Just over a year ago, I hit a wall and an epiphany at the same time. Previously, like most people with herpes, I had approached herpes with the alternating depression that I would have to disclose and the fear of being rejected. After 35 years with the virus though, I had finally figured out a few things:
- That rejection was not about me.
- That most people are woefully ignorant not only about herpes, but STD facts in general so their reaction told me a lot about who THEY were and whether I really wanted them in my life anyway.
- That I wasn’t ashamed of having herpes.
- That I no longer wanted to hide in a closet of shame and fear.
- That I wanted to just be my fully authentic self.
- That I was tired of the stigma.
The stigma was no longer was an issue for me, but any time I saw anything about “H” ( or “The Scarlet Letter” as Time Magazine called it in a headlining article in 1982) there were so many false notions, incorrect “facts”, and downright shamefully harmful statements I just wanted to go postal on the people and institutions that have created this attitude and atmosphere to something that any self respecting Doctor will tell you is simply “a nuisance skin condition in a really inconvenient place”. I could no longer allow myself to be defined, by myself or anyone else, by a virus or a letter.
So I came out of the closet…. and like anything else I have done when I have seen an injustice, I did it full bore. No tip-toeing out for me! I wrote a declaration on my Facebook page of my intent to step out and be an advocate and supporter for anyone with herpes, along with a bunch of information and facts about herpes, and hit “Send”. And waited for the fall-out. I fully expected at least *some* backlash from the 1000+ Facebook “friends” … many of who are simply dancers I have met on my travels (I am a West Coast Swing Dancer and I travel to dance conventions all over the country). What I actually got was a ton of support and more love than I could ever imagine possible. But that is a whole blog unto itself.
Several months went by. I was still dating online in the “normal” way – no mention of my status until things *might* get intimate. I just hadn’t thought about it until one day I woke up and realized if I was going to be truly out, I had to do it on my dating profiles as well. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I had come to realize that I didn’t let just anyone into my circle on Facebook so perhaps that was why I had only experienced love and support there for my stand. On a dating profile, well, guys have tons of alternatives to me, and people can just be incredibly cruel. However, I knew I had to do it. If I was going to be a stand for transparency, acceptance, and self love, I had to just put it out there and accept whatever happened.
I sat down and wrote. I put it towards the bottom of the profile. I started by requesting that anyone that made it that far (true to my writing form, my profile was not a short description!) that they please read all the way through to the end before they passed judgement. I stated I have Herpes , and that I’ve had it most of my life. I explained that 80% of the population has one form or another and 80% don’t know it … that “Cold Sores” have the potential to become an STD for anyone who has oral sex with a carrier. That most people get it from someone who doesn’t know they have it. That odds are most people have, or will, date someone who doesn’t know they have herpes because it’s not included in STD panels unless you specifically ask. Then I asked that it they had liked what they read before this point, that they give me a shot…. that if nothing else perhaps I could educate them and I’d happily answer any questions. I hit “Save” and I waited, fully expecting at least *some* ugly fallout… and perhaps no more first contacts.
What I have actually experienced is an amazing number of inquiries from men who say that it’s refreshing to see someone who is just plain honest and forthright. Men who said that they were fascinated by me and my “bravery”, even though they were kinda scared what it might mean to date me. Men who just wanted information. Men who are H+ and who are in awe of my gutsy stand (as the last guy put it). And amazingly, I have yet to get ONE nasty message. Not one single ugly response. My profile is out there on two free dating sites (OKC and POF) where there’s quite the mixed bag of people, so I fully expected at least *some* ignorance to come forward. Roughly 10 months after I hit send and sat back and waited for the fall-out, I’m finding a renewed faith in humanity and even more belief that the stigma that we who are diagnosed believe exists is perhaps not as rampant as we imagine it is. And while I have not met “Mr Right” yet, I’ve met a lot of really great, nice men who have shown me that I am right in my belief that herpes doesn’t have anything to do with me finding love, except perhaps to show me who will love me AND any imperfections I may have.
How do you write a profile that includes your status?
