I took a breath, let it out. I hate this part, I said to myself, possibly aloud. And then, definitely aloud: “I have herpes.”
Silence. The word had to be chased with something.
“But before you freak out,” I said as casually as I could, “let me tell you about it.”
“The transmission risks are tiny,” I started, and they are: about 2-4 percent from woman to man, depending on condom use. My risks are likely even lower; I got genital herpes from oral sex, and HSV-1 is even harder to transmit to a partner’s genital region. “And one in four or five people have it, even though most people don’t know since a standard STI test doesn’t test for it,” I said.
Silence. Wasn’t this dirty talk?
“It’s much harder for a woman to give it to a man, and to my knowledge, I’ve never given it to anyone,” I finished.
Go read the whole thing. Trust me. Right now. Everyone with herpes, everyone without it, and everyone with it who doesn't know it—everyone—needs to go read this piece. The concluding paragraph—and my thoughts about it—after the jump. (Via Sullivan.)
The piece ends with this:
In a world full of infinite partner choices, herpes had narrowed mine to the understanding, the open minded, the risk takers. I am now confined to partners who think my awesomeness eclipses my cellular flaw — so instead of killing my love life, herpes has weirdly deepened it.
I've said this for years to my friends with HIV: When you disclose your HIV status you're telling the dude one thing he needs to know about you—and the way the dude reacts tells you everything you need to know about him. Disclosing an STI can help a person find good, kind, considerate and thoughtful partners in a pile that includes so many unkind, paranoid, irrational and phobic assholes. It's a superpower.