Part 9 of 13: STDs

imgres-2Return to “Establishing a Career in Adult Entertainment: Index”

Let’s get something very clear up front: I am not a doctor. Also, I’m not telling you to have sex for money. I’m not even assuming that you’ll have sex with your clients/club patrons/phone callers/Skype watchers/etc. (though it’s a given, if you choose to shoot videos that involve other people being in the scene with you). What I propose to do here is supply you with some no-nonsense advice. That’s all I’m able to do. Educate yourself. Make informed choices.

Risk Management. There’s no way around this: You have to get used to tolerating risk (more on this in “Part 10: Legalities”). Adult entertainers are marginalized in practically every way imaginable. The best way to survive is to understand risk. Respect risk without fearing it. Understand how to minimize it, and accept that you can never truly eliminate it (N.B. This is true about life in general.). If you cannot tolerate risk, then this isn’t the career for you.

Compatible Primary Care Physicians. It’s vital that you find a Primary Care Physician (PCP) who’ll work with you without judgment, regardless of your profession. This becomes even more important if your private or work life is unconventional. You’ll need to speak frankly with this person, so it’s crucial that you see someone who doesn’t have prejudices that will interfere with your care. Seek out references for PCPs who are known to be sensitive to your needs.

PrEP. HIV is now manageable to a degree that was only imagined not long ago. This is excellent, of course; however, it’s also become common lately for people to be “Neg and on PrEP.” Frankly, that is a red flag: It’s essentially saying, “I want to fuck bareback.” PrEP is intended to be part of a regimen of risk reduction, not the sole shield against infections. I don’t use it, but I don’t feel I need it. PrEP is supposed to be the back up, in case a condom breaks. PrEP provides zero protection against anything except HIV transmission. Forgoing condoms will elevate your risk for everything that’s mitigated by using them. You should be simultaneously using a variety of strategies to reduce risk of exposure to STIs. If you feel PrEP is helpful to you, by all means take it; however, don’t be deluded into thinking it’s the only tool you should be pulling out of the toolbox. My line of reasoning is this: If I use condoms, I won’t need PrEP; however, if I use PrEP, I’ll still need condoms.

STIsAtAGlance_ChartImmunizations. I’ve chosen to be immunized for those infections that can be largely prevented. Some people have criticized me for “overkill,” but I think they’re idiots. End of story. If there isn’t a contraindication preventing immunization, they’re an excellent way to reduce risk. Ask your PCP about vaccinations, and explain why you’re at elevated risk. If you don’t tell your PCP bluntly why you’re interested in these shots, you may be advised you don’t need them. My PCP knows my situation. In 2013, he brought up immunizations when there were deadly outbreaks of bacterial meningitis amongst gay men in New York City and Los Angeles. He encouraged me to get the shot, and I said yes. Airports have made the world a very small place… Your PCP may not think of this, so be sure to ask.

Frequent screening. Your situation will define “frequent.” For me, I get screened and tested every six months. Your PCP might suggest a more frequent schedule; however, my PCP has told me that monthly visits are ineffective and expensive. But perhaps you need to go that often? Some people go quarterly. You have to evaluate this with your PCP. But you definitely should stay current on all the facets of your health and wellness.

Do you post your status or not? One of the methods by which people can reduce risk is to sero-sort (to have sex only with people of the same HIV/STD status). I’ve chosen to keep my HIV status publicly posted and updated over the years for a few reasons: 1) People would notice if I went past the six-month mark, so it obliges me to stay on top of my health monitoring; 2) I want to encourage people to know their own status; 3) most people are HIV/STI-negative, and they want to sero-sort. There’ll be people who’ll criticize this choice for their own post-modern rationalizations concerning HIV stigma. That’s fine. I know HIV is now manageable (by taking a pill every day for the rest of your life that costs +$1,000/month). Politically correct messaging aside: HIV is not yet curable, and infections shouldn’t be so cavalierly dismissed. If you’re Poz, you’ll likely know firsthand that managed HIV is still HIV+. I know plenty of people who are Poz, and not a single one of them has ever said, “My life is so much better now that I live with HIV.” If you can avoid getting it in the first place, do so. This isn’t an endorsement to be rude, dismissive, mean, or hateful toward people who are Poz. This is an endorsement to mitigate risk, so that when you have Poz partners (known to you or not), you’ll be less likely to seroconvert. Something else to consider are laws in your area that require you to inform your partner(s) about your positive HIV/STD/STI status. Knowingly exposing people to HIV without informing them in advance is a felony in many places.