I suggest that if/when you are ready to open yourself up to being open about your status on your profile, that you first write your main profile from the heart … allow yourself to be vulnerable … and you will find people will be attracted to you who are compassionate, intelligent, and informed (or willing to be educated). Be honest about what you know you want, and what you know you don’t want. (I’m clear that I don’t want a smoker and that while I have nothing against motorbikes, I’m not interested in riding behind a guy around the countryside every weekend. ) I’ve found that being really honest about those things brings me men who appreciate that I know what I want and that I’m not going to waste anyone’s time whose life won’t fit in with mine. Like it or not, you are advertising yourself on a dating site. If you represent yourself in a false manner, it will bring you the wrong person for you. Be honest with yourself. Show your sense of humor and let them see what you are passionate about. Once you have all that out there, you can add your “Full Transparency” statement (as I call mine). I’m putting a copy of my statement below so you have a guideline for yours… but MAKE IT YOURS. You don’t have to go into as much detail as I have, but make sure you have a few facts that will make anyone who is uneducated stop and consider that perhaps they need to at least get informed.
And finally – if you DO get an ugly reply, don’t take it personally. Remember, herpes makes a GREAT Wingman (see my blog on this). Be thankful that person showed you who they are and that you can immediately discount them from your list of possible partners. Brush it off and move on. There’s someone out there who is looking for you. The faster you get the “wrong” ones out of the way, the better chance you have of finding the “right” one 🙂
My “Disclosure Statement”
I am a full believer in transparency so here it goes:
First, if you got this far and you liked what you read, please read this section all the way through before you pass judgment.
You see, I have the Herpes virus. Like 80% of the population. (Don’t believe me, check the CDC website). I’ve had it most of my life. I’ve had relationships with H- men and they have not caught it because I can take anti-virals and even without them I rarely have an outbreak. Your chance of getting it from me (assuming you are H- …and BTW, there is a really good chance you have not been tested unless you specifically ASK for the test) is less than 2% with the anti-virals – the SAME risk you take when you get in a car for having a fatal accident. (and yes, I have the stats for that too 😉 ).
Why am I revealing that here? Because I’m tired of having “the talk” and having guys spazz out because they have no freaking clue about the TRUTH about STD’s. In fact, I recently came out to everyone because I’m tired of the undeserving stigma that comes with Herpes. I am currently working with others on a project that will increase public education and awareness about STD’s including Herpes. (I can bet most of you have at least *some* incorrect beliefs and information about most STD’s). Coming out on here is all part of my dedication to changing the undeserving stigma that Herpes has in the public eye.
So before you click on the next profile, understand this. Herpes is the 2nd most common STD (HPV is #1 .. nearly everyone will get it at some point in their life… chew on THAT one for a second ) 80% of the population has Herpes and 80% of them DON’T KNOW THEY HAVE IT. And no, you won’t *know* from looking that they have it because many NEVER have an outbreak and they may well be passing it on to others unwittingly. (IE, they can shed the virus with no visible outbreaks). If you ask a Doctor about it, they will tell you it is a “nuisance skin condition” …. That it’s no big deal. To them, it is a very insignificant issue – you will be given a script for antivirals if you need it (if you are having an outbreak or have a partner to protect from transmission) and they will show you the door. And to be honest, that really IS all it is… a viral skin condition that happens to show up in a really inconvenient place. And all those photos you see on Google Images?… Well, they are generally worst case scenarios or perhaps first outbreak photos (the first is usually the worst…once your body develops antibodies it generally goes quiet and you may never have another OB). I promise you, while the first OB’s are generally not fun, you junk won’t fall off if you get it and you usually end up with only minor OB’s after the first one or two occurrences. This isn’t Cancer folks …..
BUT, even more important is the fact that I *KNOW* I have it and I can do a LOT to keep you from getting it. In a way, I am safer because I know my status. Many who contract herpes get it from someone who didn’t know they had it … because they got STD tested but didn’t know that Herpes is not usually done as part of the tests (thanks to the CDC’s recommendation). And Herpes is an Equal Opportunity Disease. Young, Old, Black, White, Rich, Poor, Nice, Mean, “Good” or “Bad”. 80% of the people around you likely have it. And don’t think that you can have Oral sex and avoid it – roughly half of the new Genital Herpes diagnosis are HSV1 (ie: from Cold Sores).
So now, if you got this far, and you liked what you read before this section and you would have contacted me, I ask you to give me a chance. Contact me and lets see where it goes. If nothing else I can help to completely educate you about STD’s and how to protect yourself. And maybe, just maybe, you will like me enough to take that 2% risk once you get to really know me…. And that is all I can ask for!