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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My name’s Chris. I’ve just turned 21. I grew up in Tongala, in country Victoria. It’s a very small town and you have to travel at least half an hour to anywhere; the nearest town is Echuca. I grew up on a farm in Tongala until I was about five, with my parents, my older brother and my younger sister.
Then we moved into town, where we lived across the road from the school. We had all this free time and space to run around, and Tongala being a small town, we didn’t have any restrictions; you could go down the street by yourself at a young age and it didn’t matter, because it was safe.
Maybe I was gay
When I was younger I went out with a lot of girls, and when I was 15 I got into a relationship with a girl for about four years. That ended because I told her I thought I might be gay. We chose together to end the relationship because, even though I still cared for her, I thought it wasn’t fair to stay in a relationship with her when I had the thoughts of wanting to explore that aspect of my life. So we ended our relationship and we’re still good friends: we lived together all of last year - and her boyfriend too - she’s my best friend.
I started thinking maybe I was gay in my early teenage years, but I wasn’t sure. I think in my mind I put it away because I didn’t want to be gay, because of the whole stereotype of what a gay person was and the whole negativity about being gay.
Growing up in Tonnie, I didn’t know anyone who was gay and there was no-one gay in my family, so I really didn’t know anything about what it was all about. I think there was one man in the main street who was gay and you’d run past his house when you were little because he was gay! To this day when I see that house I smile, because I remember all of us kids doing that.
I was abused
When I was 11 I was abused by a friend. I say abused because I didn’t feel I could say no. I thought if I said something people would find out, so I just lay there. It was a sleepover: he was sleeping next to me and he just started touching me up. It was either say something and have everyone know, because there was a group of us, or just lie there, so I just chose to lie there.
I disowned him as a friend not long after that. I knew I was attracted to females, so I just went down that path instead.
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When I came out I said that I was bisexual, and I think even today, if my current relationship was to end, there’s not a 100% guarantee that I wouldn’t sleep with another girl. After I came out I didn’t just go with guys: one weekend I might have hooked up with a girl and then a guy, and then a guy and a girl and so on. The last girl I hooked up with was around a year ago, so it’s never really been one or the other. But I definitely feel more attracted to men.
My girlfriend and I had grown a bit apart by that stage anyway, probably because I was becoming distant as a result of things that were going on at the time, and because I was becoming more aware of the fact that I might have been attracted to men. We’d known each other since we were five years old, and we’d been good friends before we started going out, so we had enough respect for each other to end it well.
I got sick
We’d been through so much together in those four years: at one point I got really sick; they thought I was dying. When I was fifteen I had a seizure and almost died in the doctor’s surgery. At the hospital they said it might happen again, it might not, and over the next month I went really downhill. Then my glands started swelling up and they said I had glandular fever. Six months went down and I was still getting worse and worse. I was away from school and that just went on until I was seventeen.
Finally I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but they went through everything before they figured that out. I’d had surgery to remove the glands, which were swelling up all over my body, and they thought I might have cancer. They went through pretty much everything the symptoms matched, to try and find out what it was. That was a big strain.
Every year I go downhill a little bit – stress makes it go majorly, and weather changes too, from summer to winter especially. I work in assisted care for people with disabilities, so that’s not the most stress-free job in the world! But I manage; I have a good support system in my workplace; there’s nothing me and my colleagues don’t talk about. I really enjoy and love where I’m working and I’ve worked my way up, so I’m kind of in the upper middle level now.
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The guy at the sleepover was my first male sexual contact. The next one was when I was eighteen, while I was still in the relationship with my girlfriend. I had my drink spiked. One night, I went out with my friends to a nightclub in Shepparton. We’d been there a weekend or two earlier and a group of guys came up and tried to come on to me and we just left because it was a bit weird and uncomfortable.
I’d never really seen these guys before; they were a group of men of different ages. They were pointing at me. They called me over and I went over because I thought maybe if I don’t they’ll cause trouble or something. I couldn’t really understand what they were saying, but they were pretty much wanting me to go home with them – all together as a group. I walked off laughing because I thought it was a joke. Then they were saying that it wasn’t a joke, but I couldn’t hear them properly because the music was loud. In the end I said to my friends: let’s go somewhere else, and we left.