Symptoms & Communication. So, what do you do when you’re exposed to an STD/STI? Get treated immediately! As soon as possible after/Simultaneously to this, discreetly alert the people you’ve seen within the timeframe of your exposure until the present. Don’t have sex until you’ve completed the prescribed treatment. People may be upset with you after you tell them, but most will likely be glad you told them. People have to accept their own part in exposing themselves to risk, but you have a responsibility to inform them, so that they can take necessary action. Also, if you don’t alert your partners, and they don’t get treated, you’ll be re-exposed if you see them again. If you think they’ll be mad when you DO tell them about cooties, what do you think they’ll be when they find out you knew and didn’t tell them?

Resources.

Centers for Disease Control: 2015 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines

Centers for Disease Control: PrEP

So They Can Know: STD Info

Talking to Teens: What Parents Need to Know about Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sarah Palin said I’m worthless LOL

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 10.56.35 PMI’ve begun the process of going to a councilor/therapist. Each week he offers me tools/exercises to help me contend with the issues we’re examining. We started with emotional journaling, so he could get a sense of how I was thinking and to what extent my moods were shifting. The next week he reminded me of the fundamental importance of breath, and how the quality of breath influences everything else in life. When my mood starts to feel elevated in any particular direction, I try to reinforce a habit/association of taking slow, deep breaths. I can do this whether or not I’m able to interrupt what I’m doing to meditate. I can do it while driving, waiting on hold, pushing my grocery buggy, etc. He also suggested positive self talk (e.g. “I’m nice. People like me.”), and I found that helpful; however, I have gone a few steps further with it.

My therapist likes the theories of Jung. As such, my councilor brought my attention to the idea that we all have a source of darker energy within us. That makes perfect sense to me. No arguments there. He made the point that because of our nature, we can never defeat/destroy/remove this part of ourselves. We can only become aware of it, and seek to limit the damage it causes. This “shadow” has to be met, so that it can be understood and accepted, but not embraced or allowed to run rampant. I cannot speak for others, but I experience this phenomenon as a menacing whisper. I don’t know about yours, but the voice I hear lies.

Is there ever a moment when the whispers within the shadows stop hissing all their poison? These mental cicadas, their incessant racket… but they’re nowhere to be seen. All you ever find are the husks. I just wish they’d be quiet. Constantly, the same droning, the same squall. I just want them to stop. South Carolina, you are the perfect manifestation of my emotional landscape. 

The Shadow has never had a face, shape, or sound. It has always simply emanated its toxicity like radioactive waste. It suckles me with poison, and a mutated image of myself is nurtured by this slop. I find that positive self talk isn’t enough. “You are a fat, worthless failure who has wasted his talent and potential.” Allowing that sentiment to rumble around in the echo chamber of my head allows it to sound real. But giving The Shadow a voice, and allowing it to speak its lies aloud renders them absurd. Let me repeat that nonsense aloud with my own mouth… Yep, it’s ridiculous to the point of being laughable. It’s ludicrous. But that isn’t enough. In the past I’ve tried to negotiate with The Shadow, or to debate with it. I’ve tried to explain my perspective. I’ve pleaded with it, tried to make it see reason.

Fuck that!

Now, whenever The Shadow lies, I refute it. On the spot. “I am kind and generous, and I am dedicated to honesty, dignity, and my own distinct code of ethics.” Period. This isn’t up for consideration. The Shadow lies? I correct it adamantly and without apology or explanation. I’ve gotten better already: I don’t even let The Shadow finish what it’s about to say. I’ve been hearing all this so long, that I already know what it’s going to spew before it finishes vomiting it. Lately, I immediately interrupt The Shadow with a little piece of truth, and then tell it to fuck right off.

