Love comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes, ways and conditions. Yet if you are open, mature and strong enough you can look past what some others can’t and get to know your significant other as the one you love rather than the one that you see with so many red flags. This is the case with my two good friends Scotty Rage and Charlie Harding. I met Charlie a couple of months back at the Black Party Expo here in New York City. It was a quick exchange, but we started talking on Facebook and texting and I truly got to know him and what a fantastic guy he was and is.
Then I got to know Scotty, his partner, who just happens to be open about his HIV status. He is positive, Charlie is negative. This is something that quite frankly is taboo in the gay culture in that many men who are negative fear dating a man who is HIV positive for the obvious reasons (infection, health problems) and going beyond that (social stigma, embarrassment). What Scotty and Charlie want is for people to understand this disease and the risks of it, but at the core of it if you love someone you can be there for them and help them along the way without judgement. I sat down with them last week to discuss how they met, when Scottie was open about his status and ultimately what they are hopeful for with each other and the rest of their lives. Take a look.
How did you two meet?
Charlie- Actually an ex of mine that I had lost touch with for years said hi to me on Facebook. After chatting with him and becoming friends again, he suggested that I be-friend Scotty on Facebook. I did, Scotty and I started chatting and direct messaging and then that led to texting, and then a few phone calls and things progressed to where we became long-distance best friends. I was actually still in a past relationship that ended up to be very toxic and tragic, and Scotty was my confidant and shoulder to cry on when that one went bad. We were actually friends that had never met in person for the first almost 2 1/2 years that we knew each other.
Scotty- And once Charlie’s relationship had been over for about six months, I went out to visit him in Nashville. It was the first time we met in person, there were strong feelings for each other, and affection that led to sex and it just kept growing. A couple weeks later he came down to visit me in Atlanta and spent a few days. The visit went amazingly well, and we realized that we really, really, really liked each other. He went back to Nashville and a couple weeks later said he wanted to move out of Nashville maybe to Atlanta.
Charlie- Yep! So I packed everything up that I had in Nashville, and after working a bartending shift one night took off and drove to Atlanta, I moved in with Scotty. Literally the third time we met in person we shacked up together!
Scotty- Well actually, I suckered him into moving down to Atlanta and in with me under the pretense that he would be able to go find his own apartment. But once he moved in I wouldn’t let him leave!
Charlie- I didn’t want to…
What made you fall for each other?
Scotty- Charlie’s a hottie obviously, but he has an amazing aura about him. He is super intelligent, dynamic, extremely openhearted and genuine, and once he lets his guard down, he’s also very vulnerable and sensitive.
Charlie- Awe… Now he’s making me blush. For me Scotty was a breath of fresh air. He is one of the most energetic, positive thinking, happy to please and open minded people I’ve ever met in my life. Our personalities just meshed very easily, and the communication channels were so open that we felt like we could talk about anything.
How soon in the relationship did you tell Charlie about your HIV Status?
Scotty- To be honest I don’t remember exactly, but I know it was something that we discussed very early in the friendship stages. As we were introducing ourselves to each other via Facebook and texting.
Charlie- Yeah, I think it was within the first few weeks when we were kind of running through personal histories, and what we’ve done in our lives, challenges we faced and dreams of the future I think it came up in conversation. It wasn’t one of those big dramatic moments of disclosure that so many people it needs to be.
Charlie- Had you dated a guy who was poz before hand? If so, what was the experience like? If not, were you apprehensive?
Charlie- Not that I’m aware of. I mean, I’ve had lots of friends who are HIV-positive and I’m sure some sexual partners in there that were as well, whether they disclosed it correctly or not. But I didn’t really think of it as a concern when we realized we were going to start dating. It was just something else to educate myself on so that we could do what was appropriate. We discussed his medications, how long he had been undetectable, and I did tons of research as to what the risk factors of being with someone both sexually and just in your daily lives were. As an HIV negative person, I wanted to try to gain the best understanding I could of his situation, so that fear or ignorance wouldn’t be an issue in our relationship.
Scotty- We talked about it I remember, but like everything else that we talked about it was just open communication and discussion. It was never brought up as an ending factor for the potential relationship, or something big and dramatic. It was just another thing that added to the facets of our relationship and dynamic.
For both- What has been the challenges in the relationship that one is poz and one is negative?
Scotty- Well being the one who is HIV-positive, my concern is obviously to keep myself healthy, and protect the health of my partner. There’s always that chance even though I’ve been undetectable for 14 years, that I could infect him. So we discussed it, take the risks that were comfortable with, and go in with an understanding that it is extremely unlikely, but possible.
Charlie- The key thing for me was to be educated on what HIV-positive, undetectable means. That eliminates the big scary fear and reduces it to just a medical condition that needs to be dealt with.
