A POZ Girl's Guide to Dating: Hello, I'm Kelly
Alright let’s be honest, dating is a mind fuck. Especially in a big city like Los Angeles where there are literally five million other fish in the sea and so many opportunities and ways to meet them. Dating is exciting and fun, but then again it can be heart wrenching and psychosis-inducing. Throw HIV into mix and let the madness ensue. My name is Kelly Gluckman, and I’ve been living and dating with HIV in Los Angeles for almost five years.
Here’s the abridged version of my story; I contracted HIV in 2010 from an ex-boyfriend who was dishonest and disloyal. He has no idea where, when, or from whom he contracted the virus, but it’s likely he had it before we started having sex. I was angry and devastated, but the fact is that I didn’t demand to get tested together before he and I stopped using condoms, even though I knew better. I took my personal responsibility and tried to make the relationship work for a while. Not shockingly though, it ended up falling apart in September of 2011 and I was back on the market, scared and vulnerable.
As far as society was concerned, I was considered damaged, undateable goods after diagnosis. Some of the things I had rolling around in my head were feelings of being contagious and gross. I was scared that I wasn’t ever going to be able to get laid again. I’m the kind of person who, if you tell me I shouldn’t be able to do something, I’m gonna try to do it anyways. I was raised in a liberal household in Los Angeles and came of age in the era of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. I was 24 years old after my break up and I wasn’t even close to my sexual peak yet. Nothing was going to stop me from feeling like a sexy pop princess. I decided early on that I don’t care what society thinks of me having HIV. Love and sex have always been important to me, and the way I saw it is that I’ll be damned if this is going to get in the way of me getting what I want out of life. My mantra became “I’m worth it” and somewhere along the way, I started to actually believe it.
The first assignment on my agenda was to get laid. I needed validation, and boy did I get it. I found out that it’s not difficult to get laid with HIV when you have confidence, and I was a woman on a mission. Since then, I’ve gone from seeking sexual affirmation, to letting vulnerability get the best of me and falling into a toxic relationship for eight months, to now healthfully looking for the right person. I’ve found some really cool people both from real life and on Tinder, and I’ve attempted to find a heterosexual man who’s also HIV-positive on POZpersonals.com and through Facebook. I’ve met some really great guys this way, but it turns out the dating pool for HIV-positive men who are interested in women is spread thin and wide. The guys I liked happened to be in other states. I even dated a girl for a little bit, and although I’m more attracted to men, I’m not ruling that out for my future. Why limit my options, right? I’ve had relationships where HIV wasn’t a huge deal at all, and others where it was the major reason for break up.
I’ve probably been on dates and disclosed my status to over 100 people in the last five years (#noshame). I disclose face to face with 95 percent of my suitors and I’ve had a wide variety of responses; good, bad, and strange. More often than not, though, guys will say “Wow, you’re such an amazing person” right after disclosure, and then disappear. I’ve had to learn to let this roll off my back, although it still sucks when it happens. Most HI-negative heterosexual men are extremely uneducated about what it really means to be HIV positive these days. It simply hasn’t ever been on their radar. I have to go through an education process with every single guy, and I’ve developed an arsenal of links to articles to send out the day after a good first date. It’s exhausting to constantly have to convince people that I am not at all contagious, I am not going to die young, and I can have a normal life and have babies if I want to. No matter how patient and open I am, most of the time it doesn’t work and they ghost me. This is probably a general heterosexual girl thing and not just an HIV thing, but I’ve found that most men have no problem just having sex, but when it comes to building a relationship, they’re out. It’s so easy to say “NEXT” in a city with so many beautiful people. The next cute girl probably won’t have this baggage.
I’ve done massive work to build my self-esteem in the face of so much rejection. I take time for self-care, and I found a great therapist to use as a sounding wall. Through all of the dating blunders and painful break ups, I remain positive and optimistic. I go into every first date being excited to get to know the human in front of me, feeling hopeful that perhaps this one will be a good fit. I don’t try to force things that aren’t right, and I don’t settle for someone just because they’re willing to look past HIV. I know I’m worthy of being truly happy in a relationship.
It’s not all bad out there in the dating world. I’ve actually had a ton of fun. I’ve met some amazing people, developed meaningful connections, and evolved into a better person along the way. HIV has become a sort of filter for me. I see the people who ghost me as the dirt and silt who obviously aren't interested in me as a person, and the people who continue to get to know me and educate themselves as the gems that remain. There are gems out there, and we all deserve one, HIV positive or not.