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 Frankston with one brother and one sister. My brother is 10-and-a-half years older than me. My sister was seven years older than me and I just lost her in august last year.
I grew up always playing on both sides of the fence. Our first house which I was born into, we lived in until I was five. Around this time I was caught as a preschooler playing with girls. The next neighbourhood we moved to we lived there until I was about 12, it was mainly guys in the area and I just started playing on that side of the fence too.
I first realised what ‘poofter’ meant when I was in grade six or thereabouts. I’ve never really been in the closet. So I was just myself. I got teased and all of that. It wasn’t bad. I mean there was, a few odd instances and stuff.
I went to a tech school. I wanted to do hairdressing but couldn’t find an apprenticeship. In Year 9 I did work experience at a hairdresser and they offered me an apprenticeship but I decided to stay on and finish school. Then when I did finish I couldn’t get an apprenticeship. My sister was a hairdresser. I’d worked in a few salons and stuff but never actually got an apprenticeship. So I ended up stuck in retail for six years.
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I think my parents always knew. I was probably about 19 or something when I first had a relationship with another guy. My mum had just found out that her sister was really her mother. So it was late at night and she was telling me in the kitchen and we were discussing all of that. Then I said, “Well I’ve got something to tell you too. I’ve been seeing this fellow.” She was like, “Oh okay. I’ll tell your father.” It was no big drama.
He was a production and marketing manager and we met through friends that I was working with. He asked me to come up and house-sit while he was up in Sydney for a couple of weeks with work. Then he just didn’t want me to leave. So I ended up bringing all my stuff up and was there for a while. He was a bit funny about his sexuality and although things happened between us it was never really out there.
He’d use the excuse of drinking and all the rest of it. We’d have baths together and we’d sort of play a bit but he always maintained that he was straight. Now he’s in London and married with two kids. He’s been over there for about eight years, still in the rag trade. He came down just last year and I got to meet up with him again for the first time in nearly 20 years. But what happened between us, was just something that he would never sort of outwardly acknowledge. As a bottom I sort of saved myself for him. I was always thinking that something may happen between us one day. Then he went overseas. Life went on.
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That’s when my wife started chasing me. We met when I was working in retail, we were both working for the same company and someone had sent me flowers. I found out that it was her. So she was actively chasing me and it just sort of happened. I fell in love with her over time and we decided that we were gonna be together and have kids.
We both ended up having to leave our jobs there because we were married and they didn’t like people in the same company getting together. My father at the time was working around the clock doing a few different jobs and stuff. He ended up having a nervous breakdown and he gave his cleaning business to me. From there we built it up, we had primary schools and banks, and all sorts of jobs.
There was a bit of pressure from her side of the family to actually get married, I was like, “Yeah, whatever. We’ve made that commitment anyway, that’s fine.” So we did the whole wedding thing. She had fallen pregnant just before we got married, but she lost that baby. Then when we did get married, my eldest boy was born about a year after. We moved up to Narre Warren, to her parents for about 18 months. We didn’t cope with that at all very well so moved back to Frankston.
We ended up married for 12 years. She knew all about me, you know that I’d play on both sides. I’d given her seven years worth of diaries to read. So that was never a problem and that wasn’t anything to do with our divorce either. We had three boys. My eldest is 18-and-a-half, next one’s 16, youngest one’s 10. I was always the primary caregiver.
She’s three years younger than me and she’d only ever lived at home. She’d never been out there and done what she had to do, so she started having affair after affair. She needed to have her time, that was fine. But it got to the stage where she was only popping in about twice a week to drop off frozen breast milk and grab more clothes. It was a bad thing. She also was done for stealing 40 grand from her boss. So she was a bit of a train wreck and it just sort of ended.
I said to her, “I want a divorce.” I’d done everything. I’d sent her on holidays and all the rest trying to save the marriage but it didn’t happen. She said, “Well I’ll never take the kids off you." About two weeks later I brought my youngest boy home from kinder and she walked in and said, “I’m taking Jesse and there's nothing you can do about it. I’m coming back to get the other two after school.” I rang my lawyer straight away and she said, “Go and pick up the other boys from school and go over to your folks’ place,” which I did. And that was it. We fled our house. Two weeks later we were in court and primary custody of the boys was awarded to me. She kept it in court for three years. Eventually the youngest two had to go with her and the eldest one went over with her too. It was a bad time and there were lots of court cases, an emotional nightmare, really. I tried to neck myself as a result. This was around ’06. I’m sort of going back to when I was 20 now – pre-marriage – just back to what I was. I used to always say I was ‘bi’ but there’s no way I’d ever be with another woman.
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I had the cleaning business and I was working through the night cleaning schools and stuff, then I’d be up all day with the kids. My youngest was two, nearly three at the time when we split up so I always had pre-school and all the sort of school stuff. So I just sort of slipped into that straight life. It used to really piss me off that people would assume that I was straight. It was sort of like I was defending that I’m not straight.
When we did break up, I was a single parent probably for 3 years or so. My youngest boy was the only one that hadn't started swimming lessons. On one of her weekend visits, my eldest boy had to jump in to the pool and save my youngest boy because she wasn’t around. So I thought, “Oh shit, he’s gotta learn to swim.” I started him at swimming lessons and they had a job going. So I took that on during the day and ended up teaching seven days a week, mornings and afternoons. From there I also ended up getting another couple of cleaning contracts, cleaning our swim centres plus other swim centres. She destroyed the cleaning business towards the end of our marriage and I’m just sort of starting to build that up again. So I’m a swimming teacher in the afternoons and Saturday mornings, cleaner at night and massage therapist during the day.
Since my divorce, I’ve met one other fellow, we’re still really good mates but we were in a relationship for a couple of years. He would be the next one that has really meant something to me. He was actually working with me as well in my cleaning business for a while and we used to do things everywhere, every night.
We started off playing safe. It was a monogamous relationship and he gets tested all the time. I get tested all the time. So we both knew we were okay and I knew it was right with him so we didn’t need to play safe anymore. But since then, of course, it’s always safe.
He’s 45, a few years older than me. There are a lot of things that he won’t talk to anyone else about that he says to me. But he was the one that broke it off and I was an absolute wreck. We’re still, really close and stuff. I’d have him back in a heartbeat but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I’m fine being single I have lots of good people around me.
When I was in my early twenties, I used to go out all the time I was living in Edithvale on the beach, driving a Celica and having the time of my life! I’d go to The Peel, The Exchange – all those places. I remember we had a manager who was obviously bi. He had a girlfriend but he used to go to all the gay clubs as well, and we used to all go out together. Then, of course, that all slowly stops when you get married.
My ex got me back into all of that again. The Laird is my main haunt. I love The Laird; love the guys there. They’re just normal blokes. They have their dress-up nights and fun things but they’re just nice guys. I do go to The Peel occasionally, when I have one of those nights.
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My youngest boy comes and sees me all the time. You know the fortnightly thing and half the holidays, and all that. He had his first Midsumma of actually doing stuff this year. He came to Carnival and got on really well with all the lesbians around. He got pulled up on stage and everything. He was having a ball. Then we marched with Joy for Pride March. I was with a mate of mine and he was on his shoulders, and he had a pretend boom box on one shoulder and big blow-up microphone. So he’s fine. It was really sweet. He asked actually on the way back from Pride “What does gay-friendly mean?” He must have heard it so I explained to him, and he said, “I’m gay-friendly.” It was really nice to hear him say that.
My eldest boy turned 18 last June. I don’t see a lot of him. The last thing we really did together was his birthday. I took everyone out for dinner and that was really good. His girlfriend was there. He came skiing with us again last year and all the rest of it. So I see him occasionally. The one in the middle, I don’t know what his problem is. He’s just turned 16 in January. I’ve only heard from him a couple of times recently and that’s been wanting money. So I don’t know whether he has a problem with me or whether she’s been in his head I don’t know. I’m just trying to ride it out and wait ‘til he goes through what he’s going through.
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I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of really good people around me that have helped me through things. There was a boss up at the pool and he’s been a great mate. Straight guy but yeah, he’s been fantastic. My ex boyfriend is still great for me. He’s always there if I need anything. My sister was always there.
I’m an open book and if people can get something out of my story well that’s a good thing. I think, just surround yourself with good people and if you need help, ask and accept it from them.
Where Lawrance grew up
Where Lawrence and his wife moved in with her parents
Where Lawrence used to go before he was married and now goes again
Lawrence's 'main haunt'