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Facebook Put My Life Together Again

Today I accepted the Facebook friend request of someone I knew in high school. We haven’t spoken in more than thirty years. She is married with a load of kids, and God knows why she wants to befriend the scandalous queer who wore knee-high platform boots to the junior dance in our home town of Bossier City, Louisiana.

Facebook dirty logoI did what I always do. I accepted her request and included a link to My Fabulous Disease, labeled as a blog chronicling my life “as an HIV positive gay man in recovery from drug addiction.” Based on past experience, I’m unlikely to hear from her again, and that’s okay.

For most of my life, I’ve kept my social circles far away from one another. The family section never mixed with the gay contingent. These segments were then dissected into those who knew my HIV status and those who did not, which were then divided by whether or not they knew I did comedy drag, and then finally separated into those who knew I did (a lot of) drugs, and those who did not.

When I finally put a stop to my exhausting existence of lies and fakery that accompanied my drug addiction, I knew that in order to live a life of integrity I would need to be the same Mark for every person in my life. No more masks or crafting my personality to suit the audience.

Facebook 2Then I joined Facebook, which allowed me to invite all of these segments into one pool of friendship. My nephew would see my posting about my HIV treatments. My AIDS work colleagues would be treated to videos of me in drag. My friends in recovery would post encouraging words about our shared disease of addiction, and all of this would happily exist on my profile page alongside my nephew’s picture of his baby boy.

Facebook has allowed me to tell the truth again. It has shown me how to be authentic and the same person to everyone in the various corners of my life. Becoming a whole person again cannot be understated. After many years of deceit and hiding out from one group or another, Facebook presented an exercise in transparency that has saved me from the counterfeit personas I relied upon for most of my adult life.

With all the excitement and hype about Google+, I know it’s a format I will never embrace, because it promotes a feature that allows you to separate the people in your life into “circles.” They trumpet this as a real innovation, but it would be a huge step back in my personal development.

I need all the positive structure I can get. Overcoming my addictive nature is still a work in progress, and sometimes my insecurities can still find their way into my Facebook life.

Facebook logo 2I scan every posted update from hundreds of friends, “liking” with consistent generosity. Anyone who wants to be my friend makes the cut, except for the Eastern bloc hoochie mammas that sometimes come calling. Do they knock on your Facebook door, too? They show far too much boob in their photo and love older men and “hanging out.”

Men on Facebook who show too much boob, well, they mostly get a pass. But beware of those who are always shirtless, and their friends are always shirtless, and so on. We’re not talking “at the beach” pictures, but holding-the-iPhone-aloft-in-front-of-the-bathroom-mirror type pictures. If you can’t ask a friend to take a shirtless picture of you, I figure you must be up to no good.

My OCD still sneaks out, and it adores Facebook. Someone might post a picture and I look at it and then I start browsing their other pictures and one of them has some interesting guy I don’t know and so I click on his profile and check out his pictures and stare at his many friends whom I do not know and carefully scan their photo album of a very nice dinner at a restaurant I have never heard of in a city I’ve never visited, and then notice some fabulous pictures of a birthday party for an adorable complete stranger and decide to look at the pictures of each and every birthday party guest and then I look up and it’s one o’clock in the fucking morning.

These behaviors are sometimes slow to change. I’m working on it. In the meantime, you can always friend me. What you see is exactly who I am.

“Dirty Facebook Logo” design by Hawk Style Design.



Jail photoA little sanity may finally be entering the arena of laws and prosecution of people living with HIV for not disclosing their HIV status to partners (even though, in many cases in which people are in jail, there was no transmission and protection was often used). A blog posting at Housing Works reports that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is introducing a bill that would require a review of all federal and state laws and policies regarding criminalizing people with HIV. This maddening issue was the topic of my conversation with Sean Strub last year, and it’s about damn time that legislative action (of the sensible variety) is being taken. “Thirty-four states and two U.S. territories have statutes that penalize HIV exposure” says the Housing Works piece. “While their supporters claim these policies protect the public health, evidence shows they do more harm than good.”




