ShoutOut to my teenage self is a series of letters from inspiring figures in the LGBT community and allies to themselves as teenagers. Our fourth contributor is Robbie Lawlor.
Robbie Lawlor has spent the last few years trying to break the silence and stigma around sexual health and HIV. He believes our vision of reaching, Zero New HIV Infections, Zero AIDS Related and Zero Stigma & Discrimination by 2030 can be achieved. As the worlds biggest Youth Power advocate, he believes that using youth voices will be paramount in making these goals a reality. Robbie works for Youth Stop AIDS, ActUp and European AIDS Treatment Group. He's currently fighting for PrEP to be subsidised by the HSE. Follow and support Robbie's work on twitter: @Robbie_Lawlor
Right now I know you are having really conflicted feelings. You have had girlfriends, you have romantic feelings for women, you are even (kind of) sexually attracted to them. Right now you don’t fully understand why your friends are so obsessed with getting girlfriends and talk about sex all the time. You won’t fully understand why your friends say they love their girlfriends or feel heartbroken when they break up. You don’t really think about it. You seem to think that maybe you just don’t have it in you to feel as strongly about women and sex like they do. It will be another three years till you figure out that it is because you were looking for all those feelings in the wrong gender.
You will be angry because you wish you grew up with all those experiences, but with men. Don’t fret though, those feelings for men will come. Your future relationships will be great. You will fall in love. You will have sex that feels natural. You will have breakups. You will be heartbroken. You will regain those lost teenage years.
You won’t fully understand that you’re gay until you’re 18. It will be a scary time for you. However, we are in luck. In one year time, Sara (our sister) will come out as lesbian. The family will have a bit of a negative reaction but this quickly blows over. You still won’t fully understand it about yourself, but on reflection, her coming out has helped you understand that being gay isn’t a bad thing. She will be the first person you come out to. She tells the family but that’s ok, it takes some of the pressure off you, and you know she couldn’t hold a secret for the life of her. It will run smoothly. Everyone will be supportive. Top Tip for coming out: video record all reactions. Our reaction videos could make a million hits on Youtube. You may as well capitalize on our coming out experience.
You will love college and have a great social life. You will feel part of a community. Life will be everything you wanted it to be. Then you will turn 21 and you will get a shock diagnosis. You will become HIV positive. You won’t fully understand what impact these three letters will have on your life. You will go through a really bad time. You will start to believe that you are “unclean” and a second-rate human being. You will have really bad reactions to HIV medication. You will develop mental health issues and you will feel like you hit rock bottom. You will feel like you will never get old Robbie back.
There will come a point, thanks to friends and family, that you will finally begin to understand that you are not less or unclean. You are like everyone else; just trying to live their best life. You will make a decision, just like you did when you came out, that nobody’s words will make you feel bad about yourself again. You will make the decision that HIV and your sexuality will not define you in a negative light but you will carry with Pride all the teachings and experiences they will bring you. You will happily let go of old Robbie and decide to embrace a new Robbie.
Growing up you will meet some of the most amazing and inspiring people you could ever imagine meeting. Then you will see the negative effects an intolerant and sex shaming Ireland will have on these people. When you are thrust into a world that doesn’t always see you and your friends as equals, something will snap. You will decide to do everything you can to help change society for the betterment of people living with HIV.
You have great dreams at 15. Well, life will give you something above and beyond your dreams. You will go through hard times but do not change a thing. Those hard times in life make who you are today.
P.S. Buy Bitcoins.