We were going to this club pretty much every weekend at that point. It wasn’t a gay bar, it was just a normal straight venue with all kinds of people there –and all races too, being Shepparton – Shepparton’s very multicultural and it’s all pretty mixed, they all go to the same places.
So, a week or so later we were back there again, drinking. I went to get a drink and someone offered me one. I just thought ‘free drink’ and I accepted it. I probably shouldn’t have, because you don’t accept drinks from strangers, and I’d had a few already. Not long after drinking it I felt a bit sick and spewed a little. We were going to go to another place and I told my friends to go on ahead.
As time went by I started feeling quite dizzy and things were just moving around. I’d had a bit to drink – I started drinking when I was 14 years old - but the amount I’d had to drink wasn’t enough to make me feel sick or anything but I suddenly knew I was going to be sick. I was really hot and sweating like crazy. I went to the bathroom and was sick a lot and then I was just desperate for lots of water because I was so hot and sweating so much.
I skulled lots of water and then went to catch up with my friends. They messaged me. I thought they said they’d headed to the lake so I headed there, but they hadn’t. I started feeling numb and then my legs gave way and I couldn’t really move.
I just couldn’t move
I never actually made it because I’d collapsed on the way to the lake. I was pretty much aware of everything going on, I just couldn’t move. Then someone caught up and put me in their car and took me to their place. When we got there they didn’t go all the way with me because I got away, but that was probably next on their list.
I felt ashamed
After this happened, it took eight months before I told anyone because, like a lot of people in that situation, I felt ashamed and like in some way it was my fault. You’re brought up to know you don’t accept drinks from strangers, but I did, for the sake of a free drink, so later I was thinking if I hadn’t accepted the free drink it mightn’t have happened.
I guess the stress of it got too much: I had a mini-breakdown due to that, and from overworking myself. I guess I started drinking to try and get away from it.
I’m pretty sure the guy who picked me up in his car was the same guy who spiked my drink because I remember seeing him throughout the night – he was always near me. He’d be in his late thirties, maybe forties – he had no hair.
If I didn’t get away…
To this day I don’t really know what would have happened, but I think if I didn’t get away and leave the house…well, not too many people spike people’s drinks and then take them back to their house, so I always wonder what would have happened if I didn’t get away.
I was pretty aware of everything: I can remember the inside of the house – certain colours and smells of the place that sort of set me off a little bit. I’ve spoken to people about it and I’ve worked through it and I guess I’ve moved on from it and I don’t let it affect me like it used to, but because I didn’t tell anyone at first it was on my mind constantly: if I saw someone with no hair, I’d freak out and get really anxious and stressed.
I didn’t report it
I didn’t report it to the police. I couldn’t remember a whole lot of details about him or where he took me. I also thought it would be a drag and a long process and I didn’t want to go through that. When I went to a counsellor about it she said it was my choice whether or not to go down that path – and I chose not to.
I couldn’t let my girlfriend touch me after that. She knew something was wrong, because I’d just pull away whenever she got close. I finally told her what happened about two weeks later and we had sex again for the first time about a month later. I had to make a conscious decision not to let what happened take over my life. Once I told her we didn’t discuss it again.
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I went back to Year 12 that year because even though I had finished Year 12 in 2005 and passed and graduated, because I was sick at the time I just breezed through it and didn’t do as well as I could have. I thought I I’d go back that year, which was 2007, to complete it and work harder and maybe try something else, a new career. I was going to work in the morning, school in the day and also work during the school holidays. Then I had to work after school and had homework as well, so I was quite exhausted and I started drinking to forget about it. The only time I wouldn’t drink is if I knew I had to drive somewhere or work.
I sort of stopped eating as well, through being busy. My body got used to me not eating and I lost a lot of weight. I think I dropped down to 52kgs. I’m back to 75kgs now. Not eating was adding to the stress and then I stuffed up at work. And that’s when I knew that I had a problem and I needed help.
I told my Mum
I work as a support worker for people with disabilities. After the work thing happened, I went home and told my Mum about the not eating thing and how it had gone on for six months or more. It got to the point where I believed it had become an eating disorder. As it went on I knew I had to eat, but I didn’t want to because I didn’t feel hungry.
I told Mum I needed help and it came out what happened to me that night I had my drink spiked. I also told my sister; she’s four years younger than me and she had started to be a bit of trouble. I told her there were people who were worse off than her and told her what had happened, to try and wake her up from the stupid stuff that was going on with her.
I started getting better
After I told Mum, she organised appointments with doctors for me to go and speak to. I got into that and I started getting better. They didn’t really help me in terms of what I was going through, but they sent me to mental health. They came and spoke to me and asked all these questions and in the end they said: we think you’re mildly depressed. And I thought: well, I think I knew that and I think it’s pretty logical for what I’ve been through!
So that didn’t really help: all they wanted to do was put me on tablets and let them take their course, but I don’t believe tablets are what make people better; they take people to a level to cope, but they still have the issues and they’re still going to be screwed up until those issues are resolved.
I didn’t take the tablets
I didn’t take the tablets and I got myself eating because I knew I had to. With the help of my Mum and a few good friends, work colleagues and other family members, I got the weight back on. I put on 20 kgs, probably a little faster than I should have and now I have food allergies as a result. I can’t have gluten any more, because I ate so much bread to put the weight back on that my body can’t handle any more; it rejects it and I get sick if I eat it now.
It probably took six months to get better again. In that six months I also came out and had my first proper male sexual experience. And then I started making bad choice after bad choice. I got better from some things and I finished some addictions, but I replaced them with others.
I’m very good at hiding things
Telling someone took a lot of weight off my shoulders, because I’m very good at hiding things. I’m very good at smiling and pretending everything’s OK. For instance, growing up, my brother used to bash me every day because he has a mental illness. Growing up was like a rollercoaster because you’d never know what sort of mood he was in, and I was the one who got all the bashings because he was angry.
So I’d go to school and no-one would know what was happening, because I’d never say anything. I was older than everyone, because I was repeating Year 12 that year, so I didn’t really know anyone at school either, so I spent my time there pretty much on my own. I still lived with my parents at that stage. I was able to drink and not eat every day without anyone knowing. After it all came out, they were more aware and I couldn’t sneak around and do the things I had been doing, which was probably a good thing.
Telling someone what had happened was really what made the difference. Once I told my Mum what had happened she was the one who got the ball rolling and started making appointments with counsellors and everything. She even drove me to my first appointment – and I was able to drive myself there after that. I don’t think I would have picked myself up and dealt with it alone.
Going to a counsellor
Going to a counsellor who specialises in sexual abuse helped. I started eating and managed my drinking. Growing up in the country, all there is to do is go to parties and drink, and I started doing that at a young age. After it all came out, I was able to start drinking with my mates socially again, instead of drinking alone to forget about things. I wouldn’t say I was an alcoholic, but I did have a drinking problem.
The trouble is, I replaced drinking with having sex with people, and whenever I was angry or anxious I’d go and have sex with someone as an outlet and that led to a lot of bad choices.
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My very first sexual experience was when I was 17, and that was with my girlfriend, but my first full sexual experience with a guy was when I was 19. I was back at school re-doing year 12. I was doing P.E and we came down to Melbourne for a footy trip. A school-friend that I grew up with, and did Year 12 with the first time, lived in Melbourne. She had a gay flatmate and another friend of mine was there as well. I organised not to go back to Kyabram with the bus and stayed in Melbourne at their place that weekend.
They decided to go to a gay club and I thought, OK, whatever. None of us had a problem with going to a gay club and I thought, well, I have all these feelings so I might as well try it. The friends I was with had no idea about me until they saw me hook up with someone on the dance floor. I wasn’t out to anyone at that stage and they didn’t say anything to anyone.
Kissing on the dance floor
I hooked up with a few different guys that night, maybe six, just kissing on the dance floor. And towards the end of the night I thought, well, I haven’t come this far for no reason, so then this other person hit on me and asked to buy me a drink. He looked quite a bit older but he was quite attractive so I said OK and I ended up going home with him. I think he was 38 – he was 18 years older than me. I said I was a little older than I really was, because it sounded better; I didn’t want him to think I was too young.
