I was back in Toronto for a month, visiting my partner, Jon, after traveling through Europe. Three weeks into the visit, I felt a discomfort in my urethra and had a discharge. I immediately assumed that it was chlamydia because I had it two months prior, and it felt exactly the same. It was awful; I'd required a couple of rounds of treatment before it finally went away. I never had chlamydia before so it seemed strange to get it again so soon (if that’s what it was). I felt bad because I half wondered whether I got it from Jon. I knew that the infection could be asymptomatic so it wasn't impossible.
As days passed, the symptoms got worse and Jon tried to have sex with me. I wasn’t quite sure whether it was chlamydia or just a temporary discomfort, so I didn’t want to say anything yet. I told him that I wasn’t in the mood for sex. He tried again the day after that but then I claimed to be too tired. I knew that he took it personally, assuming that I didn’t want to have sex with him, which was furthest thing from the truth. I just wasn’t feeling sexy.
I was living in Berlin when I first got it. Jon came to visit during that time so I immediately explained that we couldn’t have sex because of it. I’d been tested and there was no doubt that it was chlamydia. It made me feel pretty slutty, to be honest. I’m normally not down on myself like that, not about STIs. They’re a part of any active sex life and so on, but I was so bummed that we couldn’t have sex that I blamed myself for it.
Of course, he couldn’t have been more understanding. That's the sort of guy he was. We were in an open relationship and so he claimed that these things happen, which they do. He also said that sex wasn’t the only reason that he'd visited; he was very happy to just spend time with me, which meant a lot. Towards the end of the trip we had sex anyway. We couldn't not, and it felt like the symptoms went away for the most part. It was more his idea and I was horny. I couldn't help but wonder though: what if he had gotten it that time, was now asymptomatic and just passed it back to me?
By Saturday I concluded that it was no doubt chlamydia, and I would need to go to the hassle free to get tested. On Sunday night when Jon attempted to have sex, I finally said, “My penis feels weird again.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, remember in Berlin? Kind of like that. I have to go to the clinic tomorrow.”
Funny thing was, he seemed somewhat relieved about my confession, perhaps because I was right: he thought this whole time that I just didn’t want to have sex with him. So I said: “I wasn’t sure what was going on down there. I didn’t think it was a good idea to have sex.”
I suggested that he too go to the clinic. “If I have chlamydia then you do too. We've been having sex for the last few weeks. Who knows, maybe we’ve been passing it back-and-forth.” He didn’t disagree, and said that he would early in the week like it was nothing. He was so cool about it that it made me feel silly for making such a big deal of the whole thing.
When I went to the clinic on Monday, I explained the whole situation to the nurse: how I'd had chlamydia a few months ago and suspected that it was back. I admitted that I wasn’t sure if I’d originally given it to Jon, and whether he was now asymptomatic. “I was careful not to blame him,” I said.
“It’s not about blame,” she said. “It’s possible. He should get tested.”
While I was there, I asked to be tested for everything, insisting on a throat and anal swab as well, which she wasn’t going to do otherwise. She asked whether I wanted Doxycycline just in case it was chlamydia. "Sure," I said. "May as well."
Wanting to normalize conversations about STIs, I called Jon once I was done there. “Make sure that when you go, you ask for a throat and anal swab,” I explained. “They won't do it unless you ask.”
“Anal swab?” He laughed. “How far did she stick it in?”
“I did it myself. She said about an inch or two. I don’t know, I just shoved it in deep.”
I felt lucky to have somebody as understanding as Jon. Whether I gave chlamydia to him or him back to me, it didn’t matter. We were honest with each other and more importantly we were in it together. Blame really does nothing to help the situation—talking about it, and getting tested and treated does.
By Mike Miksche - Mike's work has appeared in Instinct, The Gay and Lesbian Review and Daily Xtra. His first novel, “Paris Demands” is out now by Lethe Press.
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