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April 7th, 2010

Did the Bareback Time Machine kill Chad Noel?

Among the many online condolences to the family of Chad Noel (“Jim and Bonnie, so sorry to hear of the loss of your son…”) are glimpses of the boy this young man was, while growing up in the ironic hometown of Laramie, Wyoming (where Matthew Shepard lived and perished). Noel, 25, died last month, reportedly of AIDS-related complications.

Chad Noel“I remember him playing with me in my pretend kitchen and being one of the only boys to not pick on me,” writes Kendra of her gay adolescent friend on the Laramie Boomerang’s online obituary page. “Chad was my Senior Prom date, it was truly one of the funnest nights of my life,” adds Rebecca. Reminiscences of his smile and humor abound in posted comments under his one-sentence death notice.

Little did Rebecca know that her date would quickly become gay porn actor Donny Price (why is everyone who does a porn film a STAR?). Very quickly, in fact. He was only 18 years old when he made his first video for a studio specializing in scenes of unprotected sex (known as barebacking).

And now, seven years later, the young man is dead of AIDS. How very 1985.

Certainly it couldn’t be as simple as this. There must have been co-factors, such as his refusal to get tested, perhaps, or take HIV medications. My experience with addiction makes me suspect crystal meth abuse, a raging epidemic of its own among sexually active gay men. An overdose, maybe? ( The Noel family was awaiting autopsy results when the obituary appeared last week.) Something, anything that would explain how a young man would put himself continually at risk for a lethal virus without accessing potentially life-saving treatments, and all the while flaunting his disregard in front of cameras for the carnal delight of others.

Already the online debate on barebacking and even serosorting (seeking out sexual partners who share your HIV status) has been reignited. The fingers of gay activists and public health advocates are being waved, pointed and poked over what prevention technique has failed and which gay cultural defect is to blame.

Has my gay community longed for a pre-AIDS sexual reality so desperately that treatment advances have swept us back to a time when unprotected sex was without horrific consequences? Has porn made barebacking such a fetish that “use a condom every time” can’t compete with oily close-ups of condomless sex? Have advocates like me treated risky behavior among gay men with kid gloves, too easily attributing unsafe sex to “a search for intimacy” or a “post-AIDS mentality?”

Barely legal age, Chad Noel bought into it all. He’d never known a world without HIV and yet it was invisible to him, unacknowledged by his sexual choices or perhaps mocked by them. He was screwing in a time machine and partying like it was 1989. He died like it, too.

Chad was just out of high school when his fatal sexual destiny was set into motion, so the online condolences are primarily from classmates. The messages read like yearbook autographs, some from boys but mostly girls to whom he was kind. “Lost boy goes home,” signs Morgan. Chad was adrift indeed, perhaps unknowingly, in the confusion of sexual maturity and decision making.

Nothing in his short life, and no one it seems, led him to safe ground.

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5 Responses to “Did the Bareback Time Machine kill Chad Noel?”

  1. Robert Meek Says:

    April 7th, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Several thoughts, Mark.

    My “ex” used to whine that he didn’t understand why he was resistant to all categories of HIV meds. (He refused to try PIs, anything he had to “inject” no matter what.) His variables, some drugging, drinking, AIDS age 17, 2 decades, or so, of constant unsafe sex. He refused condoms 100%.

    Do I have room to talk? I don’t know. I was 44 when I was diagnosed, a RN. What did I do? I repeatedly trusted someone who had, over 15 years, proven to not be trustworthy. I believes he was “only doing safe sex” when we both knew he was thoroughly non-monogamous into BDSM. About 6 months before he left me, I found out he was not being “safe” at all. About 6 months after he left me, I tested positive for the first time in my life. I cannot help but feel, having been a RN for 20 years at that time, that I should have been more – cautious.

    I cannot forget the 25 year old African-American college student, who had a fetish for older men, who went from online to on phone with me, and wanted to meet. I tried to nicely discourage him, for lack of interest in being tangled with someone 2 decades younger that I was.

    Not to be discouraged easily, I resorted to telling him “I have HIV,” hoping to drive him away. (Since I did, I had no problem with disclosure.) His response: “You can get rid of that, right?” He was not kidding.

    Educated in “private Christian” grade school & high school, having already lived an entire 25 years that it was in the media, here on this planet, in even this state, he thought it was curable.

    I am at a lost as to how to lead anyone to safe ground.

  2. Rick Says:

    May 10th, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Its so sad that chad died so young.
    Sure do hope that a cure is found soon.
    I heard that some of my high school classmates died from Aids.

  3. Casper Says:

    November 27th, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    A cupple of years ago i saw Chad in a scene in Hotstuds, i almost feel in love with him, he was sooo Pretty and had a sweet spirit, i wish i have known him in real life, i am actually sad to know that he died…..

    May you Rest In Peace Chad Noel.

    From Casper in Denmark.

  4. mike Says:

    March 7th, 2011 at 3:24 am

    he chose his life, and in that he chose his death, we have a right to make choices ?

    I have no sympathy for men whom fuck each other for money..

  5. Adrian Says:

    June 20th, 2012 at 2:57 am

    You sound like the right wing TV commentator in “Airplane”. How callous. And how “holier than thou” can you get? Yes he made his choices, but I made a lot of poor choices at his age – and probably still do. And I bet you’ve made your fair share too.

    (As Marshall McLuhan famously said in Annie Hall, “You know nothing of my work.” Any casual reader of my blog will assure you that my own faults are regularly laid bare for all to see. More to your point, however, is that my intention in this posting is to make the sad observation that this young man was adrift in a gay male culture that valued his body more than his spirit, and no one led him to safe ground. This isn’t about judging gay porn, really, and my other writings bear that out. — Mark)

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