When I went home with him, my friends were like, oh, OK, and I said I’d call them in the morning. I didn’t think going home with him was a bad decision: he was quite nice and I felt quite comfortable and safe, and I was.
I didn’t really like it
Sexually, we did the whole thing: I didn’t really like it or enjoy it that much. The next day I missed the train back home – catching trains and being on time and all that was new to me then, because where I lived I’d just hop on my bike to go anywhere, and I’d never been to Melbourne before, so I didn’t know my way around.
My friends all had to go to work early, so they wouldn’t be able to show me how to get to the train again. So I called the guy I was with the night before and went back to his place again the next night.
Get off me!
The sex was funny. It didn’t last too long before I kind of swore and said get the fuck off me, because it hurt. And then he ended up being the bottom and I was the top for the rest of it. But then the next night we did it again and I just coped through it the next time: I just managed and hoped the pain went away, because, I guess, nothing had really been near that part of me before.
I guess I was nervous, but I felt comfotable enough; I wasn’t really freaking out or anything. He knew it was my first time and he was very good and nice about it. Looking back on it, I couldn’t have done it the first time with a better person; all the bad ones just came after that!
Older than me
Like I said, I’ve kept in touch with him and we’ve caught up for dinner now and then. In a way, I think I keep attached with him purely because I was going through such a bad time when I met him that I just really wanted to be near or with someone. I didn’t have ‘feeling’ feelings for him, but I had some kind of feelings for him, and to this day I think it’s just because I had sex with him.
And because he was much older, I just saw him as an older figure too. It’s weird, and I don’t really like the sound of this, but because my parents divorced when I was ten, I never really had an older figure around and sometimes I think I was just looking for that. The father figure bit sounds creepy when I think of having sex with someone, because I’m not really looking for a father figure but… I don’t know the words. The majority of guys I’ve been with have been older than me. Actually I don’t think I’ve been with anyone that’s been younger than me.
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That first time happened at the end of June and I came out to my family in August. It was one of my stepbrother’s wedding and I got really drunk. My brother wanted to punch me in the face because apparently I’d been a real arsehole for the past six or eight months. I kind of blurted out to him why he might have thought I was an arsehole. He’s two and a half years older than me and was the one who bashed me when I was younger.
I got drunk
The wedding was one of my stepbrother’s, who I don’t even speak to! I just got invited because he had to, but we don’t speak to each other. Anyway, I got drunk and blurted out that I didn’t think I was straight and that’s how my Mum found out, because he told her afterwards. Mum already knew about the attack. She came to me about a week later and asked me if there was anything I wanted to say, because Ryan (my brother) had said something. I pretty much told her.
I don’t remember what I said exactly, but then she said: that’s fine; she doesn’t care, as long as I’m happy and safe. It was kind of kept low-key; not because my Mum wanted to hide it or anything, but I don’t think I was ready to announce it to everyone.
My sister is four years younger than me and we were very close growing up. Mum did shift work so I brought her up and took her around everywhere and we were very close. I didn’t know how to tell her and when I found the courage to tell her she just stopped me halfway and said she already knew, because someone in my family had already blurted.
I was a bit mad at Mum and then a bit mad at all of them because I thought, if they all already knew, why didn’t they say something? It could have saved me a lot of trouble! The person that was hardest to tell was my Dad. I didn’t tell my Dad; my Mum and my brother did. Mum had hyped it up so much that he wouldn’t take it well that I was like, well, I’m not telling him!
Never once did I hear him being negative or homophobic or anything, I think it was more just the fact that he was the Dad that made her think he wouldn’t take it well. After they told him, they said he was fine with it, but he never came and spoke to me about it or asked me questions. Later I heard that he was annoyed because I didn’t speak to him about it, and then I thought, well, what do I have to say to him? If he needs to speak to me about it then he should. I didn’t really know what to say to him.
He’s fine with it now, to my knowledge. He found out a good eight months after the rest of the family and that was because I brought my partner to a friends 50th birthday. He was going too, so we had to tell him before that event so people knew exactly what was going on.
