Scroll To Top
Phoenix Rising

Emerging From Old Emotions

Emerging From Old Emotions


When I was approached to write this column, my response was a mix of excitement and anxiety. Being an HIVer who also has training in social work and therapy, I saw the opportunity to provide a unique perspective to those also living with this illness. I was also eager to share my story with others. However, when a buddy of mine 'Googled' me, I realized, to my initial horror, that this column was available for the entire world to see'including my family. I am not ashamed of being HIV-positive, or so I thought, and I freely disclose my status to people I meet, my sexual partners, and my friends, both old and new. But not my family. I realized that armed with nothing more than curiosity and a computer, they could discover that I am HIV-positive. And I was afraid they would. One of my reactions grew from a place of freedom; the other, fear. A fear of shame. I remembered being a 14-year-old and hearing a friend's mother preaching about how AIDS was God's punishment for gays. At the time, I freaked. The scary thing is that despite 20-plus years of HIV's presence among the entire population'coupled with the growing scientific evidence that has accumulated during this time'there are still many who view people who have AIDS as pariahs, somehow deserving their virus and their illness, and inviting God's wrath through their behavior. We see such derision in public policy chipping away at Ryan White Act funding, threatening AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, and eroding Medicaid benefits. People on the fringe, those with HIV, are being marginalized. Again. Or should I say still? It is easy for me to forget the acrid memory of hearing the comments from my friend's mother. I work in Boystown in Chicago at a transitional housing program for people with AIDS and live in a racially and socially diverse neighborhood. I have numerous friends who are enormously supportive of me and are aware of my serostatus. I have a number of friends who are HIV-positive. Chicago trends toward the more liberal end of the political spectrum. In my own private ghetto I have created a world insulated from the reality that surrounds my city, where in some suburbs health care workers still 'double glove' when drawing blood from HIVers and family members accuse HIV-positive relatives of making their pets sick. And this says nothing of life outside the metro area, where towns become more conservative. Could it be true that I'm thinking that I'm dealing with my HIV status better than I thought? Could it be that the world I live in is idyllic? I believe that my world is idyllic, and in writing this column I am forced to recognize my own fear, my own shame. This is painful. No one likes to recognize his or her own shame. However, as we know from experience, shame is toxic'but only if left unnoticed and repressed. If we recognize it for what it is, we can see it in the details of our daily existence. What jobs do I apply for? What sexual partners do I choose? How do I spend my free time? Do I decide to drink or drug? What friends do I choose? Will I now tell my family I'm HIV-positive so that they don't discover my status by accident? Maybe. Maybe not. I do know this, though: Before doing so, I need to be more at peace with the shame that surprised me when I wrote this column. Fransen is a licensed clinical social worker and is in private therapy practice in Chicago. E-mail him at

Out Subscription Lil Nas XAdvocateChannel promotion

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Fifth Person Cured of HIV

Latest Stories