Love & Sexuality: A Personal Retrospective

Who would have ever thought that people or organizations would be interested in learning about how sexuality changes as we age?

The idea conjures up images of nieces or nephews with looks of horror on their faces, unable to stop themselves from visualizing it and begging their elders to stop talking about it. The truth is that I, for one, don’t feel as though I’ve aged-at least not until I catch a glimpse of my own reflection in the bathroom mirror and think to myself, humm, I guess that I have.

I am a gay man of 49 years soon to hit the big five-O who is living with HIV for over 31 years. When I think about how my sexuality has evolved over my lifetime I would say in all honesty that it has consistently moved forward for the better.

I’ve been lucky enough to be a manual laborer for most of my life, which has afforded me a pretty resilient physique with a lot of muscle memory. Only at the beginning of last year did I have the misfortune to have developed a sudden onset of what’s called Peyronie’s disease.

Peyronie’s disease is a very taboo ailment that affects many more men than people might think because no one talks about it. Peyronie’s disease affects the male penis particularly when erect. Its symptoms are a combination of or sole manifestation of a sudden bend in the shaft of the penis at varying degrees of severity, an indentation that looks like someone took a bite out of your shaft and varying degrees of physical pain and discomfort while maintaining an erection. The angle that the penis assumes and the associated pain often make it impossible to achieve orgasm.

In my case, it was the result of an injury while having penetrative anal sex with a partner. His ill-timed constricting of his kegel muscles blocked my phallus from penetrating, which forcibly bent my erection in two. A distinct popping sound was heard and felt, followed by pain.

Seeing that I was single at the time, I didn’t have sex until the following January where I felt a very distinct painful erection.  I couldn’t achieve orgasm because the pain was so very distracting. Not long after that, I discovered a sudden 75-degree bend in my phallus.

Please don’t get me wrong when I tell you, but I was having suicidal thoughts because I was struggling to accept my newest handicap.

I never was a man who held sex to be the most important thing in my life or love life but in the face of that condition, I was devastated. To make matter’s even worse, I have always steadfastly believed and practiced monogamy and in the gay world, I wondered who would stick by my side in the face of this new obstacle? Especially with the now widely accepted mantras of the day, which laud multiple partners and open relationships as some kind of evolutionary revelation.

I’ve been living with this condition for over a year now without ever being seen by a doctor. This has not been by choice.

Early treatment is key for reversing the effects of the disease but my initial wait-time was 7 months and it has now been 11 months and counting. I took matters into my own hands by researching as much as possible, joining a support group to ease my emotional anguish, added some vitamins to my regimen and removed a statin type heart medicine from my regimen.

This all appears to be working in my favor for the symptoms that I developed have subsided very slowly and thank god for that. There needs to be more awareness about this disease for men entering their 40s and 50s and doctors need to stop treating the disease like it’s taboo.

In the couple of years before the onset of Peyronie’s disease, I was having difficulty adjusting to the different sexual customs in the Ottawa region seeing that I am a native of Montreal. There are huge cultural differences in how the two cultures approach sex which has often left me feeling dissatisfied and even disgusted on occasion.

What didn’t help matters has been the fervor surrounding the criminalization for non-disclosure of one’s HIV status before having sexual relations. I had decided to limit my sexual partners exclusively to other men living with HIV because of this. I had a couple of hair-raising experiences with men who turned out to be too drunk to remember me disclosing my status the night before. Although I have undetectable amounts of HIV in my blood for over 21 years I simply didn’t enjoy the experience at all.

Are you beginning to see a pattern yet? Here’s some more details that may fill in the gaps.

The landscape of how people meet for serious dating, casual sex and or cruising in general has changed so rapidly that it gives one the impression that everyone is   fragmented into so many different groups and subgroups that all have very specific criteria. It just becomes incredibly annoying and tedious to have to learn all of the dang abbreviations. It leaves my soul wanting to break free and scream to the heavens, “Doesn’t anyone just want to find someone to love anymore?”

The younger generation has it better than mine as far as protections in the laws and social networking but at the same time, I believe that they lost so much more. No one talks about love anymore.

Suffice it to say, writers like Dan Savage are an affront to my values and yet so widely accepted as the gospel truth which in my opinion, have led the gay community astray…

But I digress. It’s this modernization of gay culture which I feel has left behind so many of us and even has the effect of making people who have simple needs and expectations of loving relationships feeling isolated.

One final observation is that when I was 17-years old, going out to Le Garage in Montreal, the gay community was all there under one roof, young, middle-aged, elderly and everyone in between. We all talked to each other which shouldn’t surprise people but yes, we were for the most part a multi-generational family that looked after each other.

That-close knit community had many ties to each other which created more connections which ultimately led to more people meeting and falling in love. I don’t see that anymore. I see everyone sticking into closed cliques, I see distrust of anyone that comes from different tribes. This segregation has disconnected the passing down of our history, our stories and our cohesiveness.

It is the collective effect of all of these factors which have changed my sexuality in recent years.

It isn’t so much any physical element that’s changed my sexual behavior, but the sociological factors have. I am still the same person that I have always been, wanting the same types of relationships that I have always wanted. Often times it’s how other people perceive their sexuality which creates limitations or barriers to my own. These attitudes do vary to a greater or lesser degree depending on your geo-location. So much so that I have often thought that I would have to move back to my home town if I were to ever have any hope at finding an honest loving relationship where I can express my sexuality at liberty once again in that nurturing space.