After that, I slowly told friend after friend. It’s a bit of a blur now, but they kind of said, well, you’re Toddy, my best mate growing up since we were five, so nothing’s going to change. Some of them said: well, der, we were just waiting for you to come out! Not once did I have a negative response about it.
The only negative thing was with my Pop, because things I was doing around town with the local gay group were appearing in the local newspaper and my family thought they’d better tell my Dad’s parents that I was gay before someone tells them about the newspaper article. My Pop’s very old school and he was a bit against it, which I was fine about; he and Nanna weren’t a huge influence in my life. I thought, if he didn’t want me around in his life then that doesn’t really affect me too much.
Nanna was saying nothing will change, but usually we go around there for Christmas, and I thought, well, if I can’t go there with my partner then I’m not going to go - I’m not going to pretend I’m someone else just to make them happy. My brothers said that if Nanna and Pop are going to be like that then they’ll stick by me and not go either.
He pretended he didn’t know me
Nanna and Pop came to my birthday this year and they said everything was fine, but apparently my partner’s too gay! I don’t think so. I don’t know; we’ll soon see how things pan out; I’m still speaking to them. Once I actually went up and spoke to Pop in the street and he turned around and pretended he didn’t know me. That was quite funny. I mean, it made me mad, but it didn’t hurt me really because it wasn’t anything I didn’t expect. I just went and told my Dad and said, well, if they’re going to be like that then they can go and get stuffed.
I found, a lot of the time, it’s the people you think might come up to you and punch you in the face when they find out you’re gay that are actually the most outgoing and friendly with it and don’t actually care – the roughed up ones. I think it’s pretty well known around town now that I’m gay. I don’t see a lot of the people I went to school with any more, but I’m pretty sure the majority of them know I’m gay.
There’s no point hiding from it
There’s a big tradition where we all go to a certain pub in Kyabram on Christmas Eve and it’s pretty much like a school reunion. All of them knew and they were fine and hugged me or shook my hand. I’m on Facebook and it has my partner on it, so whoever goes on it can see that my partner’s a male. I just thought there’s no point hiding from it.
Before my current relationship I was very stand-offish in a way, like, if people asked if I was gay, I wouldn’t be so open to saying yes, or if I said I was going on a date, most times people just presumed it was a girl. If they asked how old was she or something, I didn’t correct them, whereas, if people ask nowadays, I’m just: yes I am, or I’ll correct them and say: it’s not a she!
The very last people to find out were the CFA fire brigade I volunteer with; they’re a rougher bunch. They all know now, and I brought my partner to their Christmas party, but it’s like they’re being too nice to me now. It’s funny. I don’t interpret it as being hostile or anything, they just don’t need to act any differently than before they knew.
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The first few times I hooked up with guys, I think it must have been just weird chances that they knew I was gay, because I wouldn’t have a clue - me and my mates are very much like men’s men in a way. I always thought I could never tell who’s-who gay-wise – I think that’s the thing I struggled with the most.
The Deniliquin Ute Muster
Once I hooked up with a guy at the Deniliquin Ute Muster! It’s a big festival and everyone goes with their utes. It’s a very cowboy, macho thing. One of my friends goes every year and I went with her one year. It was OK, so I went again. You have all your cars lined up and you sleep in tents in front of your car. And then there’s a big gated area with stalls and things set up and they have a competition - I think they’re in The Guinness Book of Records for the most blue singlets worn in a ring and they try and beat that every year!
These people came up to us and started talking to us and said have a drink with us. One of them said he had to go back and get something and I said I’d come for a walk. We got talking and I mentioned something about how I can be a bit of an arsehole to the people I sleep with - to some of the girls – how I take their number but I don’t really show too much interest in them afterwards. He said: “So, I’ll find out in the morning then?!” I thought, “Oh…OK!”
I ended up in his swag with him, but I didn’t stay there too long - I don’t think you should sleep with anyone at the Muster because it’s festy – you go a few days without showering! – so I didn’t go there at the time, but I got his number. He was from Ballarat. I go to Ballarat a fair bit anyway, because a lot of my Mum’s family are there, so next time I went to Ballarat I caught up with him.
