You’ve just met a fantastic guy. The two of you talk, laugh and share life stories. It’s clear that there’s a real connection, a real spark between you. So when is the ideal time for you to disclose that you’re HIV-positive? How will this great guy react? And why can’t all of this just be a little easier?
Dating can present a real dilemma for many people in our community, with HIV still casting a long shadow over the search for love. For those living with the infection, the question of if or when to disclose their status to friends and loved ones can be challenging enough, never mind a potential mate. Thankfully, there are social events that offer a safe place for the HIV-positive community to hang out without having to worry about that potentially awkward moment.
“I feel like the poz community needs a space where they can come and feel comfortable,” says Alphonso King Jr, aka renowned spinner DJ Relentless. “There has to be a space where it’s not a problem or an issue when you walk in the door, so you don’t have to feel weird about having to disclose.”
To that end, King has teamed up with Club120 owner Todd Klinck to launch Poz TO, a monthly dance event for the HIV community and their supporters to let down their hair. The event is a relaunch of sorts for the popular Poz and Sexy event that was previously held at Klinck’s popular club (formerly known as Goodhandy’s).
King was hired to DJ that event and quickly realized they’d hit on a zeitgeist for a part of our community that can occasionally feel on the fringes of queer society. Attendance was huge, but the original organizer has since moved from Toronto, leaving King to step in and take the reins. It proved a natural fit, given King’s own empathy for the event’s target audience.
“I found out I was positive in 1990,” he says. “After a few years of trying to date and figure out when to disclose, I just started telling them up front on the first date. I even had a special place where I would tell people, at a diner called The Waverly in the West Village.
“It was scary at first, like coming out all over again. I’d been openly gay for years, but making that part of my life common knowledge was actually very freeing, because now I didn’t need to worry about people finding out.”
For Klinck, the success of the original Poz party was proof positive that making the event a monthly occurrence is both good business and a powerful opportunity to provide a safe space for the HIV community.
“It just felt like it was a needed event,” Klinck says. “I was bartending the night of the first one, and there was electricity in the room. I got a lot of direct feedback from people that night, like there was almost a relief that it was happening.
“A lot of people said they didn’t actually know any other poz people. They were sort of shy at first, and then they started really talking to each other. It was such a different, positive experience, like the conversation was halfway started for a lot of people just by being in the room.”