For quite a few years now I have celebrated the fact that I live an authentic life. Well that was until recently. Authentic living to me has never been about me flaunting my sexuality, however, what it did mean was not being ashamed of who I am and all that I am. The fear of being judged without knowing the true me has caused me some discomfort in my past. However, I had reached a point and time in my life where the opinions of others did not matter much at all anymore. I chose to live as much of an authentic existence as I could in every facet of my life. Taking that first step was not easy for it was like walking a tightrope without a net. However, experience has taught me that if I am respectful of who I am and walk in love and confidence the discomfort that others may have will dissipate. The 'coming out' (for lack of a better phrase) process is not a one-time thing. Truly living an authentic life is a daily process for you will encounter someone almost daily that is unaware of parts of your life.
Recently I began working for a new employer. My previous place of employment was easy because I had been there for 17 years and authentic about who I was for 14 of those years. So now I am faced with the process of meeting new people and building that working relationship all over again. Inevitably someone at my new place of employment would ask some personal question(s) that I may feel compelled to answer that would shine a light on the total me. However, that was not even a huge concern for I would be me and move forward. There have been times in my life when I did not really see the proverbial freight train coming at all. Well last week I had one of those moments.
Like any new place of employment after a certain grace period you have to complete the necessary health insurance paperwork to get your health benefits in place. On Wednesday the Human Resources Director came to my office to give me the booklet and application for insurance. She asked me to look it over and we would discuss it later in the week. I flipped through the document and application and my eyes caught a question that stopped me dead in my tracks. On the medical history page the question about HIV status and diagnosis literally jumped out off the page and smacked me in my face. The question sent me into a tailspin because while I have lived this very authentic life there was one thing that kept me in the bondage of shame, the fact that I am HIV positive. I was diagnosed 2001 while employed by my previous employer. Therefore, having to answer that question has never come up in my employment setting. I have to tell you, so many things went through my head from 'I will just lie on the application' to 'what will they think of me'. My other fear was also possibly being denied insurance coverage. Thinking about how I would answer the question encompassed my every thought for several days. However, there was no way I could not be honest. My back was against the wall and I simply had to tell the truth about something that I have only had to share with family, close friends and sexual partners.
As I thought about being authentic about this one thing that I allowed to hold me hostage I knew that I had to find it within myself to take my power back. I have to say that God has given me a voice by speaking to me in times such as this. Once I stepped out of the way I hear Him say that I could not allow this virus to define me for I am more than this. The shame I may carry is not within me but placed at my feet by others and I have to choose not to pick it up and carry it.