The next time I hooked up with someone was in Echuca, just in a normal pub again. I was house-sitting for one of my workmates in Echuca and it’s quite a nice big house, so I invited my two best mates over and we went out drinking. We walked in and we were standing at the bar and ordered our drinks. This person kept staring at me and when we went outside he followed us. My friends had their backs to him and he was still staring at me.
They know you’re staring!
I went back inside to get another drink and he said hi and started talking to me. He said: “I was going to see if you wanted me to buy you a drink”. I had two drinks in my hand and I said: “Maybe next time: I’ve got to go back to my mates and you’re more than welcome to sit with us, because they know you’re staring at me”!
So he came and sat with us for a while. By that stage I knew he was gay and I was thinking: how do I get rid of my mates, when they’re staying at my house?! We went to another, two-storey, venue and I told them to go and see if it was busy upstairs and as soon as they did, I said: “OK, let’s go!” and I ditched them! I texted them later and apologised and they ended up coming back later on. That was my first one-night-stand with a guy. He was from Geelong and was in town for a wedding.
A birthday root!
After that one I told my mates I wasn’t sleeping with anyone for at least four weeks, because they all kept mentioning the number of people I’d slept with rising and rising and I kind of felt bad! No-one believed me, so I stuck to it! But after two months had been and gone, I thought: this is awful! My 20th birthday came around and it was the first birthday I hadn’t had sex since I started having sex, so I said: that’s it! I’m going to Melbourne the week after my birthday and getting myself a birthday root!
I went down to Melbourne and stayed with the same friends I stayed with the time I lost my virginity to a man. There was this guy at my friend’s place and he had a girl there so I thought he must be straight. I went home with someone else that night, but the next day someone told me he liked me so when I got back to Tongala I started messaging him and organised a plan to meet up with him in Bendigo: we stayed there together in a hotel.
He was the first man I’d grown to properly like, and the first time, I guess, my heart was broken. We’d talk every day and caught up again a few times and then I went down to Melbourne and stayed with him for a few days and then all of a sudden he was like: oh, I’m not really wanting anything; I’m still hung up on my ex. That really hurt for a good while.
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I didn’t use condoms all that often during this time; I guess I just never thought of it. I was in this pattern where I just didn’t think or care about what happened to me. In a very short space of time the number of partners I had rose very quickly. After breaking up with my girlfriend I had 14 sexual partners, pretty much in a year!
I’m screwed now!
First there was another girl soon after we split up. That went on for a little while: whenever I wanted it I’d just call her up and she’d drive over. Then there were a few other girls here and there. Some of them were her friends. I was staying at her place once while two of her friends were there and I had been sleeping with all of them at the same time and none of them knew. I thought: “Oh, I’m screwed now; what am I going to do?!” I’d been with one of them the night before…
Of the 14 people I slept with back then I think I used protection maybe four times. Of the 14, six were girls and the rest were guys. I used protection more with the girls than with the guys. If I didn’t, I wasn’t worried too much, because I thought you don’t really hear about a lot of cases of heterosexual people getting AIDS. With the girls it was more an issue of them not getting pregnant and most of them were on the pill anyway. I can only think of three guys I used condoms with.
One of my worst choices
The one that freaks me out is that I hooked up with someone and later found out they had spent time in jail. That was kind of a wake-up call about how dangerous it can be to meet up with random strangers. Actually, I think I used protection with them once and after the second time I didn’t.
Being with him was probably one of the worst choices that I made. I kind of went back there a few times because if I got angry I knew it was a way to get a release. Every time I left, I knew it was a bad decision and that I shouldn’t be doing it, but it actually kept going right up until I was in my current relationship. I knew that if anyone found out about him they would look down on me.
In the beginning we used condoms and then there was a time we didn’t. I said, look, you have to, and I did bring that up, but I don’t think they were used again: I think I just didn’t care once we got into it, because it would kill the buzz or the mood.
My friends would ask me
Sometimes after I’d have sex without protection my friends would ask me if I used protection, and with certain friends I can’t lie. I’d say ‘yes’, but I’d have this stupid grin on my face and they’d know it was really ‘no’ and they’d yell at me. I just never thought of it or it didn’t come up or I felt I didn’t want to ask or something. And sometimes I’d go out and I wouldn’t expect to be hooking up with anyone and it would happen, so I wouldn’t be prepared. A lot of the time I thought condoms would kill the moment. Like, if I’m nervous at the start, that definitely does kill it, especially if you’re the top.
