The Positive Side

Fall/Winter 2005 

Sexual Healing: Interview with David Hoe

Interview by Darien Taylor

DAVID HOE, 62

Senior policy advisor on HIV/AIDS
Diagnosed with HIV in 1988

ONE OF THE WAYS I’d describe myself is somebody who has sought to have a healthy sexual identity and a sexual life that can be celebrated. I think most gay men and many PHAs have this as part of defining who we are.

How is your health?

It’s the best it’s ever been, and it continues to get better. (Lab work confirms the felt experience.) Part of that is by incorporating a healthy erotic self, which deeply connects to just about every aspect of life. In terms of HIV, that began upon my diagnosis in 1988 (though I think I became infected in 1984). I was the executive director of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa and one of my jobs was to create programs for PHAs. We were fortunate to have Sequoia Lundy come here and create healing workshops for us. He’d been doing healing work with gay men with HIV in San Francisco and with the emerging Body Electric School in California.

In 1989–90, Sequoia introduced clothes-off workshops of light touch for gay men in Ottawa. This began my journey of learning about my body as a temple, as a sacred part of who I am, and learning to respect my body and take care of it on multiple levels and in a holistic way.

In 1991, I got sick with PCP (Pneumocystis pneumonia) and went on sick leave. The few drugs that were around weren’t effective enough at preventing my immune system from collapsing. I dropped down to about 10 T cells, had multiple episodes of PCP and major organ failure. We all silently expected that I would die, but then along came protease inhibitors and my recovery began. Six months later I returned to work, rejoining others fighting AIDS and being part of the design of the new Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS.

Now I’m on tenofovir (Viread), 3TC (Epivir) and Kaletra. Energy-wise, I take testosterone in the form of gel and NucleomaxX powder to remedy the damage done by many of the “d” drugs I used to take. I take a number of vitamins and other supplements to counter the toxicity of my drugs and to keep my body as energized and healthy as possible. I use aromatherapy oils to balance my energy.

How has your sex life been since your diagnosis?

When I was sick, my libido disappeared. I was dealing with energy loss, fatigue and illness. This is part of how the body naturally redistributes its energy. I was more concerned with intimate touch of a caring kind — a stroke, being held, having company around me. When my energy started to return, so did my libido. It was a transitional moment to still be rather emaciated and sexually charged again.

When well and wanting to be sexual, I started to encounter all the shame and discrimination of being a sexual person with AIDS. So, it’s necessary to come to terms with shaming and to fight discrimination and fight for the right to be sexual, but, more importantly, to develop a healthy sexual identity within that toxic environment. And that affects libido.

Also, with body shape changes — because our culture focuses on the physical form rather than the erotic form — there is work to do in regard to oneself as a sexual, attractive person. One of the things that shame, discrimination and doubt about self-attractiveness do is close down the heart centre, the place that sends out our openness or closed-ness. When we close down that part of us, our erotic energy gets trapped and doesn’t become part of what people feel when we’re around, so we come across as being distant and cut off.

The other thing is that the combination of HIV and meds can change the body’s sexual functioning. One of the things that happened to me was the loss of ejaculation. Doctors with whom I discussed this did not know how to handle it. Ejaculation is related to energy and trust and a number of things, so that was a big identity issue for me as well.

It became very powerful for me to move into a school of the erotic arts and into a healing context where my sexual self as a person with HIV is celebrated. It was incredibly astounding to come across an environment where sexuality and erotic health is taught and cultivated and participants are challenged to explore and discover. That transformed all of those HIV experiences of sexual shame and discrimination. The school had a very good political and health-oriented approach to HIV and sexuality, which absolutely accommodated and promoted sexuality and erotic health within a framework of HIV.

Why is erotic health so important to you?

My erotic health is as important as all other aspects of my health. I view this also from a spiritual place. The spiritual aspects of erotic life lay strongly in a belief system that sexuality is holy and that the body has its own intelligence and will guide us to states of pleasure that are meant to be and that are part of creation. Few of us have grown up with this belief system.

Many PHAs have energy problems, so accessing all energy sources — including erotic energy — is important. I put a lot of attention into my breathing, especially into the lower part of my body and pelvic / genital area. This is important for heightened erotic states and is interconnected with my meditation and physical exercise, which keep my body as something I respect and treasure and keep my energy moving well.

How has your sex life been affected by all this?

When I have sex with somebody now, it’s much more exciting and much more conscious. It’s important for me to have some kind of heart or personal connection with somebody and then to be very experimental and exploratory and to take time — to make it magnificent and sensual and to discover with somebody not in a rush what can be opened up within the body, to find out what is exciting, what is pleasurable, and to breathe. It means being able to ride the wave and to experience ecstatic forms of pleasure.

Erotic health has taken me to a redefinition of what intimacy is about. It is important to have intimacy with oneself in order to be able to share it with other people. And erotic well being does not have to be confined. For example, I have a couple of people in my life with whom I exchange erotic massages. Like many gay men, I grew up believing that the purpose of sex was to reach an ejaculation. Now I see it much more in terms of sensual and erotic energy.

Safer sex in large part has been characterized as less erotic. It’s quite often characterized as don’t. I’ve discovered that there are multiple possibilities of reaching intensely ecstatic states — all of which I didn’t know about before and all of which are completely safe. The whole notion of “barriers” gets exchanged for “permissions,” “possibilities” and “discovery.” That’s a big shift for me. It’s not important to me now to have such a limited concept of what it is to be HIV, horny, excited, hot, ecstatic, safe, and sharing that with somebody. The whole notion of living with HIV and being sexually active has shifted.

Do you have any advice for people who would like to explore their erotic selves?

Unplug the phone, create a sensual place at home, get some oils, and start stroking your body and breathing attentively and noticing the sensations… and go with that.

There are a number of places in North America that do weekend workshops on erotic well being. Through Body Electric, people can begin the journey that I began some years ago. Within one weekend there’s a transformation of awareness. It took one day for me to increase my awareness of improved meaningful erotic and sensual experience.

There are a number of books on gay spirituality including sexuality. However, few of our health resources acknowledge and work with PHAs and our sexual healing. This is a huge, shadowy silence, especially because HIV is intimately woven into our sexuality. What better people to explore sexual heights than people with HIV.

  • For spiritual erotic work: Tantra for Gay Men by Bruce Anderson; Desire by Daniel Odier.
  • To challenge society’s way of understanding sexuality and eroticism: Erotic Justice: A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality by Marvin M. Ellison.
  • For gay men to move toward healthier identities: Gay Warrior by Fickey and Grimm.
  • For multiple resources on eroticism: www.bodyelectric.com
  • For tender touch: The New Sensual Massage by Gordon Inkeles.
  • For toys: Go to an erotic store or search the Internet. Follow your intuition and experiment. Treat your body and treat it well.

GO TO:
Introduction
Sexual Healing: Interview with Liz Welkert
Sexual Healing: Interview with Stephen Frey
Sexual Healing: Interview with Danielle Layman-Pleet
Sexual Healing: 8 Experts Talk Sex

 

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