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#21 Of Our Amazing People Living with HIV: Alex Cheves

Alexander Cheves

Thousands can thank Alexander Cheves for a better sex life. That’s because the New York City-based writer pens many of the sex and love advice columns that run in The Advocate and Plus magazines and online at Advocate.com. He may only be 26, but he’s wise beyond in his years in matters of the heart — and the bedroom. In his columns, he dispenses wisdom regarding everything from tips for better fellatio to exhaustive reviews of sex toys.

But Cheves isn’t only interested in the skin-deep. The gay Georgia native dives deep into the role that sex and sexuality plays in LGBTQ history. An enthusiastic member of the kink and leather communities, Cheves also dispenses guides for newcomers that are helpful and humanizing for those in these subcultures. His pieces that address the hanky code, cruising grounds, or “public displays of affection that straight people take for granted,” educate readers about how queer people have been persecuted — and yet have managed to still find each other and maintain vibrant communities.

Cheves also uses his voice as an activist. In op-eds, he bravely speaks out on issues where others remain silent. In 2015, he came out as HIV-positive in an article following World AIDS Day, in which he spoke to how stigma prevented him from doing so sooner. To date, he has been living with HIV for over five years. Cheves also wrote about his history of sex work in 2018. He did so, once again, in order to fight stigma (around the world’s oldest profession), as well as to speak out against legislation that would hurt other sex workers.

For Cheves, being honored by Plus as one of the year’s most amazing people with HIV means “I must be doing something exciting, and that’s rewarding.” However, Cheves stresses that there’s still much work to be done in breaking down barriers in his field. After every piece he publishes, Cheves notes, naysayers invariably give backlash to his sex-positive voice and coverage of formerly-in-the-shadows topics.

“Sex writing is threatening to so many people,” Cheves says. “Some people have told me that the sex movement is over, that the ‘70s Sandstone experiment failed, that leather is dead, and porn is in its twilight years, so it’s out of touch to keep harping on kinky, filthy things. Others have told me that my writing is problematic in the era of #TimesUp and #MeToo, as if our current focus on feminism and consent is somehow at odds with fighting for sexual autonomy and sex-positivity — it’s not and never has been.”

It is important to keep addressing these topics, Cheves says. “It really helps people. It’s hard to find reliable information about sex on the internet, especially if you’re queer, and especially if you’re into things some people consider taboo, disgusting, or frightening.” He adds, “I receive emails from readers from all over the world asking for advice on how to take anonymous loads, about bug-chasing and extreme BDSM, and so on. All the shaming and fear of sex doesn’t change the fact that people everywhere want to get fucked raw by strangers in dark spaces — because it’s fun — and they’re seeking accurate, health-conscious, sex-positive information.”

Cheves’s dreams for 2019 involve visions of a world in which special investigator Robert Mueller takes down President Trump; Cheves finishes the book he’s writing; progress is made toward an HIV vaccine; more people — queer and straight — come out as sex workers and lovers of kink; and he’s able to address a topic he has “purposefully shied away from:” drug addiction — and his own struggles with it.

“A writer benefits from a degree of distance when writing about personal experience,” Cheves says. “But there is no distance from an addict and his addiction. It is present, right here, looking over my shoulder. But I need to write about it because drug addiction directly or indirectly affects every queer person I know.”

If instead the future brings more discouraging days for LGBTQ people, Cheves won’t despair. “When I have doubts, I remember that a conservative pushback, a swing back into sex-phobia and puritanical policing, has happened before and will happen again. And when it does, I’ll be there to fight it.”

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