Email Mike: Playing it Safe

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 49 | December 4–10, 2003

Playing it Safe

Subject:

Hillary on marriage

I love Hillary Clinton and I waited on line for an hour at Barnes & Noble in midtown to have her sign my copy of “Living History.” I thanked her for her promoting equality for gay Americans and she was very supportive of me. I know she has talked before gay groups and fired people up. That’s why I don’t understand her opposition to gay marriage. I watched her interview on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. It doesn’t seem she’s being honest. Do you really think she opposes gays being married?

Re: Hillary on gay marriage

Since you are an admirer of hers, I can see where you’re going with this, so let me cut you off at the pass: It honestly doesn’t matter what Hillary Clinton really thinks, since, on the record, she is opposed to same-sex marriage, end of story. To cut her any slack because she might truly have no problem with same-sex marriage but is being politically pragmatic would be no different than cutting George W. Bush slack for having gay friends yet supporting sodomy laws or the federal marriage amendment because he has to pander to the religious right.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m in no way comparing Bush to Hillary, and she is light years ahead of him on gay civil rights. But politicians should only get points from us for what they’re willing to expend, not what they truly believe but don’t act on. In fact, they should get points deducted for not following through on their convictions.

I agree that Hillary’s opposition to same-sex marriage seems totally insincere. And I don’t believe for a minute that Bill Clinton believed in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—but he signed it nonetheless. It’s an annoying, sometimes enraging aspect of the Clintons, where they wimp out just when it really matters. And in the end, it usually turns out that they could have taken the chance with no repercussions. Does anyone really believe, in hindsight, that Bill Clinton would have suffered if he didn’t sign DOMA?

If Hillary Clinton were truly a leader among the Democrats, as you describe her, she would be moving them on this issue. She has a lot of admirable traits, and she can count me as a fan in many respects. I also accept political pragmatism; sometimes it’s the way you have to go. But no, it doesn’t comfort me to imagine that Hillary does support same-sex marriage but is lying and in the process passing religious judgment—“It’s traditionally been between one man and one woman”—on us. And it shouldn’t comfort you either.

Subject:

Staying safe

I’m in my early 40s and HIV-neg. The other night someone I met on the Internet came over. He had tattoos everywhere and piercings that normally intimidate me. He also said he was on speed and had just done some earlier that day. I asked if he was HIV-neg and he said he was and that he had only been with a few guys—he’s bisexual and living with his girlfriend. He told me not to worry about it and that we didn’t have to do anything but talk. I suggested that we masturbate to a video. We did that for a while and there was no oral sex. I did however put a condom on and he sat on my penis for a few minutes and then came very soon after. He faced away from me as he came.

I’m upset basically because I seem to be okay with protective anal sex when there is indeed some risk involved. Why would I have sex, regardless of the protection, with someone who came over to my house stating that he was on drugs? Is it that I had asked him if he was neg and he said yes and that I realized his being on speed wasn’t going to transfer the virus? Was I making smart choices or did I make a big mistake?

Re: staying safe

With all the anxiety that a hot, quick anonymous encounter entails these days, it’s a wonder that there’s so much sex going on! And the truth is, a lot of it is unsafe, so your concern is warranted. You were completely safe in this encounter, however, so I wouldn’t worry about having become infected with HIV. Just because he was high doesn’t mean he is HIV-positive, nor that you were put at risk. Studies show a correlation between drug use and HIV transmission, so I see where you’re coming from. While under the influence of drugs, people are many times more likely to be unsafe. But you were not on drugs, and you made sure you protected yourself as well as your partner.

The bigger question here is, Why did you do something about which you were uncomfortable? You seem to have figured out why, suggesting that you made a logical deduction about what the risks were. Yet, you weren’t totally okay with it, since you’re fretting now. When it comes to sex, there are those things we all agree are undeniably safe and unsafe. But when it comes to the grayer areas, we all have to make our own judgments. You’re correct not to take anyone’s word regarding their HIV status—not because they’re necessarily lying (though that is possible) but because often they don’t really know. Just because someone tested negative six months ago or six weeks ago, doesn’t mean they still are.

Still, even though you protected yourself, you asked the question about HIV status and seemed to have had sex with him based on the answer. That’s not a good thing. Your commitment should be to having protected sex no matter what someone’s status may be. If you commit to always using a condom, your chances of getting HIV are virtually nil, particularly as the insertive partner. But if someone’s HIV status is an issue for you, then you shouldn’t be having sex with people you meet on the Internet that night. It seems to me that is the larger issue you’re wrestling with here.

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E-mail Mike at mike@signorile.com

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