But even that isn’t enough. One of the reasons The Shadow became insidious is because it’s been without form. It’s been void. No, no, no… You can’t box with shadows. So I’ve decided to exact a little revenge. Let’s shine some light into the dark corner where this filth has been hiding…

The Shadow has been twisting me into its own image, like some kind of perverted god. Well, payback’s a bitch: Whenever The Shadow speaks, it will do so with the face and voice of Sarah Palin.

Now, bitch, you are totally fucking irrelevant. Tell me something. Anything… Anything at all… C’mon! Speak, bitch! Tell me what you have to say… “You are,” BITCH, YOU SOUNDED JUST LIKE SARAH PALIN!! How am I supposed to take you seriously??? Get the fuck outta here…

Bye, Sarah. Bye, Felicia. Bye, bitch.

Thank you, Taylor!

1421178042197Sometimes it seems like the universe is really intent on being a cuntfaced bitch, ya know? I was just in DC, and a completely random internet troll singled me out for some pretty intensely hateful shit. I mean, really? What the hell? I have no idea who this person is or why I won the lotto on getting his attention. And how do these utterly shameful bullies always know exactly what to say to cut your face to the bone? HOW? How do they know what to say???

Suffice it to say that on top of all the other many stressors competing for my attention lately, I definitely didn’t need someone telling me I’m not worth $0.50, that I am “wimpy,” and that he didn’t understand how I made a living at all. Really? In what universe am I wimpy? It’s laughably absurd, except that it hurts intensely badly (especially since it was completely unprovoked).

But you know what? Every time I think I have slipped into total irrelevance, every time I wonder if I should even bother keeping this blog online, and every time I presume no one needs to see anything I have learned during my process of screwing up… Someone reminds me that I do matter, that I have made a ripple in the pond. A random, kind email from an appreciative colleague is 10x more powerful than a random, hate-spewing email from a troll. You may never see this blog entry, but if you do: Thank you, Taylor!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. xoxo

I have Hypercholesterolemia

IMG_4661I am back after an absolutely magnificent trip to Scotland. If you have never been, you really must go. Put it on your bucket list. I would live there, no doubt. I loved it!

I came back feeling much better than before I left, and coming out of that funk made me realize that I need to be more proactive about taking care of myself emotionally. I was diagnosed Bipolar II in 1999, but I hadn’t had symptoms (that I could recognize) since 2011 or so, and I hadn’t had therapy since 2005. When everything started slowly unraveling in my family, traces of the emotional cycling began. Then I lost several people in short order. Then current events (and people’s posts about the events on social media) began piling on top of me. Eventually I was in the midst of a full-on funk. I was in a very dark place for a few months. I can hardly function during those nadirs, which is why I took nearly all of May and June off this year. It’s July, and I’m only just now starting to feel like I can begin a lighter travel schedule again. But part of what I did decide while I have the clarity of mood, thought, and energy is that I need to seek help from a therapist WHILE I FEEL GOOD. I will not do it while I feel bad, so I have to do it NOW. In this way the relationship and resources will already be in place when I eventually downshift again. I will see my new councilor for the first time on Monday. So, I feel productive for finally taking this step after more than a decade of avoiding it. Also, it was time to do my semi-annual HIV/STI test, and I needed to do a follow up after my horrible cholesterol results from January.

I have Hypercholesterolemia.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 9.27.13 AM

What the fuck???? I exercise 3-6 times per week, depending on how motivated my moods allow me to be. But when I do work out, I go intensely. I drink a gallon of water every day! I went practically fucking vegan these last couple months! GRRRRRR!

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 9.23.31 AM

full body
April 2009: #130, ~8% fat, vs, April 2014: #160, ~16% fat

7/31/2012: In 2012 I was already in the midst of a weight gain phase that lasted from 2010 until 2013 (see progress pic at left illustrating 2009 vs 2014). I was purposefully and specifically avoiding cardio/dance and eating vast amounts of food (much of it junk, meat, and dairy), as I purposefully added 30 pounds to my frame (much of it as body fat, not muscle = “doing a dirty bulk”). I was focusing on gaining mass. The doctor told me to increase my cardio, but I put that off for six months.

