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Highlights from the Men's Wellness Program
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Relationships play a key role in all our lives. We wear many different labels in our lives and each one of these labels comes with its own challenging set of relationships, we are brothers, sons, fathers, uncles, partners, coworkers, and friends just to name a few of these labels; and each one of these labels comes with each own set of challenging relationships that we as people need to navigate. Some of these relationships can be positive while others can be negative. No matter what the relationship is, it still has an impact on our lives, and it is up to each of us to navigate just how much of an impact that we allow each one of these relationships to have in our lives. Whether that means letting loved ones go and realizing that the relationship you shared with them was not healthy, or to learning to love yourself to the point where you can let others love you as well. We are constantly walking the fine line of maintaining the healthy relationships in our lives, letting new relationships in, and figuring out how to purge the negative relationships out of our lives.

While there has been some pretty substantial changes over the past few months here within the Men’s Wellness Program, one thing that hasn’t changed is the positive relationships that we have worked so hard to foster between each other, our community partners, and the folks who access our programming. People will always come and go from the Men’s Wellness Program, but the relationships that they helped foster will continue to have an impact on the work that is yet to come.
 

Above: Trailer from Chemsex,the documentary
we'll be showing on our island tour. 

Chosen Family


In the LGBTQ2+ community, the concept of ones chosen family is one of the core concepts that allows us the support that we need to face the world! Our chosen family are the ones who we allow in, past the walls that we build to keep us safe, and allow to see the real us. When we do not get the love and support that we need from our traditional family unit, the ones we are connected with by blood, we seek outside of that traditional network for the support that we so desperately need. 

For the first 30 some years of my life, while I had an amazing supportive family (with a few exclusions), it wasn’t until just recently that I started to reflect on this and look at my past through adult eyes. Last week I celebrated my 29th birthday (again) and for the first time in my life, I didn’t hear from any members of my blood related family. This had a huge impact on the day, and as the day wore on, my mood became darker, until I wanted nothing more than to curl up in my bed wondering what I had done to deserve this. Every year for however long I have lived, I have always known that I would get a call from my mom. I was left thinking, ‘what have I done that was so bad as to deserve this?’

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Top 10 things I’ve learned through my polyamorous relationships

Polyamory is so often misunderstood and mis/under-represented in public forums. We rarely learn about anything outside of monogamous, heteronormative relationship structures. So when I started to identify as polyamorous, I had no idea what that really meant for my dating life, what that said about me as a person, what people would think of me, whether I’d actually be able to handle multiple serious, emotionally-involved relationships, etc. Thus, I thought I’d share my current top 10 things I’ve learned through polyamorous relationships:

  1. I have to own my own shit. I had a history of jealousy, but I’ve realized that 99% of the time that was about my own insecurities around my body, self- value, and trust issues.
  2. Feeling an abundance of love when I previously felt unlovable. I have had to fight to learn to love and value myself. And now I don’t need to limit the amount and kinds of love I give and receive.
  3. I feel less pressure and guilt about my body/trans-ness. Navigating gay men’s spaces as a chubby, bearish, trans guy, I’ve struggled with my fair share of body issues. I now have more confidence to demand respect for my body since engaging in polyamorous relationships. Maybe that’s because I get more practice and opportunities to learn, perhaps I also feel less pressure to fulfill my partner’s needs that I’m physically incapable of fulfilling

 

Gay Men having sexSerodiscordant Accomplices: How a HIV negative man helped me come to terms with my HIV positive self 


Relationships can be hard, really hard. Add HIV into the equation and they can be even harder. When I tested positive in my early twenties, almost a decade ago,  I was convinced I was never going to find love, or sex unless it was with another positive man. At the time, not only did I feel unfuckable, but I also felt unworthy of love or a relationship. Because of my internalized stigma, I saw myself as a vector of disease and resented everyone and everything around me. I sat in that resentment for years, searching the wide array of online cruising sites for other positive guys, but for the most part, coming up empty handed. Fuck. 

I finally found a guy who was also positive and we embarked on a relationship. While there was a certain comfort that came with not worrying about infecting my partner, and no qualms about fucking bareback, both of our traumas butted heads and eventually, our tumultuous relationship ended a few years later. Once again, I found myself in the vortex of online cruising, endlessly disclosing to non existant replies and annoying rejections. This time, however, I was a few years older and slightly more comfortable about the virus in my blood. I still had some hangups about sleeping with negative guys, but decided to take my chances on a hunky thirty something year old muscle man I met online. 

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Reform And Revolution?

Like the diversity within the LGBTQ2SIAP+ community, our social justice movements, activist efforts, related priorities and underlying ideologies reflect an incredible diversity.  The often conflictual relationships between radical and reformist voices has long been a fixture within LGBTQ2SIAP+ discourse. Similar conflicts can be seen running parallel in movements demanding justice and equality for other marginalized populations as well as in progressive movements more broadly. 