He was 35. The people I’ve been have been 35, 35, 25, 23… I think the closest a male sexual partner’s been to me is one year older. All the guys have been older than me and most of the girls have been younger, except for one and she was 35. She was the last girl that I slept with.
The first few guys I slept with I was the top, and then I think I just found it easier to be the bottom. I think that was also a part of just wanting to explore more. I think I wanted to be top more when I was angry, because then I could get my frustrations out more.
Back to top
At first I found it difficult being in a relationship and not being able to get that frustration out by just going and picking someone up and having random sex. I talk about it with my partner and he has been pretty understanding. When he met me I was pretty screwed up and I really had to explain why I was doing some of the things I was doing. Before that I never felt like I could speak about anything. I was always someone who locked it away and people couldn’t get it out.
My girlfriend of four years, for example, really didn’t get a lot out of me about how I was feeling. She and I were talking about this the other day. I said that lately I’ve become quite needy and quite the person I wasn’t: in my current relationship I’ve kind of become the person she was in our relationship. She was saying how she had to fight to get everything out of me, emotionally.
The affection knob
With all those people I slept with, as much as they were just an outlet for me to get my frustrations out, I kind of had feelings for them in a way. I also felt like once they’d had me they didn’t want to speak with me. Then I worried that my partner was getting tired with me, so I’ve kind of turned the affection knob up, and because I’m giving more, he’s giving less, and because he’s giving less, I’m wanting to get more. He’s a very affectionate person and I was never a very affectionate person, so that’s switched a bit but were working that out now.
When we talked about it, I knew I was in a relationship and that no matter how angry I was – and he made me angry a fair bit! – I had to find a new way to release that anger. I started swimming and shopping seemed to help a bit as well! I just really had to find another way to deal with the anger and frustration.
I hate that term
It’s my first full-on relationship with what you’d call a boyfriend – I hate that term though, because you feel like you’re 15 when you use it. I say partner a lot, and then some people presume it’s a woman. For example, the general manager of my company made that presumption. Another reason I use partner though is that people can presume, but then they get to know me before they find out I’m gay and prejudge me. They get to know me and then think oh, well he’s a great guy and then they deal with that and it’s not the first thing they know about me.
My partner and I actually met online. I was just looking for someone to have sex with, because I was in that period of looking to release all my frustrations through sex. He started talking to me. He worked in Melbourne and lived in Shepparton and was coming through Bendigo and he just dropped in. My flatmates were all home so I thought, well, nothing can go too wrong – my housemates are there if he’s going to kill me or something! He came in and we were talking and my flatmates made a bet of five bucks that I’d sleep with him – that’s how much faith they had that I couldn’t hold back, which I didn’t, so I lost the bet!
The next day we organised that I’d go to Shepparton for some youth event going on up there, and I went to that. About two three days later, we were in a relationship. It was very fast, but I think in the stage of life I was in it needed to move fast, otherwise I just would have put him off as another person I slept with.
Take a chance
When I went back to work two days after we met I just thought: he’s got good morals. He’s probably one of the kindest, nicest guys I’ve ever met, so I just sort of took a chance. He asked me if I wanted to go out with him and I didn’t say anything for about an hour – I freaked out for a little while - but in the end I thought: well, you’ve just got to take a chance - things haven’t been too good lately, so they can only get better. So I said yes, and I’ve been in a relationship ever since.
It was hard at times because I told him about everything and sometimes I got angry and found it was hard not to go out and sleep with someone like I used to before we got together. He knew that was something I was doing in the past. For instance, my stepdad and I never agreed on a whole lot of things, and if I got yelled at I’d just phone someone I could have sex with.
Back to top
We have a monogamous relationship and I don’t think I could handle a relationship that wasn’t, because that would cause a lot of problems. He’s a very moral person with a strict idea of relationships - that they should be this way and not that way. He’s 29 now, so he’s lived that part of his life and he’s ready to settle down, which is what I think I needed.
