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 grew up in Orange County which is in California. It was very white, very Republican and very conservative. It was not mixed at all. In my high school we had about four African Americans and maybe a couple of Jewish people. It was very sheltered that way and not in a good way.
I think I was around five and I knew there was something different about me. I knew that I liked boys and I was never going to be attracted to girls. I feel like I always knew it early and I just suppressed it. All through junior high and high school I definitely knew I liked looking at guys but addressing it wasn’t going to be an option for me. I thought, ‘just don’t, you’re not going to deal with that.’ I think if I grew up in the Midwest where a lot of my relatives are from, I think there’s a good chance I could have married a woman at the beginning and then gotten a spine in my 30s or 40s and finally admit I was gay and then have to come out.
Growing up there was this girl I was really good friends with since I was three. We never fooled around or anything when we were kids but I remember we used to do sleepovers with another friend too, but when we were around 11 or 12 my parents said that she couldn’t do sleepovers with us boys anymore.
This other boy and I used to go into the bathroom and blow each other, but it wouldn’t be blowing, it’d be more like stick the dick in the mouth for like a minute or a few seconds and be like, “oh, well that feels funny.” We were doing that for a few weeks.
This boy and I decided to go down to this other neighbour kid’s house because we were told by one of the other kids that they had done ‘stuff’ together so we went into his room for a minute and we decided, right let’s get ready before he comes back. So we pulled our pants down and when he comes back he fully shuts it down. “No, you shouldn’t. It’s not right you’re not supposed to.” We never did it after that, he put me in my place.
This reminds me, there another kid in our street who was probably six years older than me and he was beautiful. He was the popular kid – the cool kid on the cul de sac. Years later I had found out that this older kid was sort of molesting my older brothers and his friend, which kind of messed them up later on. It was a negative experience for them and they felt violated by him, whereas I was thinking I would have loved to have been molested by that kid!
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In high school I was a bit overweight and it was almost on purpose because I didn’t really want to be attractive to girls. I did not want to end up, God forbid, getting a girl pregnant and having to deal with that whole thing.
After high school I went to college . I went there for a few years, just kind of goofed around with friends and then finally I found acting and thought, ‘Oh, this is fun.’ I got into the acting program and then eventually went to acting school in New York
The whole time I was in New York acting school I was closeted. I just didn’t deal with it. It was weird because in the acting program there are tons of gay guys around but I was in the closet to them. There was also some fear around that because when I had graduated high school and went to college, that is when AIDS was discovered and there was a lot of talk around that. It was before I came out so I thought, ‘great, there’s this thing now that if I do go act on what I’m feeling I could die!’ So I stayed in the closet, I was really not that sexual.
My sexual experiences were mainly kind of shameful and dirty. I would mainly go to adult bookstores and get off there.
I started when I was about 18 or 19 and I found an adult bookstore which had glory holes, so you could just stick your dick in there and get a blowjob.
I remember my first time I just went down there on a lunch break to one of the video rooms and I was just going to jack off but then all of a sudden in the corner of my eyes I see some movement. I didn’t realise there was a glory hole and someone put his hand through there and I looked over and it was a guy staring up at me. I was like, ‘oh, I get it!’
That was my first time and I remember that getting a blowjob felt great. It was completely shameful at the same time and I just wanted to get out of there as soon as I could. As I came out of the room the guy came out of his room real quick and he was like, “oh, hi. Yes, anytime you come by, I’m here or there are people here and it’s really fun.” I just thought to myself, ‘don’t talk to me. Don’t make eye contact. This is a dirty, shameful thing.” So I thought, ‘Okay, I guess that’s what sex is going to be like.’ It was always kind of like that, it wasn’t a joyous, wonderful, loving and sharing thing at all. It was kind of shameful and swept under the rug. Something I just didn’t want to deal with it.
I remember when I was in acting school in New York, four of us were sharing two rooms in the Upper West Side, with two guys in each room. I needed porn to get me off so I had these Gay Colt magazines I got on 42nd street, back when there were all these sex shops and dirty bookstores. I couldn’t leave them in the apartment because someone might find them, so instead I hid them in my gym bag that had a hard square bottom that kept its shape. I hid my magazines under the hard plastic bit at the bottom and piled my dance clothes or whatever you’d have for class on top of it. I remember I had to carry this bag everywhere with me and I was terrified that someone would find the magazines or I’d get bumped and it would fly open, or I’d be in class and someone else would see it. I carried this bag with those hidden magazines around with me for two and a half years!
I felt like I was sexually stunted because straight guys learn how to date girls in high school and you can be awkward in your teens or early twenties. You can figure out how to do it and stumble through sex or whatever and I just really didn’t get those experiences. There was no loving involved, there was no, ‘Wow, this guy’s really passionate to kiss.’ It was all, ‘hold that stuff down!’ I just didn’t want to deal with it all. It’s pretty easy for me, probably not in a healthy way, but to put something out my mind and not think about it, I can do – out of sight out of mind. I did that for years and years!
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I eventually came back to LA and started waiting tables which I continued to do for a bunch of years before I started making money as an actor. I was waiting tables in West Hollywood with friends that were all gay. I hadn’t come out to them yet, or anyone, because I think I needed to be self-sufficient. My parents were still paying bills and stuff and I couldn’t risk having them find out I was gay and go, “we’re cutting you off, you’re on your own”, which happens to tons of teens and I just wasn’t strong enough at the time. So I felt that before anybody finds out, I needed to be self-sufficient, have a job, be able to pay my rent and do all that sort of stuff.
When I came out, the bunch of friends I was waiting tables with were great and supportive. I’m not a very serious person; I’m a pretty jokey kind of guy, so several of my friends thought I was just trying to get a rise out of them. I said, “no, seriously!” Then one of the girls there who was my best friend growing up was really curious about it and couldn’t believe it. Turns out, later she ended up coming out as a lesbian so she was also doing the same thing.
When I came out to my brother he said, “you’ve just never had any really good pussy.”
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That is not the reason I am gay but when I was 18, I did actually have the most awful experience with a woman. Me and my friend went to Laughlin, Nevada, which is like going to Vegas but it’s on the river between Arizona and California and you can ski by day and gamble by night. Even though we were too young to gamble we still went there and met these two maids that were working downtown. They were high school girls that were maids for the hotel. My friend had set us up on a double date and I thought, ‘okay, this is it, this is where I’m going to prove that I’m straight. I’m definitely going to experience sex, I’m going to see the girl, see what it’s like.’
We met for dinner first at the little café there in the casino and she ordered a fish platter. She was groping me under the table and so we only managed to eat half the meal before we were all like, “let’s get out of here.” So we went back to the room and my friend went with the other girl into the other room so I went into my room with the girl I was with – this was such a horrible experience.
I had a goal, I was going to stick my dick in this vagina. That’s my goal. I’m going to have straight sex.
So we go back to the room and I pull off some of her clothes but she wants to keep making out. I’m not that interested and she ate this fish platter so she really bad breath and I thought, ‘everything is nasty right now.’ I remember playing with her breasts and I really liked those, those were fun. She then turned off the lights and we got into bed and she kept on just wanting to make out. I keep on trying to reach down to grab her vagina and she keeps pushing my hand away. I keep playing and she kept pushing my hand away.
We eventually got our clothes off and then at one point, it’s kind of dark and she throws something over the side of the bed and I keep trying to have sex with her. She kind of pushes me away but then is loving at the same time, I’m just so frustrated. I like her breasts, she had big breasts so I ended up kind of titty fucking her until I came. When I’m done she’s just all lovey and wanting to be on me kissing. It was weird because she kept on pushing me away and I didn’t get to deal with her vagina at all so I was sort of frustrated.
She then turned on the lights and I couldn’t believe it. It was like a war zone and there were bloodstains on the white sheets just everywhere. She was obviously having her period and I looked over the side and there was a wad of toilet paper on the ground that she was using for a tampon I guess. I was just the most awful vile person at that moment. Here she was trying to cuddle with me along the bad fish breath, I said, “get away from me, you disgust me.” She started crying and I felt so, so bad. She put her clothes on and went down the hall and got new sheets and came back and changed the bed.
That was my first and last experience with a woman. I realise now that it wasn’t really a normal experience but I was just so heavied out.
In college I ended up having another horrible female experience. A guy I knew was getting married so we all went to a strip club, my first strip club. I was wearing glasses at the time and I remember one of the girls came by and she was sort of lap dancing with someone whilst doing something with someone else and she grabbed my glasses and ran them through her vagina and got them smeared with stuff and put them back on me. I left them that way because I didn’t want to act like I was heavied out, or else everybody would know I was gay.
I told a straight friend of mine and he was like, “that’s disgusting, I would have never put those back on my face!” Of course I was looking through blurred glasses the rest of the night and proving how straight I was, making out like it was awesome. It was so disgusting.
I’m sure women are a lot better than that but that was my experience with women. So, I suppose my brother was right, I haven’t had any really good pussy. In a way I seriously would love to have sex with a woman just to see what a vagina feels like. Maybe we’ll have to make that happen sometime.