April 2014: #160, ~16% body fat, vs. April 2015: #145, ~12% body fat
April 2014: #160, ~16% fat, vs. June 2015: #145, ~12% fat

1/6/2015: In 2013 I started a protracted leaning phase. I began 18 months of intermittent fasting, and started doing High Intensity Interval Training three times per week. I think the fasting and cardio training must have radically improved my triglycerides and VLDL, but I can’t explain why the LDL would spike (I was eating LOTS of Chipotle in 2013/2014, but food cholesterol isn’t supposed to be affecting serum cholesterol).

7/9/2015: Anyway, after I got the January 2015 results I immediately cut out Chipotle, cleaned my diet up SIGNIFICANTLY, but then cleaned it up even more in May when I went practically vegan on the advice of my new trainer (see progress pic at right illustrating 2014 vs 2015). In the last six months my triglycerides and VLDL improved again, but my LDL went up slightly in spite of everything. Ergo: Time to look at options for pills when nothing the body does on its own is enough.

The reason I am posting this is to impress that no matter how you appear, regardless what you think your fitness levels indicate, you really must get your annual physicals. While I was without insurance, prior to the Affordable Care Act, I tried for many years to just do the best I could with diet and exercise (1999 was not only the year I was diagnosed Bipolar II, it was also the year I got my first cholesterol test, and it was already at +190 way back then – I had insurance while I was in graduate school at UCLA). Driving blind is what landed me in my 2012 situation, which I then assumed I could “fix” on my own with diet and exercise. I waited nearly three years to check on it again, and suddenly my doctor was threatening to put me on statins. Six months later, and I was assuming yet again that the improved diet, training, and aesthetic results would indicate all is well. Nope.

Assuming you know everything about your wellness can lead to dangerous health risks going unmonitored. No matter how conditioned/fit or deconditioned/fat you are, do make sure you are getting as full a picture as possible of what is happening inside your body. My dad suffered multiple strokes, but I wasn’t surprised: He still abuses his body and neglects his health/wellness. The worst thing about his strokes may be that he survived them. He is utterly debilitated and miserable. I do NOT want that for myself.

Happy Birthday, you can get married!

54ac8174-6ef6-432d-8fff-95f5e1976247Spoiler Alert: Dark and heavy existential crisis ahead. Go elsewhere, if this isn’t what you want right now. I’m leaving Sunday for a week in Scotland. I very much look forward to being there. I need a break from reality. If you continue reading, you might understand better why I crave escapism at the moment.

I haven’t blogged consistently for years. At first I felt I had nothing new to say: I didn’t think it worth repeating myself. When I found myself contending with familiar personal issues, I merely pondered them internally. Sometimes – rarely – I remember to go and contemplate what I already realized. Mostly, I acknowledge that growth is a continuous process, with the same ground often being retread. But I had no reason to recycle these concepts.

More recently I haven’t blogged, because I’ve been mourning the unabating series of deaths within my circle of family and friends. I couldn’t stand to talk or think about it publicly. The sheer magnitude of the dysfunction and animus within my family pushed me over the edge into burnout, and I’ve barely worked for the last few months. I feared writing/speaking more of the same into being, and I didn’t want to feed those monsters any more than I already am. Several times this year I despaired. I know in retrospect I’ve been contending with depression. I also know that my demons (many of which I’d hoped had died, or gone off to haunt someone else) have been merely sleeping.

The pendulum constantly swings. Whether it be my ups and downs, or the mood of “the people,” life proves itself full of tensions and stressors (whether they be “positive” or “negative”). Go back to 2012: You’ll find the tone of my entries bursting with optimism, joy, gratitude, etc. That was the happiest time of my life. I repeatedly said so back then.

2015 is not.