I’ve grown a lot now and now I don’t care who knows I’m gay and that my face is in the paper or whatever. Sometimes when we’re walking together someone might look at us and I think they probably recognise us from the paper or something. Everyone knows we’re in a relationship together.
He has everything I want
When I look at my future now, I definitely see him in it. He has everything I want in a relationship. I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone the way I care for my partner, and I don’t think I’ve ever been loved more by anyone else, so I think the relationship will work out for a long, long time.
I always thought I would settle down and have a family at a young age because when I was in my four year relationship we had a few pregnancy scares and we’d talked about settling down. I’ve always had that mindset and now and I’ve found something I want and that I’m comfortable being. I’ve grown a lot.
We no longer use condoms in the relationship. We did at the start and then we spoke about being in a monogamous relationship. At that stage I was looking for a new doctor and I chose the same doctor as my partner. The doctor’s actually gay himself and he specialises in gay men’s health, so he tests for everything.
We both got tested
Because I’d been with so many people I always got tested a lot – every six months - and I’ve been quite lucky; I’ve never had an STI. Anyway, we both got tested for HIV and anything else, and our results were both negative. He said to come back in three months and get tested again, so we did that. There were probably a few times when we didn’t use condoms in-between those two tests because the first ones came back fine and we were feeling pretty confident. We’d both agreed we wanted to be monogamous so we thought there was really no need for us to use condoms and if we ever do get anything then someone’s got some explaining to do!
Not long ago my partner said he had to get his syphilis test done. He’d had an STI in the past - five or six years ago - and we’d both been tested and the tests were clear, so I said: “Why are you getting it done again? There’s no need to: you get treated and then it’s gone”. He said his doctor still wanted him to get tested and I got a bit suspicious. I really thought it was a bullshit story, so I looked it up and I read that once it’s treated it can’t come back, but he was saying that it could. He went and got tested and I said: well, if I get an STI I’m going to kill you! He asked his doctor why he was getting tested again and the doctor said there was a minute chance of getting it again.
It has been said that if there’s any unfaithfulness in our relationship then that will be the end of it, because he’s been cheated on in the past by a few different people, and he went back to them and they said they wouldn’t do it again, but they did, so he said he wouldn’t put up with it ever again.
I think if people think there’s a chance to do it they might. And I think if he cheated I wouldn’t stick around, because I’d be worried that he’d do it again. Trust is a big thing in our relationship because I sleep away from home five nights a fortnight. There was a period where I was wondering if there were people there while I was away, because some people did drop around at ten-thirty at night to say hello and that got me thinking.
He’s the president of the Shepparton gay social group. When we first got together it wasn’t my scene, but now that we’ve been together for a while I go to events, because I know they mean a lot to him. The majority of my friends are straight and I’m happy with it that way, though I have started to network a little to try and meet some gay people my age.
Why I did this
I decided to do this interview because a lot of younger people are coming out now and I think it’s important that they do and that they shouldn’t hide behind anything or worry about it, because the world is changing and becoming a better place. I know it’s not a very nice place to be in when you try and be someone you’re not, just to make other people happy - you should make yourself happy. I just wanted to get a young person’s face out there saying they’re happy and gay – and that’s how I’m feeling these days.
Postscript (June 2009)
Since these interviews, we have become engaged (we are planning a big white wedding in a rainforest for when it’s legal in Australia). We have been together now for 14 months, and are looking at bringing a child into the world (surrogacy in India). We are happily living together in the country: my partner is now working in training/development (alongside his community work), and I am still working with people with disabilities. We plan to stay in the country, possibly one day soon moving to Echuca or Bendigo. Socially, spiritually, mentally and emotionally, a wonderful balance is available “in the sticks”, just as it is in the big smoke. We encourage you to drop by Shepparton for some good coffee and yummy SPC fruit real soon!
Christopher grew up in the small country town of Tongala.
Christopher visited Melbourne a few times and had his first sexual experience with a man there.
Some of Chritsopher's family on his mum's side live in Bendigo and he goes to visit them from time to time.
Christopher and his partner now live in Shepparton where his partner is quite involved with Goulburn Valley Pride.