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’m originally from Utah, which is where I was born and raised. In the winter it can get to negative 10⁰ and get up to over 100⁰ Fahrenheit in the summer. Utah is an amazingly beautiful state. It was a great place to grow up. We spent a lot of time camping and just enjoying nature. I had a really nice upbringing in a beautiful area. I grew up in a valley surrounded by mountains.
My family is amazing! I’m the youngest of five kids; I have three sisters and one brother. The closest sister to me is six years older than me and my eldest brother is 15 years older than I am.
I remember being really scared to start school because I was a really shy kid and I’d always been close to my mom most of the time. I had a really good first grade teacher, she basically kind of took me under her wing and paid extra special attention to me. She was very kind and gentle with all of her interactions with me. I didn’t have a lot of friends because I was painfully shy. Even though I was shy I tried to be kind to everyone. I was labelled the nice guy.
I also grew up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons. Being Mormon isn’t just going to church on Sundays it is a very life encompassing religion. I was involved with my community from a very young age. It was comfortable belonging to a group and to know I belonged somewhere. I had some amazing experiences growing up. I always felt I had a great support system. I found comfort in Mormonism.
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When it came time to go to college I decided to stay in my home town and attend Utah State University. It is a fairly large University in Northern Utah. There are about 25,000 students enrolled. I had originally planned to major in political science, but soon found that I just didn’t have the interest in the subject. In High School I studied French and found it to be an interesting language. I felt proficient in the language and so continued to study French in college. In the first year of college I was just testing the waters taking general education classes trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.
After I completed my first year of college it was time for me to do a mission for the Mormon church. All young men at the age of 19 are encouraged to do a two year missionary service. I was a ‘very good boy’ and so I made the decision to go on a mission for the Mormon Church.
The church doesn’t pay for you to go out and be a missionary, you’re actually volunteering your time and your own money. It costs about $425 US dollars a month to do it and the church pools together the money collected. Depending on which country you’re in, the dollar goes a long way, whereas some countries it doesn’t stretch as far. The actual location isn’t up to you, you don’t have any choice over that. You just say that you want to go and then they actually pick the location for you. Having studied French I really had high hopes of going to France on my mission. France just wasn’t in the cards for me. I was assigned to Nagoya, Japan. In retrospect I am very happy that I had the opportunity to go to Japan for 2 years.
The Mormon community is not as widely known in Japan, it has about 100,000 members in the whole country. So being a missionary was very interesting. Basically you are dropped into the country with the intent of converting people to Mormonism. You are always dressed up in white shirts, ties and dress pants. Most of your day is filled with talking to people about the church. You walk down the street trying to get people to stop and talk about the religion or you knock on their doors and try and share the message with them. Getting someone to actually stop and listen was very difficult. Another part of being a missionary was helping out the community with volunteer activities. Some of those activities included feeding elderly people at old folks’ homes, picking up garbage on the streets, playing with kids at the pre-schools, also helping physically handicapped people with tasks they could not do themselves. This part of the missionary work was always amazing. It felt great making a difference in the lives of the people around you.
I wasn’t a very good missionary. Like I said, being painfully shy and having to stop people and talk to them was just really out of my comfort zone, but I did the best that I could to push myself. When I was able to actually stop someone and talk to them, I enjoyed the conversations that I had. I made quite a few friends while I lived in Japan and to this day stay in touch with some of them. It was an amazing part of my life that I look back on with fondness.
After spending 2 years in Japan it was time to return home to Utah. I returned home and immediately went back to college and decided to change my degree to marketing. I worked a full time job as a janitor while going to school full time. It was a busy time of my life. I graduated Utah State University in December 1998. After graduation I started looking for jobs, but just couldn’t seem to find the right job. An opportunity to go to graduate school came up and I jumped at the opportunity and packed up my stuff and moved to Memphis, Tennessee. I entered an International MBA program at the University of Memphis. I had a graduate assistantship where all my tuition was paid for the program. It was a very intense 2 year program and I dedicated all my time to my studies. I also came out in graduate school.
It took me until the age of 26 to admit to myself that I was gay. Having grown up Mormon I was taught that being gay was not a good thing.
I struggled with it for many years. After I came out I distanced myself from the church. I still consider myself spiritual, but just in my own way now. Religion and sexuality
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So my first gay sexual experience happened while I was in grad school. I met a couple online in an AOL chat room. We had arranged to hook up so I went over to their place. They were so nice, just really understanding of it being my first time and tried to make me feel as comfortable as possible. They explored a lot of different things with me and we had amazing sex. I’m primarily a top and they were very accommodating .