Honestly: Fuck 2015. I hate 2015. 2015 can go to hell. I say this the same day the Supreme Court of the United States legalized LGBT marriage, and the day after that same court ruled that I can continue accessing my health insurance through the Marketplace. I should be beaming with joy, joy, joy. I’m not. I acknowledge these verdicts are good and just. Whatever. I don’t feel like congratulating people for taking centuries to come to the correct conclusions.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 7.13.11 PMPart of the background context to this ongoing darkness is the fact that I’ve been reminded (yet again) that social media is a window through which random loons are able to unexpectedly swoop in and shit on my soul. The abject racism, bigotry, and hatred I’ve witnessed these last several months on Twitter and Facebook wound me to my core. To see whites tell blacks to get into ovens; to see white people say, “I’m not racist, my parents paid our black maid real good – we loved her dearly;” to see people change their pictures to the Confederate Flag in response to nine black people being murdered in church by a white supremacist terrorist; to read the “thoughts” of people who are incapable of even understanding what they don’t understand… It’s heavy shit. Really heavy. I saw a Confederate Flag on Twitter declaring itself to be “a symbol of heritage, not hate.” It then replied to each individual black person in its timeline with “Kill yourself, nigger.” #BlackLivesMatter – stop all this “White Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” bullshit. Yes, of course they do; however the conversation we are having right now deals with the dehumanizing of BLACK PEOPLE. I’ve deleted Twitter from my phone in an attempt to break the addictive, compulsive habit of constantly refreshing and replying to toxicity. I have the privilege, as a white person, to be tired of thinking about this. I get to say, “I’ve struggled with racism enough, I’ve done my part to interrupt bigotry, and now I need to rest. I’m so enlightened, conscious, and liberal! God, I’m such an empathetic cracker!!!!” Meanwhile, blacks are still black in a supremacist culture. They don’t get to rest. I don’t know how people have the strength to be black. Add female and/or LGBT to it, and I don’t know how folks can bear the weight.

Monday, June 29, I’ll turn 39. I’m not in the mood to make my annual joke about being 24 with 15 years experience. I guess I just did it anyway. It sounds trivial and stupid to me right now, especially in light of the many ways I’ve been forced to contemplate purpose, mortality, and legacy. I just don’t care about kidding about eternal youth right now.

If the average life is about 80 years long, then I’ve arrived at the final day of summer. What distresses me is that I was supposed to be a choreographer. I was supposed to be a dancer. That is what so many people (including me) invested time, energy, and money in. I was supposed to be an artist. I was supposed to be an intellectual force and social activist to be reckoned with. I was born with exceptional talent. I was fierce. Damn, I was GOOD! It’s too late now. That’s a fact. I was trapped by a fraud debt that derailed the course of my life, and now that I have finally re-established the stability I’d need to pursue art, I’m too old and cynical to bother. Dancers retire at this time of life. They transition to teaching. They don’t start auditioning for parts. They hold auditions for young people to fill parts. In my defense, I lived more in my first 30 years than most people do in 60. But this feels, right now, like a lost decade. It’s time to transition slowly to a new career. It has to be done gradually, but I’ve begun that process. I don’t regret what I’ve done in these last nine years – I regret what was done to me – but when I officially step into autumn next year, it has to be as a seasoned adult who creatively tempers experience into success. Does knowing oneself to be wise negate one’s wisdom? Probably. I wonder if that concept is at all related to not knowing oneself to be insane?

imgresSo, I can get married anywhere in the United States now. I don’t give a shit. ENDA was more important, to be frank. But whatever. I never imagined when I came out 25 years ago that I’d ever have to worry about getting married. I think I yearned for it as a teen, and was bitter in my 20’s that it was a dream that would finally be realized after I was dead. In my 30’s it quickly became plausible and suddenly possible. But it was never part of my life plan, and I’m certainly glad institutionalized homophobia prevented me from marrying Randy, Michael, or Scott. I shudder to think what would’ve happened if my silly and romantic younger self could’ve stumbled into legal matrimony with those bastards. I think I’m supposed to jump and cry and scream out “YAY YAY YAY!!!” All I can muster right now is, “Don’t get divorced.” Meh. I don’t understand why LGBT people want to tie themselves to a cultural institution that works only half the time for the people it was invented for. I don’t see why I should run happily into the arms of heteronormativity. But at least others can do so now, if that’s their wish.

In the meantime, my escorting ad will be online for a while yet. Remember this: Monogamy is an illusion. If you don’t expect/demand it, you won’t be disappointed. Be open and honest with your partner, allow the relationship and its parameters to evolve, and you’ll be more likely to remain happy. I speak from the position of being the one sitting there watching your significant other tell you with a straight face and level voice that he’s at the grocery store.

P.S.
Go download “No Sleeep” by Janet Jackson. Also, RIP MJ. Yesterday was six years, and I’m still bulldozed at the idea that you’re gone.