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- Posted by Jessica Robertson
When do you remember first questioning your sexuality?
Probably about 13 or 14. I'm from a large family with four sisters, and I had a lot of girlfriends in school, but we just messed around. But I suppose I became [actively] interested when I saw boys in the showers at school, in P.E. I said, "Oh, that looks really good. They look really interesting." I had my first crush probably about 15 or 16.
What was he like?
Well, it was actually two boys above me who used to walk around school holding hands. They said that they were "doing it" -- and I had to go and see them after school, 'cause I had something important to tell them. And I went to the house and said, "I have to come out with you. I love you." They said they were just doing it for fun and that they weren't really gay.
Do you remember your first boyfriend?
My first boyfriend was my best friend at school. We turned out to be lovers for a little while, but he got quite ashamed. So we broke it off.
And did you talk to anyone during this time, or did you internalize your feelings?
Not really. I was a bit on my own. I could talk to my mum quite a lot about sex, but I didn't really tell her about myself. There wasn't really anyone around.
When did you tell your parents?
I told my mum that I was bisexual [first]. I didn't really tell her I was gay until after I left home and had moved to London. I was about 20 and I wrote her a letter and told her. She seemed all right with it. She always makes out like she's really cool about everything, but I think it's really the opposite way around. My father's the one who kind of handled it the best. She's fine now, but I think it took her much longer.
And how was it for your family to have you, openly gay, and in the limelight?
I think it was hard on my younger brother because he was still in school at the time. I think a few people used to pick on him. I mean, when I was in school, I was hopeless. I couldn't fight at all. But my brother's really tough. I think they had to go through quite a bit -- my sisters and my bother -- because of me. But I thought, "I can't really feel guilty about it."
What was that experience like for you? You quickly became a gay icon.
It was really nice. It was quite a gay time in the U.K. in the late '80s. There was a huge political wave against the conservative government -- it was a really empowering time. I felt like I was just going along for the ride.
Do you remember your first trip to a gay bar?
Oh, yeah. I was living with a woman at the time. I was 19 or 20, and she took me to a club called the Embassy. I remember going in there thinking, "Oh, my god. All these guys and like, so good looking. I can't possibly. I'm never gonna get a boyfriend." And then, I distinctly remember Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' coming on. I was like, "Wow, this is incredible." I was really in heaven.
Walk me through the discovery that you were HIV positive.
I was quite self-destructive at the time. I was with my boyfriend and he found out that he was positive in 1990. He didn't want to infect me so we had a platonic relationship. So, I was going out and sleeping with lots of other guys. I started getting things like shingles and really bad hemorrhoids. I should've really put two and two together, but I think I was in denial. I had been tested before when I had my appendix removed, and it was all fine. Then when I had pneumonia in 1998, it hit home. I thought, "This is it now. You've gotta buck your ideas." But once I started on the combination therapy, it was incredible -- the turnaround. Really, in about three to six months, you're almost completely back to normal.
Do you remember having any moments of absolute fear following the diagnosis?
Well, I was scared for the media finding out because there had been some terrible press in the U.K. That's why I didn't want to tell people about it in the first place. A few of my friends had more pyschological problems -- worry and not being able to sleep -- but I seem to have gone quite well with the whole thing.
Does your HIV status effect your intimate relationships?
Not really. I mean, my new boyfriend is negative and it would be the last thing in my mind to have unsafe sex with him.
How do you feel in your day to day, now?
I feel totally comfortable with who I am. It's just not having enough sleep. When you're working --doing tours -- you dont really have much time to yourself. But I love my life. I just need my sleep.