my muscles growing. Body odour changes too and I feel different. It feels right. It’s exciting too to wake up every morning and look for a little change. I’ve been booked in to get a mastectomy, I’m so excited about it!
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Growing up I lived in Townsville, a very assimilated mainstream life. But we did do cultural performances and dances that we are trying to revive more now. It was part of our culture that we acknowledge the elders and negotiate with them before we do anything major like dating someone. When I spoke to them about wanting to transition, they were okay with it.
On the reviving of our culture I try to focus particularly on gender identity because there was transgender in our culture before we got colonised and told that all forms of sexuality should be hidden. Christian missions told biological men to dress how their men dressed. It really oppressed queer Aboriginal people and pretty much erased them. In the work I do, I try to focus on breaking down stigmas of transphobia within the aboriginal community.
The work I do started through advocacy work and the need for an Aboriginal transgender male voice because there was a big voice of Aboriginal transgender females but for the transgender males it’s almost invisible. I brought light to that and people just wanted to listen more and more. There were no resources out there so I started making my own videos.
I also ended up finding a Facebook page called Sister Girls and Brother Boys where I managed to meet other brother boys. Sister girls and brother boys are the terms we use for male to female and female to male transgender individuals. The page allowed people to be open about their transitions and I want to be quite open about my transition so that I can help others.
As my transition journey progressed, I needed to start thinking about things like my ID or filling out forms. When I first started I still felt like I looked female and my legal name is Kaitlyn Louise so I still ticked female when I filled out forms.
It can get hard with simple legal things like a tax file number or bill details because I sound like a male and people think I’m trying to commit fraud. There are positives though and It actually felt really good when I decided to start using male toilets too.
I want people reading my story to know that you should not be ashamed of who you are. If you’re having troubles don’t keep to yourself, don’t let it go to you and eat away at you. Talk to someone who you trust and feel comfortable with. You could even talk to a professional like a counsellor or a psychologist. That’s all I’ve got to say.
You can watch my video here:
Kai was born and grew up in Tosnwville with his family.
Kai went to highschool in Brisbane where he made some good friends.
Kai now lives and works in Melbourne.