But a closer inspection reveals there is more behind these men than their shy smiles and adamantine abs. They are lovers, partners and self-described small town country boys. In 2010 they became role models for sexual and physical health when they graced the cover of Instinct Magazine to publicly announce that Matt was HIV positive and that they were living a serodiscordant partnership (Serodiscordant relationships essentially include partners where one is HIV-positive and the other HIV-negative).
Matt and Cameron manage to remain grounded and humble to their rural roots despite their recent publicity within the realm of gay men’s media. The couple recently relocated to San Diego from St. Louis but when asked about Missouri Matt becomes instantly nostalgic.
I miss home every day and I think about it everyday. My heart and soul are there and it’s where I have peace. I would run back to it if I ever needed that moment of sanctuary.
Their relationship began here in St. Louis when the two met each other at The Complex. It was 2003 and Matt had already been living openly with HIV for three years. Cameron was a fresh face from Arkansas who just beginning to understand and accept his own sexuality.
I wasn’t “out” in college or when I came to St. Louis. I was still unsure of myself so when I would go to the clubs a lot of people knew me as the shy guy in the corner.
His shyness instantly caught Matt’s attention. An introduction was made and a strange spark of energy was born. That spark led them to make plans to see each other again and with that Matt knew he could only be honest with Cameron about his status.
I was openly positive with people so the St. Louis community knew me as an HIV-positive person. I knew if I wanted to have the next step with a boyfriend I had to be honest with myself and people. I told Cameron the next night. I wanted to lay it on the table because I didn’t want him to even begin to know me without knowing my status.
I honestly had not known anyone with HIV. I had no experience with any of it so when he did mention his status I was taken back but at the same time I have never been the type of person to run away from something I didn’t know about. He was up front and honest and that brings a lot of respect for me. When he told me, I had to go to work but I had this on my mind. At the same time there was something about Matt and his honesty that just drew me back to him. I wanted to know more about who he was and it drove me to seek out more knowledge about HIV.
From there the two decided to approach the relationship slow.
It wasn’t about commitment at all. It wasn’t even about sex. It was a year of us getting to know one another and truly understanding who we were. It was more of a natural progression where we became friends.
Their friendship became a bond that both say is built on honest communication and kindred love. It was that love and their sparks of positive energy that fueled their desire to become more than just your average fitness or fashion models. They want their story and their relationship to inspire others to embrace all the possibilities of life with no fears even if HIV happens to be a part of that life.
I want to break through that fear around HIV and allow people to talk openly about it. If we can start there with honest communication then that is a start period. The stigma that I would like to break down is that you can still have a loving, trusting and beautiful relationship. I think that with the fear and all that comes with HIV it can keep someone from having those things because of fear and ignorance. Okay, so you are positive. Nothing can change this but people will still love you.
When Matt and I started dating some people saw me going into a relationship with someone who is positive so they assumed I would become positive and that’s not true. We can love and have sex and push boundaries and still be safe and protected.
Matt and Cameron’s personal message of health and wellness boils down to honesty and self-respect. They challenge others around them to enter the universe with the power of positive thinking and honest communication.
Stop for a moment and put your life into perspective. It took me until I was in my thirties for me to actually get to a place in my life where I feel that I know myself now. It may be my own self-growth as a man or with my relationship but it took me until 34 to talk to Cameron about my hidden fantasies. It is being able to communicate everything from a relationship to disclosing HIV to your fantasies. Take yourself into consideration and be honest with yourself. But most importantly, love yourself.
When you look again at those beautiful boys on the cover you may still see a cluster of muscles, broad shoulders and firm abs. Their bodies will still drive one’s mind into wet fantasies of blue bliss. But ultimately they are simple, humble beauties who are living their lives with a degree of dignity and integrity born from rural roots. They see the potential for true beauty in this world and they’ll work to make it well.
BY: JOSHUA BARTON