[Another post that starts with NSFW/TMI warnings]
In Romans 6:23 Saint Paul says that “the wages of sin is death”. It’s both ungrammatical and terrifying. Sin kills you.
I spent my teenage years scared of AIDS. Gays and AIDS collocated in the popular culture of the 80s and 90s like Italians collocate with pizza. And at the time, it made sense to me. Because sin is rewarded with death.
I’ve written here before about my final scrutatio. One of the things the religious group I was in as a teenager (and my family are still in) was a bible study exercise called a scrutatio. You would open a bible at random and read a verse, then you would choose one of the side references beside this verse which would lead you to another verse elsewhere in the bible that would have a similar message. Then you’d find the side references for that and so one, flipping back and forth through the bible, reading similar verses, allowing a message to emerge from God. You’d do this in silence in a room full of other people doing the same thing and you might share what you were told by The Word afterwards, though you didn’t have to.
When I was 17 and I was trying to decide whether to stick with God and keep going to this religious group or to abandon it all to be gay, I did a scrutatio. Verse after verse told me the same message. God’s last message for me was “Follow me or your defences will break and you will be defeated”. There was an obvious reading of this. If I turn away from God and from my family to be gay, a condom will break and I’ll get AIDS and die.
And I chose cock and death over family and God. It still seems like an insane decision, even 19 years after I left religion behind, but it’s an insanity that I’m happy I chose.
I got a text from my Frenchman ( also known in these pages as train station platform boy) on Friday. He told me that he needed to speak to me on the phone when I had the chance.
This sounded serious. We’d never spoken on the phone before.
Of course my first thought was that he had found this blog and he was mad at me. It’s bound to happen. Someday one of these boys is going to find this blog and I’m going to get an angry call.
My second thought was that he’d got back together with the ex that he’s rebounding with me (and with every other fat gay in London) and that he was under orders to dump us all.
My third thought brought clarity. We’d had a chat about condoms the last time we’d slept together and he’d mentioned that he was getting an STI test this week. This was it. He was going to tell me that I had to get tested for AIDS. Jesus was about to get his revenge.
I am particular about condoms. Or I try to be. Guys in London seem to be really into barebacking. And when you’re the receptive partner, as I am, there’s no real way to control whether the guy topping you actually keeps the condom on. Sex is a dangerous business.
All this went through my mind in 30 seconds. I texted him back to say I could speak.
I was right. It was the STI test. But it’s not AIDS. He has oral gonorrhoea, which is relatively minor. He has quite a list of men to phone. We’ve never done anything unprotected anally, but one has other orifices.
I was nice to him. I can only imagine how many awkward phone calls he was facing into. Like me, he’s quite the slut.
So I have to have an STI test. I have to admit that I feel quite excited about it. I spent years on end feeling like a fraud of a gay. All the other gays had to be tested regularly. There really never was any reason for someone as terminally single to get tested. I have to admit, much to my shame, that I’ve pretended that I’ve been tested whenever friends have asked me. It always seemed implausible that someone could be gay and get to the age of 36 and honestly never need to get tested. Now I feel like a real gay.
I know I shouldn’t be excited about an STI test. It’s immature and it’s not taking the serious health issues faced by many gay men seriously. But I can’t help it.
I put down the phone with my Frenchman.
I was going for after-work drinks with some of my colleagues. I patiently participated in a conversation about politics and university life but I wasn’t really that interested. I had NEWS.
My poor colleagues. I eventually couldn’t hold it in. I was only on Pint Number 2 when I announced that I had to get tested because I might have gonorrhoea and that made me a real Londoner. I felt so sophisticated and adult. Like Bette Davis putting out a cigarette.
I’m going to try to get to clinic on Tuesday. In the meantime, I’ve sworn off boys for a few days.
Who even am I now and how is this my life? Long live the drama. I’m not going to let Jesus win.