Tyler Curry had the unpleasant experience of coming out twice. The first time he had to reveal his sexual orientation. The second time was his HIV status.
“There was so much going through my head that the last thing I could think about, but the first thing on my mind, was ‘how much is this going to impact my social life?’” said Curry.
Curry’s life changed in June, 2012. He’d just left the gym, and the next thing on his list of errands was an HIV test. The way he tells it, it held the same kind of gravity as a weekly call home to check in with family. You know… you do it out of obligation, and a slight concern, but you don’t get all worked up about it.
His results were not what he expected.
Curry kept his HIV+ status secret for months, but his secret eventually led to depression. When he realized something needed to change, he decided to ‘come out’ in a big way. In December, 2012, Curry sent an editorial to The Advocate, titled ‘Op-ed: Reluctant Social Commentary of a Newly HIV-Positive 20-Something.’
“The second I came out as positive, it was the most freeing and cathartic experience,” said Curry.
The article pushed Curry’s life in a new direction. Suddenly, he became a nationwide representative of what it’s like to live as a 28-year-old with HIV. (Of course, it helps that he knows how to write.)
After the article published, Curry started getting emails and messages from gay guys across the country who are struggling with the same issues.
“I never expected to become any sort of mentor for anyone. I wrote that story for me, the first one. Every time I get one of those emails or messages it just inspires me to keep going,” said Curry.
Earlier in 2013, Curry kicked off ‘The Needle Prick Project’ to further that conversation. It’s a photo project meant to get people talking. Straight or gay, positive or negative, people participate to show their support for those struggling with the negative stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. Curry says he gets strength from the participants’ stories of unexpected responses.
“They took a picture and they’re so glad that they’ve learned a little bit about it because one of their friends came to them and told them about their status. Because they took a picture, they felt like they were a source of comfort that they didn’t know before,” said Curry.
Curry’s HIV advocacy includes more articles than his first. He’s a regular contributor to The Advocate and The Huffington Post. He’s been surprised by some of the negative responses he’s gotten from older HIV advocates.
“There’s a big generational difference. A lot of times I anger a lot of older advocates because they expect anyone today, or, there’s this idea, and this is going to get me a lot of blow-back, but this idea that someone that contracted it today is a moron,” said Curry. “And this idea that we are supposed to learn from those who came before us, but, you know, if that was the truth, then nobody would smoke anymore.”
Curry realizes his views are controversial, especially to some who have been fighting for HIV/AIDS awareness for decades. He insists that he’s had some amazing mentors from the older generation. However, he wants to be able to give the younger generation someone to relate to.
Whether or not people agree with him is not what’s important, in Curry’s mind. He’s getting people talking. In the gay community, conversation about this issue is vital. Stigmatizing the virus so much that people are afraid to talk would be deadly.
That is exactly what Curry is fighting.
This is the story I did with Tyler Curry in February, 2012 on CW33′s Nightcap: