VU TUAN’S STORY: “I KNEW YOU DIDN’T HAVE ANYTHING”
Young gay/bi men tell their personal stories of sex, love, health and hope. From sexual identity to mental health, HIV and staying safe, each story describes life events which have shaped them while addressing topics that matter to our communities of modern young gay/bi men.
ACON’s Young Gay Men’s Project (YGMP) partnered with Thinkspace at the Powerhouse Museum to run a skills-building workshop with a group of young gay/bi men. The workshop taught them skills in multimedia production, empowering them to produce and share their 5 digital stories.
Peer education has always been a vital component of ACON’s work, with young gay/bi men learning about and discussing experiences of HIV and sexual health to prevent new transmission and fight stigma within our communities.
We interviewed each of our storytellers about their stories…
YGMP: Tuan, thankyou for presenting us with such an intimate look into your sex and love life. What can our viewers expect to see when they watch your digital story?
Tuan: This is a video about my first time having sex. I won’t give it all away but let’s say that I was less than sensible in the choices that I made; it was hot but I took risks that that I wish I didn’t. Oh yeah, the bit at the end where I said ‘I aspire to a polyamorous relationship’…well that’s happened, it’s wonderful and we’re all having safer sex while sharing the love.
YGMP: I’m glad that safer sex is happening as the love is shared. In your experience, how are polyamorous relationships different from monogamous or even open relationships?
Tuan: I was a little cheeky in calling monogamous relationships ‘monotonous.’ Polyamory or non-monogamy is simply another way of sharing love…with as many people as everyone is comfortable with. I consider open relationships a form of polyamory because I think that physical and emotional intimacy can’t be separated, but this is a debateable point. Any relationship, polyamorous or not, should be negotiated, and built on trust and honesty. That said, consider trying polyamory sometime—it can be wickedly exciting!
YGMP: Regardless of what relationship model we choose, using condoms remains one of the most effective barriers we have against HIV when having casual sex. But we’re only human, and we may not always use condoms in the heat of the moment, for whatever reason. What advice would you give to young guys who might not consistently use condoms?
Tuan: My message here is the same as ACON’s because it’s incredibly important that we play safe while we’re exploring our wild sides. Talk to your partner(s) you’re not consistently using condoms with about what happens if you test positive to any STI, or if you slip up and don’t use condoms with those outside your no-condom agreement. If you think you might have been exposed to HIV, get on the PEP hotline at 1800 PEP NOW as soon as possible (and within 72 hours) and tell your partners who may have been exposed. Don’t panic but don’t be complacent either, ‘k guys? Or, if you think this is all too risky, use condoms with everyone and then pat yourself on the back.
YGMP: The first time you had sex with a guy was also the first time you took a risk with your sexual health. Do you get tested regularly for STIs now?
Tuan: I’ve always gotten tested regularly since my first time, 3-4 times a year, as recommended for more sexually active guys. It simple, gives you peace-of-mind and is one way of caring for your lovers. It’s also one of the only chances I get to check out trashy magazines.
YGMP: In your story, you express feelings of anxiety when seeing the doctor and waiting for your test results. We’re lucky that community-based testing sites for gay men are now available, where gay men can get the results back from their rapid HIV test within 20-30 minutes at many of these locations. In your opinion, what factors make it easier for you to test for HIV and other STIs?
Tuan: Having higher numbers of partners does not necessarily increase your risk of contracting HIV and most other STIs so long as you use safer sex practices. In terms of my own relationships, I’m at higher risk of getting an STI or passing one on if: I or my long term partners haven’t been honest about not using condoms (this hasn’t happened and I hope that it never does), a condom breaks (in which case I would call the PEP hotline) and when I occasionally engage in more raunchy sex (for me, when I have sex with alcohol or drugs, where my judgement may be compromised).
I have more factors to consider than many guys—let’s take a monogamous gay couple in a long-term relationship, for example—but I have considered these factors and am doing what my partners and I consider comfortable. While we’re part of the wonderful web of intimacy, we are super concerned with our and each other’s sexual health, and, within this web, are playing on the safer side. Educate yourself guys; the resources at ACON are a great place to start.
YGMP: You seem like a bit of a romantic, Tuan, and some strong messages about love come across in your video. I appreciated the visual conceptualisation of different relationship models at the end, it was really clever. What was the best part about making your video?
Tuan: The best part of making the video was being able to talk about polyamory (or non-monogamy). All loving relationships are wonderful and this can take monogamous and polyamorous, open and closed, forms. As a cis-gendered, Vietnamese-Australian man who is polyamorous I feel I have a broad appreciation for the beautiful things that happen when difference intermingles on equal terms. Being physically and ideologically diverse has taught me not to assume that someone’s viewpoint is inherently better or more ‘normal’ than someone else’s. This applies to views about intimacy as much as to multiple areas of our lives and society.
Vu Tuan Nguyen is 24 years old. He is a PhD candidate doing research on Queer inclusion in Australian museums.
A new Tell Your Story workshop will be running in April 2015. If interested in joining, contact ACON’s Young Gay Men’s Project on firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 9206 2076.
This workshop is open to young gay men, and LGBTI people who want to learn new skills to tell their story.