Scotty- The gay community just like all of society is a big mix of people. Some are open-minded and willing to educate themselves on issues before forming opinions and others not so much. So of course certain people have judged or negatively responded when they find out that I’m HIV-positive, but the majority of folks out there it’s a non- issue. Let’s put it this way: if someone being HIV-positive would be a factor in your decision to be friends with that person, chances are we wouldn’t get along. From a sexual side, there are definitely folks who are not comfortable “hooking up” with somebody who is HIV-positive. And that’s ok. While it hurts to know that folks still feel that way, I would never ask someone to do something they were uncomfortable with. So you learn to work around it.
Charlie- Same question as Scotty.
Charlie- Well given my adult film work, one of the most surprising things that I found out was that a lot of folks assumed that I was HIV-positive. I had actually heard jokes saying “aren’t all porn guys Poz?” So I felt some negativity in that respect. Further being an HIV negative person who is coupled with an HIV-positive person opens up other questions in certain peoples minds. Some of the more close minded folks, for example those typically less educated on the subject of HIV and what undetectable means, asked me if I was a bug chaser. Evidently some folks can’t believe that you can love somebody for being themselves and not let an illness get in the way? But right now I will officially go on the record and say, “I am an HIV negative man who is in love with an HIV-positive man, I’m not with him because he’s positive, I’m with him because he’s the most amazing and loving person I have ever met. His poz-undetectable status is just one small part of the whole human being.”
Scottie, Being Poz yourself, what is your opinion with the prevalence of barebacking in the porn industry and outside of it?
Scotty- That seems to be a big discussion in the adult film industry right now: the use of condoms or the lack there of. I think the thing to remember when watching porn is that this is a fantasy. Porn scenes, television shows, movies and even fiction writing all portray fantasies. These are all ways to escape the reality situation that we live in. So what you see, hear and read are not set up to be realistic in your real life. Anyone who would watch porn, and then use those scenes as a comparable for real-life sexual situations is being unrealistic.
Charlie- Bareback sex versus condom sex is a very personal decision. From a professional standpoint performers have to decide what they want to portray on film, and what they’re comfortable with doing publicly. In your personal life it’s the same scenario. You weigh out your risk factors and act in a manner that is acceptable to you. My place is to decide what works for me, Scotty and I should decide what works for us. What everyone else does, is none of our damn business.
For both- What is the biggest misconception with men who are poz?
Charlie- I want to answer this two ways. I think the biggest misconception that I see that HIV-positive men have of themselves is that they’re somehow tarnished or broken. The other big misconception that I see in the general population is that HIV-positive men are all irresponsible. I know plenty of people who contracted HIV who were not drug users, who were not wild party people and who were not overly sexually promiscuous. HIV can affect everyone.
Scotty- I agree with what Charlie said on both fronts. When you poz your reality changes, and you question yourself worth. It takes a while to adjust and adapt to the fact that you have something that a lot of the world sees as an extremely negative illness. I also agree that a big misconception is that only the slutty, party guys are at risk.
For both- What does the future hold for the both of you?
Scotty- What were planning on getting married in the next six months, we have plans to retire to Florida at some point in the future and there’s been talk about possibly having a baby…
Charlie- Yeah I would like to actually have a child that’s my genetics. So it’s surrogate an artificial insemination maybe in our future! The main thing would be just looking forward to experiencing everything we can, live your lives to the fullest together, and hopefully celebrating the day when some one HIV status won’t be an issue because HIV will be no more.
For both- What advice would you give to some of the younger men out there who have an active sex life?
Scotty- Be smart about your decisions, be smart about your partners But don’t be scared to enjoy yourself.
Charlie- Educate, educate, educate! If there’s something you don’t understand about HIV or what undetectable means, research it. Give yourself every bit of information that you can before you start making decisions as to what you are comfortable with doing. Talk to your doctor, talk to your friends and talk to your local Community centers and HIV outreach groups. You’ll find that you’ll get a lot of differing opinions, and different information. So what you have to do is wade through it all and decide what you think fits your situation the best. For example your read studies that were done in the US that say Truvada as a preventative for HIV HAS a 40 to 70% effectiveness rate, then you’ll read about a study that was done in Europe which claims a 99% effectiveness rate. Just like with anything else review it all and form your own opinions. Don’t do things you’re not comfortable with. Don’t be afraid of HIV simply because you don’t understand.
Love these two for how open and truly amazing they are. Want to know more about these guys? Check out Charlie’s FB page as well as Scotty’s which also details everything they have in the works for their booming business life. Everyone that reads this- learn from it, don’t judge it. Be mature and get to understand your surroundings.
Also check out: