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.
Telling people your sexual identity can be a difficult thing to do at any stage of your life and in many circumstances. It often means coming to terms with your sexual orientation and accepting yourself first. Same sex attraction is hardly a new concept, so while it can feel as if you are the only one, there are plenty of people who have blazed a trail ahead for you. You can read some of those stories here and see how others have come to terms with their sexuality.
Once you’re all good with your sexual identity it is important to think about who you want to share this information with. It is entirely up to you whether you decide to share your sexual identity with others. If you want to tell someone, but haven’t been able to yet, it’s probably a good idea to try and disclose to someone who is likely to be supportive. Have a think about who would be the most supportive person to you, and let’s recognise and understand that this can be an emotional time in your life.
Remember you do not have to be out to everyone. The term ‘coming out’ misleadingly suggests that it is a one off event, however, whether or not to tell someone about your sexual attraction is a decision that you will need to make repeatedly throughout your life. You don’t have to be out at work, to your family, or even all your friends if you don’t wish to. You may feel that you want to share your sexual orientation with your friends but not your family, or to your family but not your friends; it’s an entirely up to you. Who you choose to take to your bed is very personal information and your choice in who you decide to tell. There are many men who are comfortable with their sexuality but choose when they want to share this information who with.
If you do decide to share this information, it’s good to keep in mind that whilst you may have had the time to process and come to terms with your sexuality, the person listening to you probably hasn’t and is only just beginning that journey. Thankfully the world is becoming a more accepting place, however, there are still many people who may not be 100% on board with same sex attraction. Some people will have no problem with the concept, but they may still be surprised as they had never considered your personal sexuality. Most importantly, give people time. Sometimes all that is needed is time to absorb the information. If you feel it may help, refer them to resources such as the PFlag website which is an organisation for parents, family and friends drawn together because someone they know is gay or lesbian. They may not look at it straight away but it’s there if they want more information.
Coming Out Late
No matter how old you are when you decide to come out, the process is very much the same. You need to accept yourself first, then you need to figure out if you want to tell anyone. If you do, then decide on who you want to tell and how you want to go about telling them. Situations in life can be different as you get older, people only know you how you have portrayed yourself for the last 30, 40 or 50 + years. You may be married or divorced, perhaps you have children or perhaps you have always been the bachelor of the group. All these things can sometimes make the process of coming out to someone either more or less difficult.
Some men feel that they need to completely immerse themselves in gay life when they decide to come out. This can be helpful in terms of finding like minded people, however, you should not have to completely change your life in order to be gay. No matter how old you are, more than likely the majority of people you know will want to keep you in their life and you shouldn’t feel you need to alienate yourself from them just because you have decided to reveal your sexuality. You need to choose if you want to tell someone, if so, then who you want to tell, plan how you are going to tell them and realise some will need more time than others to get used to it. Eventually they should realise that you haven’t changed, you’re just being true to who you are.
What if it all turns to shit?
It’s not always going to be an easy road when you decide to reveal your sexuality to more people; some people may just not get it. The consequences of someone not taking the news as well as you’d like can be hard to handle and you’ll probably feel shocked or disappointed by those who react badly. Think positive – the hardest part is over, take courage from those who continue to support you. Finding other resources (such as this site) will help you to figure out where to go from here - read the stories, they are shared by people just like you to help you realise you are not alone. The Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre can put you in touch with some great counsellors who are always ready to listen if you feel like you need to speak to someone one on one. Online forums such as samesame.com.au can also help with getting you back on track. Most importantly, stay positive, many people come around eventually.