That was the first time anyone had ever licked my ass and it was the first time I had ever gotten blown by a guy. It was my first time ever fucking a guy.
We did it all, we dove in and had a great time. It was truly an amazing experience. I will never forget how great it felt and how comfortable it felt. To this day I can’t pass up a hot three-way.
My very second sexual experience was with one of the guys from that couple who wanted to have sex with me on his own. He came over to my apartment and brought over a goody bag full of all these things; there was rope, there was Crisco, there were gloves, condoms and lube. He also had stuff called Maximum Impact, which is like poppers in an aerosol can. We started getting into it and he had me tie him up. I had never tied anyone up before! Then I started with fucking him and he told me that he actually wanted me to fist him. So I put on the gloves and I got the Crisco and I started to fist him. I was a quick learner. After those two experiences I started on a path of sexual exploration. I had lots of sex with lots of guys. I’d meet people all over the country and travel to all these different places to hook up and have hot sex. I don’t feel I can write all the details of my sex life in this story. I could probably write a book about all the different things I’ve done over the years.
During this time of exploration I met a guy that was living in Nashville named Cameron. He was a bad boy a drinker and a smoker. He was super masculine and that was ultimately a big turn on. I was instantly attracted and fell for him hard. He was primarily a top and I was too , but one day we made an agreement to bottom for each other once and see how it goes.
I remember after it happened, going into the bathroom and sitting on the toilet and crying for like an hour because it was so painful. Bottoming was just not my thing.
I preferred to slip my cock in a nice hungry hole. Him and I dated for about 4 months before things came to an end. It was a wild ride while it lasted.
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My parents eventually found out that I was gay. I talked with them and they just didn’t understand. They thought I was just depressed or was going through a phase etc. They just couldn’t imagine me being gay. Eventually that softened over the years. My mother seemed to take it much better than my father. I still can’t talk about certain topics with my father to this day.
During this time of self-exploration I learned that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a huge shock to me. I never thought my mother would have health issues. She went through chemotherapy and radiation. She also had a mastectomy. I was still in grad school in Tennessee while she was back in Utah. It was hard to be away from the family. I would travel back to Utah as often as I could.
I finished grad school and by that time my mother’s health had completely declined. I moved back to Utah so I could be with her during her final days. I moved back to Utah in May and she passed away in June of 2001. This was actually a tough time in my life because I had just finished grad school, my mother died of cancer and I had just come out. Even though I felt that I was more me and I was liberated, there were still a lot of ups and downs because of all the other things that were going on in life. I went a little crazy and I used a lot of different online sites to meet guys. I would use AOL.com a lot and I would just randomly hook up with different people. I found myself using sex as a way to cope with stress. Fortunately all these hook ups led me to find quite a few new friends and I was soon encircled with some awesome gay friends. It was the beginning of the creation of my gay family.
After things settled down from the death of my mother I started working at a bank in Salt Lake City, Utah as a loan underwriter. I was doing financial work which was different from the marketing I had studied in undergrad but it worked for me. I was with that bank for five years after I graduated, moving up through management as I went. I liked working there, they treated me well. During that time I met John, who is the first man I ever considered my boyfriend - we were together for one year. He was 15 years older than me, but we had a really strong connection. It was very good sex, great conversation and we just had a really good time together. However, I just felt like I wasn’t ready to settle down. I think I still had some wild oats to sow because I was younger and I was still experiencing a lot of new things.
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As my sexual life progressed I found porn to be fascinating. I loved porn. I have a large collection of it. Titan was my favourite studio, I loved their stuff and had a lot of their movies. Just on a whim, I thought, ‘I’ve been working on my body and I’ll just take some photos and I’ll send it to them and see what they think.’ I took the photos, sent them to the talent coordinator and within two days he called back saying that they were interested in hiring me for a trial scene. I would either do it on the weekends, or I would take some of my paid time off to film in San Francisco. That was a start of some great new adventures. I was meeting a lot of new people and starting to really enjoy life. I was able to start working for many porn studios including, Colt, Raging Stallion, Falcon, Kink.com, Hot House, and many more. I look back at my days of filming with fondness. I still film on occasion as the porn studios reach out to me and ask me to work for them.
