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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When I was eight I found boys attractive. After doing Year 3 in Melbourne I moved to the Sunshine Coast. I lived there for ten years. I can hardly remember his name but I can still remember the feeling I had of liking one particular boy in my class – and that feeling for him was more than just as a friend.
I also did like girls along the way, so I probably identified more with being bisexual than gay. I’m in a gay relationship but I still find women sexually attractive.
I guess for me it was a little bit easier to cope with the fact that I liked boys as well thinking, well, I like girls too, so maybe that’s OK; that will be more acceptable.
I actually resisted any sexual interaction with boys until I was nineteen: I had sex with girls, probably thinking that that was the thing to do more than thinking that was what I actually wanted. Although I enjoyed it there was part of me that wanted to do things with guys as well, but I didn’t exercise that until I was nineteen.
I didn’t want to be pigeonholed.
I was sexually active from about sixteen, but only with girls and part of that was because of the stigma that goes with homosexuality and the fact that I didn’t want to be pigeonholed during school. I thought I could resist this for now and found other ways to relieve myself, as we all do. I didn’t have girlfriends, just one-nighters – and there were only a handful of them. I would masturbate about boys from school every night – I wouldn’t do anything about it but I knew that that’s what I wanted.
After I graduated from high school, I moved back to Melbourne. I moved back by myself to start studies at Monash – in computer science. I moved back thinking the lifestyle in Melbourne might afford me more what I want in terms of my sexuality, as well as my career.
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We’ve always been a very close family and so the thought of having to distance myself from my family for a reason like this didn’t enter my mind. My father must have been curious about me because he rifled through my wardrobe and found some material there that was of a decidedly gay nature. I was horrified because I knew that he’d been through it, because things were put back in a different place and I thought: "Oh Jesus, here we go!"
He confronted me about it: he said: "Look what’s this about?" and I thought: "Oh shit, what do I say here?" I told him I was just curious and brushed it off and at that point I think he brushed it off a bit too. I think he probably didn’t want to think much more about it.
My sister outed me.
I wasn’t out to them at that time; about six months transpired before my sister outed me to my family. I’d spoken to her on a bike ride; she was having trouble with her boyfriend of the time. She was concerned about telling Mum and Dad something about this relationship and I think I must have said something like: "Imagine having to tell them you’re gay", meaning me. She was obviously shocked and surprised, but I don’t know how shocked and surprised, because I was twenty by that stage and I’d never really had any girlfriends.
Mum and Dad moved back to Melbourne a year after I did. My sister had moved back also for her studies, so at that point we were all living in the same house in Melbourne. I had just met my first boyfriend; he was Vietnamese, and obviously he was going to be a bit hard to hide, so it was at that moment that the truth came out. It was an interesting reaction.
He basically encouraged me to leave home.
I didn’t know how Dad would take it because I’ve heard him speak in derogatory terms - sometimes, not always - he was not a major bigot but I’d heard him say things that were negative towards homosexuals so I didn’t know how he’d respond. He basically encouraged me to leave home; he didn’t throw me out physically, but he made it clear that he thought it would be best for me to move out.
Mums are very close to their sons and I think, irrespective of who I was, Mum would be close to me. Mum never spoke in derogatory terms about gay people; so perhaps it was, for Dad, a bit of a harder thing to cope with – in fact I’m quite sure it was.
Mum cried for about ten minutes and then got over it. It probably took her about six months to get comfortable with the idea, after which time they have been very supportive. I’ve always considered myself very lucky in that respect. They loved my Vietnamese boyfriend and they love my current partner as if he’s family. That’s really important to me because whenever we go over there for dinner or whatever he’s just like my sister’s husband is to the family. I think they realised that that’s who I was and they didn’t want to lose a son. I think that was the bottom line.
They realise now.
I was encouraged to see a psychologist: I didn’t want to because I knew it wasn’t a phase I was going through. My parents set up a couple of sessions and I went. I knew who I was and what I wanted so no amount of talking to me or talking me out of it would make any difference. Now they’ve taken it upon themselves to become more educated about homosexuality. They realise now that that’s just who you are and it’s not a decision you make to be one way or the other, which perhaps in the early stages was what they thought.
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Back then they also contacted the local minister – they had him circle parts of the Bible which to their interpretation indicated that homosexuality was wrong – that was my father’s idea: he put post-it notes all through the Bible. I consider myself a Christian person but the Bible as you know can be interpreted in many ways. That particular interpretation was designed to make me think maybe I’ve been doing the wrong thing. I didn’t think it was a very fair tactic but my father loves me and cares about me very, very much. I think he thought: I want to make your life as easy as possible. He doesn’t want people to treat me differently or ostracise me and I think that’s why he tried some things that he thought would influence me, not realising at that time that it is just who I am.
I look back now.
I think because I loved my parents so much I understood why they were doing it; I saw it as them trying to help me, so I saw it as just something that had to be done and got past. We went through it and I wasn’t terribly battered by it. I look back now and I just see them doing the best they knew how in the circumstances.
I’d love my story to help people that haven’t had as easy a run as I’ve had and haven’t had such accepting parents. It’s just tragic that some people would rather suicide than go on and just be just who they are. Some of my friends were kicked out of home at thirteen; I can’t relate to what that would have been like because I’ve been so fortunate.
Dad was scared of AIDS.
The other reason I think my Dad was scared of me being gay was AIDS. I know that because he’s verbalised it before. Every time I’m going on a trip he says: "Be safe" and I know what he means by that - I know he means be sexually safe. I think it really horrifies him, because it’s something out of his control, it’s something he can’t protect me against which he would do if he could, because he really cares about me and my health.
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My first two sexual experiences with men were with hookers – where do you meet a gay man? I didn’t have any gay friends; I probably knew that there were gay clubs out there, but I seriously wouldn’t go there by myself in a blue moon, so I hired a hooker. I was working in the city. It was one of those flashy hotels that you hire by the hour. It was on Spencer St; I hired this hooker just out of the paper. It wasn’t full-on, there was no anal sex there was oral sex and a bit of playing around and kissing and stuff. That was my first experience and I was glad to have made it to that point. I would have been nineteen.
An expensive chat! The second sexual experience I had with a man was also with a hooker. I was working at the Keg restaurant in Doncaster. I worked behind the bar until about 1.a.m. One night, on the way home, I called Mum and Dad and said: Look, I’m not going to be home tonight; I’m staying with a friend or whatever and I checked into a motel that was just down the road from where I lived with Mum and Dad. I hired a hooker to come over to the motel and when he got there he just wasn’t my type. Even though he was a man, I couldn’t do anything with him; I didn’t feel the drive. I wasn’t sexually turned on so, for the hour, we just chatted. It was an expensive chat! Funnily enough, the next week my mother said: "You went to a motel that night, didn’t you?" God knows how she found out: to this day I don’t know. Someone she knows told her; somehow she figured out that I was there. Maybe she knew I hired a hooker as well, I don’t know.
Nineteen was a very confusing year of my life!
Nineteen was a very confusing year of my life! I had just deferred uni and went to work for a stockbroker. I deferred my studies because I wasn’t too keen on what I was doing – computer science. I was at the stockbrokers in the city for eight months.
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During that time I started drinking. I would come back from an hour of drinking at lunchtime; that’s all I would do, go down to the Meridian hotel, which was a block down the road. I’d be plastered. I’d come back to work and I’d be shocking: I’d be falling over things. I probably did this for about six weeks! God knows how I wasn’t fired – though I have an idea about this.
The director of the firm was gay.
The director of the firm was gay and I think he realised I was too. He took me into his office. I must have said something about wanting to be friends with a male colleague who worked there and some other information must have come out because he said to me: "That is not normal behaviour for a heterosexual man". I thought, maybe you’ve got a point there! He told me he was in a relationship with an Asian broker, a man: he wasn’t out to his staff but he did tell me, so I’m sure that’s the reason I wasn’t fired.
He took me to lunch one day with a friend of his who was the director of some bank and we were in Chinatown. We were drinking red wine like it was going out of fashion; it was a five hour lunch. I was blind; he was just as blind. They were at lunch because a gay friend of theirs had committed suicide a week earlier. I think he really thought I was at risk of doing something similar to myself and that’s why he was trying to protect me. I think he was trying to show me that there are other people like me who are successful and can get through it all.
This is who I am.
I hadn’t had someone before that who had shown that sort of concern who wasn’t a family member. It was a pivotal year because that’s when I realised I need to have this in my life, this is who I am and that’s the direction I chose to go in. And that was the last time I ever dated or was interested in a relationship with a girl. I’m still sexually attracted to women but that was a pivotal moment because it made me think: this is what I want and this is what I’m going to pursue.
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The first anal sex I had was with my first partner. We used condoms. We had tests done to make sure we were both HIV negative, for each others benefit, but I don’t think we ever had unprotected sex. During the time I was with him we were sexually active outside the relationship as well, to a point. That started a little later in the relationship. It was a mutual thing, well, probably me more than him, but I was always safe. I think we had enough respect for each other to always be safe no matter who we were with or what we did. I loved him and he loved me and we had that respect.
The funny thing is I’ve had very little anal sex in my life; I’m not necessarily as interested in that as I am in intimacy and foreplay and oral sex, which I like very much. So, for me, having other partners was probably less of a risk than for him. He liked anal sex - having and giving - but was always safe and I know he was true to his word.
We would have semi-regular tests as well; maybe every couple of years we’d have a test. Those tests would screen for liver function and a lot of other things as well because I was taking steroids. But they included HIV tests as well; that made them bulk bill. It was quite good; otherwise I had to pay for it!
