Opinion
5 min

How my princess got to be a slut

A true story of innocence, HIV and growing up

Once upon a time, I was on Grindr hanging out with some friends. I saw a cute boy online nearby and asked if he wanted to meet up. He said he was at the Starbucks at Davie and Thurlow Street and would join me for a beer at Junction.

When he arrived, my eyes lit up; he looked like an angel to me — smooth olive skin, big wide dark eyes, cheeks you just want to pinch, and small enough to toss in the air. His name was Daniel, he was 12 years my junior, and he was visiting Vancouver for the week and then traveling down the West Coast, hitting up the major cities.

After our beer, we took a short walk around the neighbourhood and I dropped him off at the hostel where he was staying. He showed no interest in hooking up, which was a shame as I could’ve ploughed him for hours or days on end. I figured I’d never see him again.

Fast forward to the following weekend and I’m in Seattle for Pride. As I walked up Pine Street to meet up with some friends at the Cuff, I suddenly saw Daniel walking towards me. This time he looked even more like an angel — all dressed in white.

He told me he was off to a white party, hence the clothing. We wished each other a Happy Pride and a fun night. Again, I figured I’d never see him again.

Two days later I ran into Daniel again, this time at the street party outside the Cuff. He was on his own and I had lost track of my friends so we decided to chat for a while.

This time, I feel like we really opened up. We stood there in the beating sun for about an hour and a half just getting to know each other. And then surprise — we were both heading to Portland the next day. He’d already booked his bus ticket and suggested I catch the 12:45pm bus with him. I was more than happy to oblige.

During the three-hour trip the next day, we had a blast showing each other our photos from Seattle Pride and talking about our silly and wild gay lives. We added each other on Facebook and said goodbye once we reached Portland.

My initial plan was to stay with this guy in the suburbs, but that plan collapsed so I made my way back downtown and booked myself into a hotel. I was upset and didn’t know what to do with myself, so I messaged Daniel.

It turned out he was drinking at a gay strip club by himself and asked if I would join him. Boy, did I ever need a drink. I met up with Daniel and told him what happened. We sat drinking and talking and ogling the cute strippers all night until the bar shut. Since we were now both alone in Portland, we agreed to meet up the next day and explore the city together.

We sampled food trucks, hunted for books, tried on high heels together and got dressed up like a couple of queens. We spent our nights partying in the bars. And most importantly, we didn’t hold anything back. Sitting in the Rose Garden, he asked me for advice.

He talked about how much he wanted to get fucked without condoms but that, because he was on his parents’ insurance plan with a high deductible, PrEP wasn’t an option. We talked about the kind of sex we liked. He told me how strict he was about condom use. He talked about how he was looking for a relationship, and peppered me with questions on how open relationships work. He told me he’d been fired from a horrible job, and that’s why he decided to take some time off to travel.

He also told me how he lived with his parents who were fairly conservative and religious, and from another country, but how they’d begrudgingly accepted that he was gay. I should also mention that his parents were well off and he lived in a neighborhood known for its mansions. He was so inquisitive, dying to get advice from an older gay man as he tried to navigate the choppy waters of being a young homo.

Most importantly, he became my friend. I no longer saw him as a sexual object (not that I’d say no if he offered) but as my princess — rich, coddled, innocent and a bit naïve. It was an improbable friendship — he grew up rich, I grew up with very little materially. Our scenes were different — his was twink, mine was bear. He was 23; I was 35. And yet none of that seemed to matter —we could talk endlessly.

Portland wasn’t the end. Just two weeks later we arranged to meet up in San Francisco during Dore Alley. Again, we were tourist buddies, taking the trolley, eating down at Fisherman’s Wharf, and taking a hike up Twin Peaks. I saw him running around in skimpy underwear at the bars and, despite this, there was such innocence in how he carried himself. 

Two weeks later, I got a message from him: “I need to talk to you.” I just knew something was wrong. I immediately called him. Through the crying and the stuttering, I heard those words: HIV-positive.

The tears began pouring down my face but I tried to stay calm; he didn’t need me breaking down too. He was so scared. He didn’t even know where to start. From a few thousand kilometres away, I just wanted to hold him and never let go.

He said things I’ve heard a hundred times when someone is diagnosed, but this time it was different, it was my little princess. “I feel so gross.” “This thing is in my body and I just want it gone.” “Nobody will ever love me.” “My parents will disown me.” “I’m sick.” All I could tell him was you’re not gross, you’re going to be fine and healthy, you’re still beautiful.

He was scared and alone. He couldn’t talk to any of his friends — they were so young and more likely to judge him than offer support. How could he get treatment? He was on his parent’s insurance plan and the deductible was so high he’d need their help to pay for it.

When it comes to HIV, I know just what to do. I called up my friend Jose who lives in the same city as Daniel — Jose whose job it is to get people on HIV meds. I explained the situation and got Daniel to phone Jose.

They met up two days later. Jose got it all taken care of — Daniel was enrolled in a “study” so neither the meds nor his specialist appointments would go through his parents’ insurance. The pills had the drug identification numbers scrubbed off so, if his parents ever found them, they couldn’t find out what they were for.

I cried for three days — I’m even crying as I write this. I’ve had dozens of friends seroconvert but it never shook me like this. I talked to Daniel almost non-stop. I felt like the world had just robbed my princess of his innocence.

For months, he talked about how dirty he felt. I told him the feeling would go away, but he struggled to believe me. He began going to a support group for HIV-positive guys. He sounded stressed by life when I talked to him. I worried so much about how he was going to cope. I didn’t think he had the strength to manage, my coddled little princess. And he was so far away.

A few months later, I got the text that I dreamed of: “I just got fucked bareback for the first time!”

Daniel had finally had sex for the first time since his diagnosis. And he didn’t just have sex. He got fucked and bred. He was excited but also shocked — he’d never had a load in his ass. He said it felt amazing. I told him, “Welcome to regularly having amazing sex from now on.”

A little while later, Daniel met a stud in the support group and they’ve been dating ever since. He’s also allowing himself to be a slut — he’s having the sex he always wanted, without the fear he always had.

His parents still don’t know he’s HIV-positive, but one day he’ll tell them. He has a job, lives on his own, has a sexy boyfriend, and gets to do lots of traveling. We’re still friends. I will be seeing him again in a few months.

My sweet, vulnerable, coddled princess turned out to be a lot stronger than I thought. It turned out my princess was really a queen.