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The first guy I had sex with was before I came out and I was back in Orange County. We were in the shower for about an hour and we were having fun. He said I was way too good at this to not have done this before which was a really nice compliment.I told him a little bit about me, he knew my name and what city I lived in but I didn’t give him my number. I used my parents’ home phone because back then we didn’t have cell phones but I didn’t want any of that mixing and I wasn’t out yet. I remember getting a call at my parents’ house and it was him. I was terrified and when I picked up the phone he was nice, wanting to see me again and I was trying to be kind because I didn’t want to piss him off but at the same time I felt he was crossing a huge boundary. It scared the crap out of me. It was another reason why I wanted to eventually come out to my parents.
I actually met my current partner soon after I came out - we were kind of set up by mutual friends. He had been coming to LA for a play he was doing and living on people’s couches so my friends decided to set us up. It’s so weird, I’ve told him this too, but when we saw each other across the pool at this pool party, I literally heard a voice in my head say, this is the guy you’re going to be with for the rest of your life. It’s so weird because I’m not that kind of guy at all.
Three of four months later we went out on a date and I knew that he was going to be the one so I didn’t sleep with him for three dates, which is a big deal! Then we slept together and it was great. I think that holding out was a big thing for me. We’ve been together for 20 years now.
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I came out to my parents when it was my 27th birthday and I had gone down to Orange County to see them. My plan was to tell them that day. I figured, it’s my birthday so it’s time. I felt like I wasn’t being honest with them so they’re really not a part of my life and they’re not sharing what I’m really about, so I felt like that was just not right. It never was the right time, my mom had a headache during the day, and we were doing this stuff with a car I had to return later that night.
When they came back they were in the bedroom getting ready for bed so I went up to them and said, “I really wanted to talk to you tonight.” They asked me what it was so I said, “I’m the youngest of three boys and – “, of course I said this as a joke – “well you know how you said you always wanted to have a girl? Well, I’m gay.”
They told me they loved me, they cried, they asked me if I was sure. I said that I was absolutely sure. I told them, “I’ve tried for as long as I could to be straight, and I’m just not. If I could be straight I would, it’s not easy being gay, it’s really hard and I’ve dealt with this for a long time.” Apparently they were up all night crying and mum called me the next day saying, “you know how you said we always wanted to have a girl? We didn’t, we wanted to have you.”
They ended up going to a parent’s support group at the Crystal Cathedral out in Orange County which is this big glass church and super conservative. They found this guy that’s no longer gay and was a psychiatrist. He runs the Genesis Center out of Orange County and my mom really wanted me to go to a session. They paid for a visit and I agreed to just go to one session. These guys have a butt load of money, they’re in really nice offices in this high rise building. There are all these teens out in the lobby crying with their parents, it’s just a nightmare. I brought a tape recorder along and asked him if I could tape it and he said no. I’m so bummed that I didn’t just have it hidden in my pocket!
It’s pretty horrible. I tell him that I know that in the 70’s they overturned the definition of being gay being a disorder and said it wasn’t an abnormality, he says that they go back to the original Freudian texts on this issue. So I ask him how it all works. He tells me, “well it all stems from the fact that you were too close to your mother and not close enough to your father. We basically try to establish relationships with men in your life that are non-sexual.” As if every man I know, I have slept with.
I ask him, “okay well how about the part where you become attracted to women?” He says, “it’s years and years of therapy and it doesn’t always work.” I realise that this guy is not even a psychiatrist, in fact he’s still studying and not cured, he’s just abstaining from sex. I refuse to go back to another session. I told my parents that it wasn’t going to work out.
I also stopped going down once a week because they didn’t want to meet my partner. They kept asking me why I wasn’t coming down to visit and I said, “well it’s like going back in the closet, I told you I’m gay, I’m seeing this guy and you guys don’t want to meet him or whatever and that’s fine but I don’t really want to be around.” The good thing is they listened to me and the next day they called up wanting to come meet him. They came to see him do a play and they’ve been great ever since.
They’ve come a long way, visiting on holidays and they get along with my partner’s parents. It’s crazy how far they could come from not understanding, not having any background, not knowing anybody else in that position. After that, It became me having to educate them every time I went down there. Here is a new book, or no it’s not wrong because of this and this. Every time it had to be a conversation about being gay and I got a little tired of that.
Coming out to everyone was liberating and it was kind of great, but I remember some of my friends later told me they were joking about how I was clearly going through the list of just telling people, “hey , so I’m gay now.”