Porn is how I met my current partner, we did a movie for Titan studios together. We had been scene partners in one of the first movies that I did for Titan. When we did the scene I didn’t know that he had a partner in real life. After we finished the scene, he asked me if I’d like to hang out some more. I said of course! That’s when I met the second partner and that began our 3-way relationship. It was so romantic and fun. Not only did I have one hot boyfriend, but I had two! I felt like the luckiest guy ever. At the beginning it was amazing, we had a great time together. We got along well, we travelled together and just did a lot of fun things together. 3-way relationships are fun, but definitely take some extra work.
They lived in Southern California, just outside of Palm Springs. They invited me to move in with them, so I left the bank and I moved to California. They had very busy lives, both had tech jobs and that kept them very busy. I moved in with them and didn’t have a job so I had to search for a new job. I eventually landed with a bank in the town we lived in, but still on the side I would do porn movies as well. We had regular lives at that point and were happy and stable. I felt like I was leading these two completely separate professional lives at the bank and at the porn studios, but I still enjoyed it and thought I had such a great life. When one would travel for work and I would hang out with the other. Then the first partner would come back and the three of us would spend time together and then I would take some time alone with him. I liked the dynamic of having two people that you’re really close with because you can all spend time together or it can just be the two of you. It was fun and I enjoyed getting to know each of them in different ways.
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As our lives progressed together we started to experiment with different drugs. It started out as a party weekend here or there, but eventually things got pretty out of hand. We eventually all split up and I quit my bank job and moved to West Hollywood, California. I was doing porn full time at that point which was enough work to keep me afloat. The first partner and I still had a pretty strong connection and it was really hard to be away from him, but I knew I couldn’t stay where I was at. Things were out of control. The first partner eventually followed me to Los Angeles and left the second partner out in Palm Springs. The first partner and I gradually, over time, developed a closeness, more than the second partner and I ever did - we had this incredible connection. We didn’t really consider ourselves boyfriends, but we were together all the time. We were still having sex and we were still enjoying each other at that point, so I felt like we were back together. That went on from the beginning of 2008 through to July of 2009.
In November of 2008, the first partner got arrested for buying crystal meth. I hadn’t been using substances at this point. I had tried to clean up my act and get back to leading a regular life. For him things were changing and were becoming more fast and furious so he started using more frequently. He lost his job and a lot of things were going on. I loved him and wanted to be close to him so I started to engage in drug use with him to try and feel a connection and closeness. I started to use more and him and I would end up fighting and things got pretty ugly there for a bit.
I knew that I would have to leave again in order for us to get back to some kind of normalcy. So in July of 2009, I decided it was best for me to get out of the picture altogether. He had been going to AA meetings because it was court mandated, but he wasn’t really taking it very seriously. I was a mess with my own use, but didn’t feel I needed help to stop at that point. I had a good friend in Florida that invited me to come and stay with him to try and get my life back in order. After I left, he started to really take the AA meetings seriously and he has been sober since - this year will be his sixth year sober. I am very proud of him for taking the steps to take control of his life. I eventually ended up joining a harm reduction group called The Stonewall Project in San Francisco and it has helped me in a tremendous way. I have been crystal meth free for almost 3 years now.
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We reconnected back in October of 2011 and we have been back together since. He’s currently employed at Google as a systems analyst - he hasn’t been doing films for quite a few years now. I am currently working for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation at Magnet, a gay men’s health clinic. I am the community organizer. I am in charge of all the community events we have at the clinic. The clinic screens gay/bi/trans men for HIV, STI’s and provides treatment for all STI’s including gonorrhoea, syphilis, and chlamydia. We also offer Hepatitis A/B vaccines to our clients. I am also an HIV test counsellor giving people their results and talking to them about their sexual health. I started at Magnet as a volunteer HIV test counsellor in October of 2012 and the community organizer position became available in May 2013 so I applied for it and got the job. I work with some amazing people and feel great about the work I do.
So all in all I have had a pretty interesting life. I feel very blessed to have been humbled and to have had the many different experiences that I have. The down times in life have given me a better appreciation for the good times in my life. Each day I continue to be the best person I can and continue to explore this wonderful world that we live in. I look forward to more adventures along the way.
Josh went to Memphis to finish grad school.
Josh travelled to Japan for 2 years to do his Mormon missionary work.
Josh now works at Magnet in San Fran as a community organiser and HIV test counsellor