June #135 : Write of Passage - by Shawn Decker

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Table of Contents

Jagged Little Pills

Happy Feet

Bunny Business

Playing the Percentages

Soul Survivors

B Careful

In the Running

Seeing Double

Write of Passage

Salad Daze

From Here to Paternity

Summer Share

Papa, Can You Hear Me?

Outside Chance

Send Us the Bill

Climb Every Mountain

Farewell Tour

Hot Dates-June 2007

Agent Provocateur

Mixed (Up) Media

Another AIDS Movie for Philadelphia

Say What?!-June 2007

Attention, K-Y Shoppers

The Next Best Thing to Being There

Getting Crafty

Baggage Claim

Editor's Letter-June 2007

Mailbox-June 2007

Catch of the Month—June 2007

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

email print

June 2007

Write of Passage

by Shawn Decker

Author Shawn Decker recalls how he grew up with HIV while his POZ readers were watching

Each day I wake up sometime around noon. If I get up before my wife partner, Gwenn, I try not to disturb her, which is easy because we have one of those bowling ball/wineglass mattresses. I first check my MySpace page, then obsessively track my website hits and Amazon.com ranking, to see how my book, My Pet Virus, is doing. If my thoughts are in order and I awake with morning wood, I ride that wave of adrenaline and then post a blog.

My journey as a positoid was marred by a pretty rough takeoff. I was expelled from public school for having HIV and entered puberty and the dating world with it; even by typical positoid standards this was a fairly shitty debut. But, over time, I began to realize I was going to be around for a while, made-for-TV movies be damned. (Those AIDS characters always died.)

As I, now 31, celebrate my 20-year anniversary with HIV, it’s impossible to ignore a few turning points. Chief among them: my decision, at 20, to write about being positive. After ten years of silence on the issue, I posted a website. Shortly thereafter, my doctor sent me issues of POZ magazine, which became my Bible. I wrote a fan letter and the magazine invited me to New York City to be interviewed. I was soon sharing scriptures in my very own column, “Positoid.”

Like many others in their early twenties, I desperately craved attention and wanted to find my niche. By opening up about my status, I found both—plus a POZ readership who believed in me and laughed at my jokes. I wasn’t sureif my rehashed Ryan White–ish story would be of any interest. But the community, curious about what happens when a young “innocent victim” of HIV replaces his kiddo baseball mitt with a boner, showed unwavering support. That usually just doesn’t happen to positoids from Waynesboro, Virginia.

Inspired by this jog down memory lane, I dug out the issue of POZ that ran my first column. Knowing that I had learned how to write by posting a webpage, I expected to chuckle at my amateurish skills, but instead I laughed at the pompous young guy prophesying a future with some woman who could handle his pet virus: “If she can  handle pro wrestling and Ernest movies, she can handle my HIV.” Brilliant.

Then I remembered what didn’t make it into print. When the first draft came back, it was covered in red ink. With POZ’s guidance, I perfected my writing style, despite having dozed off in English class all through high school.

I wrote that first column in my room, in my parents’ house, in the town I was born in. Ten years later, I’m writing this on a computer in a townhome in Charlottesville, Virginia. And as I do so, Gwenn, the love of my life—who can handle my HIV but draws the line at wrestling and lame-ass movies—sits on the couch downstairs, eating cereal while watching something TiVo picked up. Who would have predicted my reality 20 years ago, when characters like me didn’t stand a chance?
Fuck yeah, I totally lived to see the advent of TiVo.

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