My current partner and I have unprotected sex, but we never have sex outside the relationship, ever. I haven’t: I’m sure he hasn’t. And we get tested as well. We don’t often have anal sex and that’s because of me: I don’t enjoy it as much as I do oral sex or other forms of sexual activity. When we do, it’s unprotected sex, but we know we’re the only two involved.
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I’d always admired muscular physiques and I’d always wanted one. I was always a very small boy; I was probably about 46 kilograms when I started training. My father got me involved in training because he thought it would be a good thing to do. I started weight training when I was sixteen but I only did it for a short time and sort of lost interest. I gained more interest when I was twenty because I really resented being small and I started training regularly.
I trained with my first partner regularly; I probably over-trained in the beginning. Although I was making progress, about four years into my training I wanted to be bigger faster. I knew people who had taken steroids and I thought I’d try them and I got a source that I trusted. I’ve been doing it ever since, on and off. For me it’s about wanting to attract the type of man I find attractive, i.e. someone with muscles. I always figured that muscles attract muscles so I thought if I emulate them I’ll attract the men I like.
All of my needles are completely sterile: I get them from the local needle exchange. Tony likes muscles and he doesn’t have a problem with me using steroids. My previous partner got to the point where he didn’t want to inject me any more. I think he was concerned that he didn’t want to be involved with anything that might cause a problem to me. I was able to inject myself, in any case.
The only side-effect I’ve ever had has been an increase in body temperature and sweating, which just tends to happen, but in terms of things like liver damage, acne or hair loss, which can be associated with steroid use, I’ve been fortunate to avoid those things. I do try and do the research and be sensible and not over do it.
A lot of people do experience mood swings on steroids – ‘roid rage – but I don’t believe I ever have. I’m a fairly tolerant person and I think that steroids in somebody who already has a bit of a temper might increase that temper but I’ve never noticed that happen to me, though my libido does go up! My doctor’s fully aware of my history with steroids.
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I’m in a very good place in my life; in fact I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been.
I can remember walking down the street about two years ago, when I’d just met my partner, and I thought: "I’ve achieved the three things that I really wanted to achieve". I found myself in a career that I loved and was making good headway in; I had a body that I could be proud of, which I’d always wanted, and I had a partner who I loved more than anything in the world. The last two and a half years with him have been wonderful.
My boyfriend and I are very compatible: we have the same sense of humour; we laugh all day. He’s five years older than I am but he doesn’t act it; he’s young at heart. I think he’s a perfect match for me. I know it sounds sappy, but he completes me. We’re very compatible; he’s very committed and he’s so very supportive of what I’m trying to achieve with my bodybuilding.
He’s my training partner and I work from home, so we’re together all the time. I don’t think that’s an unhealthy thing because I love his company. He’s somebody that I’ll hopefully spend the rest of my life with.
I would like his Mum to know.
We’re very similar people. He’s Italian and very family oriented, just as I am. He’s not out to his parents: he’s 39 and he has never discussed it with his parents at all. His parents are in their early 80s and I’m sure he thinks they don’t need to know that he’s homosexual. His brother and one of his nephews know.
I would like his Mum to know that someone is in his life looking after him. She’d like to know that, and I think somehow they do know. I have met them, many times. I go to family events and people are not that naïve so I think they probably realise I’m more than just a flatmate to him. I think that’s good because she’d love to know that her son’s got somebody in his life.
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I think gay marriage should be a right. I think it should be an equal right. I believe in equal opportunity. That said, I don’t need to get married to my partner to make our relationship any more real than what it is. Financially and everything, I think I’m better off the way we are.
I would love a child and I have mentioned it to my boyfriend. I don’t think either of my partners have been particularly paternal. He has told me he doesn’t want children. I would have enjoyed parenthood but I think I would need to be ready for it and I don’t believe I am.
I think I’d make a good Dad. As far as surrogacy is concerned I think it’s a big ask for someone to give up a child and that’s really the only way we could have a child; I don’t know what else there is. If it were ever at all possible, I think I would prefer having a child with someone who is part of the child as well, but I’d be as happy to adopt a child that doesn’t have a family and give them a chance in life. I wouldn’t go down the surrogacy path; I think it’s fraught with danger.
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If someone’s reading this and they feel lost, I would like them to see opportunity through my story. I’d like them to see that they can get to a point where they’re the happiest they’ve ever been in their life like I am. Certain people might or might not accept who you are, and I lost several friends when I came out to them, but then they weren’t really friends, were they? I mean, they liked me when they thought I was something I wasn’t, so they weren’t real friends. Most people surprise you when you come out and just accept you for who you are. Some don’t, but they’re the ones that you lose in your journey. It’s not a smooth path all the way but I think it can turn out to be whatever you want it to be, in a positive way.
Scott was born in Melbourne and returned after he finished school
Where Scott moved with his family after year 3