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I’m a super hairy guy, I’ve got hairy shoulders, hairy back and a hairy chest, something I’ve always been kind of shameful about. I didn’t think it was attractive and thought it was an ugly thing. When I was coming out at 27 or 28, I had been living in West Hollywood which is the twink capital of the world and no one’s interested in me because there are all these slim, beautiful, tanned, muscle-defined guys in there.I didn’t realise that in East Hollywood there is a place called Silver Lake where all the bears are. After I met my partner he introduced me to this life and those type of bars. All of a sudden, this thing I was so embarrassed and shameful about was glorified.
I was getting all this attention, being told I should wear a tank top to show my shoulder hair and back hair with people asking me, “can I pet you?” That was pretty wonderful.
We started out monogamous but he had been out for years and had way more experience than me. He knew right off the bat even when I didn’t that I hadn’t kind of sowed my wild oats. I hadn’t had a lot of experiences where he did and he didn’t want to keep that from me because he thought it could break up our relationship. We opened it really early on but we didn’t actually do anything about it for a couple of years.Then I found out about sex clubs in LA and that was really fun. I really liked that because you go and all of a sudden some beautiful, muscle bound guy, like out of a fantasy, that would never pay attention to me in real life was coming up to me and I got to have sex with him in some club which was really fun. My partner didn’t want to keep that from me and I didn’t want to either.
I think that every gay relationship that I know that has lasted any amount of time has some type of openness. A lot of younger guys ask me about this and I think it’s just whatever works for you. The key is about being honest and communicating because then it is not cheating. They key is also to communicate whatever you guys are comfortable with and what your ground rules are. For example if it means no kissing, only playing together, only playing apart, only if you talk about it, only if you don’t talk about it – all those sorts of things.
Whenever I see a relationship where people are playing around and they say, “but don’t tell my partner”, I don’t think those have a chance because it’s lying. Sex is a wonderful and great fun but there is no one else I want to bring home and hang out with my family, and do stuff with. I don’t know if it’s different for women but I can have sex with someone and there’s no connection at all other than physical. I don’t necessarily want to know about you afterwards, unless of course they’re friends but there is nothing more there.
I remember back when it was early in our relationship and I went to New York to do a play whilst my partner stayed in LA he said that I could have sex with whoever I want and I could go to dinner or movies with whoever I wanted, but they couldn’t be the same person. He didn’t want me to get involved with the romance stuff and didn’t want me to fall in love.
So have great friends that you go and do stuff with and then have fuck buddies, but keep them separate.
It’s worked for us, we’re pretty open and it’s worked for twenty years.
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For those people reading and relating to my story, I just want to say that if you’re coming out later in life. If you can get to a bigger city or someplace where there’s a community that’s wonderful, I highly recommend it. This is your life, you’re going to get to experience things and if you’re not living an open life, then you’re not really experiencing it. You only get one of these, you might as well have fun.
My partner and I have always been safe. Whenever we play with someone, of course we always use condoms but even between us. We’ve been together for twenty years now and it was only two or three years ago that we finally had anal sex without condoms with each other. It was a really great and fun experience. We figured that we were always safe when we played with others, we trust each other and we get tested regularly so I wanted to experience what it was like without. We realised that we actually could do this without a condom. We just grew up in an age where always using condoms was normal.
I’m sure that I’ve been with tons of guys that are positive but I’m always safe. I’m pretty confident that you don’t get it from oral sex, chances are extremely low, because I think everybody would have it otherwise. So oral sex without condoms of course but any kind of anal activity has a condom - it’s just never been an option for me or him to not use one.
I find it amazing when young guys say, “you don’t have to use a condom.” It just amazes me and I just don’t understand it. It’s kind of a turnoff to be honest. I mean I’m really pissed that this disease came out and without it I would have had a very different experience. Had I been older and got out of high school earlier before it came out, there’s probably a good chance that I would have caught HIV because I would have definitely played unsafely.
It was pretty full on because I was already not dealing with my sexuality in high school and then the minute I go to college and I’m thinking of dealing with it, HIV and AIDS comes out. I’m thinking, ‘oh, great, so now I’m definitely not doing anything about this!” So that really blew and I’m just trying to make up for lost time now!
I’m so happy that I’m out now, I have a wonderful life, a beautiful partner and great friends. I’m really enjoying this time in my life.
Andrew grew up in Orange County, California with his parents in a nice neighbourhood before he moved away for college.
Andrew went to an acting school in New York called The Circle in the Square.
Andrew eventually moved back to California where he was waiting tables in West Hollywood for a while.