The nature of this conflict between radicals and reformists within left social movements has been studied by Dr. James Rowe and Myles Carroll from the University of Victoria, who see movement dynamism at play.  By movement dynamism, they mean “contributions arising from different activist wings and productively interacting to increase overall movement power.”  

There are lots of different ways to look at social movements, including those of our own community, but I’ve found Rowe and Carroll’s analysis a really useful lens to draw on as I try to find my way through a community and movement which feels to me to be well entrenched in internal conflict.   

 


 

The Importance of Advocacy

Perhaps I should begin by introducing myself. My name is Michelle, although in the 14 months I’ve worked at AVI most of my clients have taken to calling me “Hun.” My job here started out pretty simple. I was supposed to work with our nurse Christine to ensure that our clients with HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) were healthy and taken care of. Things have kind of spiralled from there. 

I had a conversation with one of the MWP clients “Victor” a couple months back, just a few days after the horrible massacre in Orlando. He had come in to talk through his feelings and one of the things he said has really stuck with me. He said that one of the things that had bothered him most was the death of Brenda Lee Marquez-McCool, a mother of 11 who had been there dancing the night away with her son. Brenda was a fierce advocate and loved to spend time with her son Isaiah at Pulse. Brenda Lee Marquez-McCool was not just an advocate but also a mother and she died to protect her son. Every mother I know would do the same thing. Victor was so upset that an advocate had died during a targeted attack. He said that it would hurt him terribly to see myself or other advocates hurt or killed during such a tragedy. 

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Love? That’s so Last Millennial:

 
When dating in the 21st century the concept of love is a fluid construct at best. It means so many different things to so many different people. But, ultimately, the feeling of this thing called ‘love’ is what most of us chase throughout our lives, and I would hazard to claim that for the majority, it is the most powerful motivator that lurks beyond our daily facades. Now, of course, there are many types of love out there, such as ’friend love’ or ‘family love’, and even more difficult to define types of love such as the ‘love for life’ or the ‘love for a higher entity’. However, I would argue that the love we often chase with most fervour in our little lives is that of romantic love. Whether we long for this type of love for biological reasons or higher reasoning is relatively insignificant, because what really matters is that it exists. The desire for intimate connection that flirts with the word ‘love’ is a universal human reality.

As the great Whitney Houston sums up so effortlessly in her hit song: “I wanna dance with somebody, with somebody who loves me”. So, why are many millennials reluctant to engage beyond skin deep? “What are you looking for, you know, on here?” I can’t recall how many times I have been asked that question on the various ‘dating’ apps and websites I have perused over my short stint into adulthood. As a guy that’s into kissing other guys, online routes to find connections are not an option, they’re a necessity. There’s only so many rainbow trout out there, and a clear advantage of living in the hetero-sphere is the sea of fish to choose from.

Despite the abundance of options for the millennial straight walking folks, the majority are also feeling the squeeze to get into the swing of things online as meeting people in real life these days has just become ‘harder’.

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Dear Madame X,Madame X

I get tested for STI’s fairly often but I have heard that guys are getting hepatitis C from fucking?  Is that true?  Can I get vaccinated? Should I get checked?

Signed,
Loving my liver and don’t want Hepatitis.

 

Liver Lover,

Aren’t you delightful getting regular testing?!  Madame X is very pleased with you. Alas, yes, my poppet, hep C is an issue that can’t be ignored, and like an HIV test, if you don’t ask for it specifically they won’t have checked you for it.  There has been a dramatic increase in hep C transmission among the GBMSM (gay, bi, and men who have sex with men) community over the last few years, especially with guys that are HIV poz (they are more than four times more likely to acquire hep C than their brothers who are HIV negative).  This is serious shit because liver disease has become one of the leading causes of illness and death for folks living with HIV.  

Here is what you need to know my darling: 
The hepatitis C virus is transmitted through blood.  It is a tough little virus that can survive in conditions that would kill off less hardy viruses.  This means that unprotected sex (especially group sex, multiple partners, play piercing, fingering/fisting, sharing of toys, or sex when you have another infection going on) is risky, as is sharing snorting equipment, meth or crack pipes, or injection gear.  

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Screw Crew is looking for new Crew members


If you are interested in registering for the upcoming training event hapening October 6-7th contact the Men's Wellness Program at mwpsupport@avi.org

Are you a self identified man? Do you live on Vancouver Island? Are you engaged in the MSM community? We're sending out an anonymous survey and would love your feedback.

Everyone who takes the survey also has the option to enter a contest to WIN a 2 night "sexcation" at HUNG HOMO HOMESTAY in Victoria, B.C. 

Click here to go to the survey


*Please note if you wish to enter the contest once you have finished the survey we'll need your email address to make contact if you win. Your privacy is important to use and we will never release this email address to anyone else. 
 
Copyright © 2016 AIDS Vancouver Island, All rights reserved.


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