  1. Mark August 9, 2011 at 7:39 am


    Here’s a recent article from Michigan that has been picked up nationally regarding Rep. Lee’s bill on HIV criminalization.


  2. Brad Marema August 9, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Thank you for always making me laugh. I really love your authentisity and your posts. You have been an inspiration to me as well in my fight against both AIDS and Addiction. It’s always a pleasure to have you around.


  3. Charles August 9, 2011 at 9:32 am

    What a great article! Perfect insight into why Google+ asks you to compartmentalize your life—tell one group one thing and another group something else—then having to remember what you told to whom! In other words, Google+ is a mirror of our lives. What a tremendous burden must be lifted when you can be open and honest about your life to everyone (I’m still working on that!). Bravo Mark!

  4. Marna August 9, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Great piece, Mark, and just one more example of why I adore you! Your OCD paragraph cracked me up (and I can relate!), but the entire thing is so well done, just as I’ve come to expect from you. (And look out now … I’m going to “friend” you)

  5. Dianna August 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    You remain one of the most talented men I have ever known. I love seeing you from time to time on FB and reading your blog. If we were in the same city I would so enjoy getting to know the man you have become. You always make me laugh my friend. Stay strong, every day is a new day to sprinkle your unique magic and make the world a better place.
    Much Love,
    Dianna Kemp Nussbaum

  6. Denise DeGraw Fey August 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Mark, I am touched by your sincerety and openness and can assure you that there are more people in this crazy world of
    ours that will embrace you than dismiss you!! By allowing family and friends to know the real you will free you to be Mark.. Real, human, damaged, precious, lovable, and I am sure silly Mark!! Keep living…Keep growing….Keep smiling….I look forward to being your “Friend”!! Denise

  7. Lain August 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    The Facebook Fix! I Love it Mark, thank you.

  8. sharon guccione August 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    mark, even though not know personally, I have respect for you!!

  9. Vic August 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    You can use Google+ the same way. Simply put all your contacts in one big circle.

  10. Sam August 10, 2011 at 7:02 am

    Dude, the OCD part of your blog made me laugh so loud I think I scared my dog. Seriously, though, I appreciate the thoughts you shared about presenting the same person to all people. This is something difficult to do. I show a different side of myself to the few family members I still talk to, and it pains me sometimes. But that’s as much their deal as mine, as they don’t want to hear anything about my “gay lifestyle.” To deal with this frustration when I am around my close friends I sometimes act like I’m 19 again, and dig at my crotch and say really lame things to get attention. Fortunately I don’t do this in public too much. But sometimes when I am nervous or angry, I feel my hand moving down. This sounds ridiculous, I know. But when I act out this way I think it’s because when I grab my tallywacker I feel at least one thing makes sense in the crazy world. I am trying to let this behavior/reaction to the world go the way some are trying to let go of drugs and alcohol. It’s all the same thing, I suppose. And we all need to love ourselves a little bit more, that’s for sure. Peace

  11. Joe August 10, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Another great post Mark – thank you. Your v-blog on how to save money on meds was fabulous too!

  12. Claude August 10, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Hey Mark,
    I really like your take on the whole facebook versus google+ thing. Even though I love google for all the services they are offering me, I never looked at google+ in the way you are suggesting but I am realizing that it’s the truth for us addicts. I am very open on facebook about whatever I want to say or feel. Hell, I even admitted that I am struggling with my mental illness at the the moment…. I am very grateful for your view because I never thought about it that way. I usually post my thoughts publicly on google + and if someone doesn’tike what I write that is their problem. But maybe facebook is better then google+ for this dually diagnosed recovering addict….
    Thank you for your perspective on this.

  13. Subversive Librarian August 10, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Huh. You’ve given me some food for thought. I confess, I currently have a couple of FB friends blocked from seeing my status or my blog. I need to think that through.

    In the meantime, I’m going to re-read your truly excellent run-on sentence. It’s almost as fabulous as you are.

  14. Renee Malick August 11, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I’m taking you up on the friend request….no boobs, I promise!

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