I want to share something with you. Something about a proposal—a flash mob proposal with three million views that I was lucky enough to participate in.
Thankfully, I was hidden behind a sign bawling my eyes out; and while normally I wouldn’t be more than the usual level of fired up to see one of my dearest friends and his partner get engaged, these two mean more to our community than most.
Jared Marinelli and Adam Keller, two JoyRide cycling instructors from Connecticut, are in a mixed-status relationship. Jared, like me, is HIV positive and Adam, who is negative, is currently on PrEP (a combination of medicines that HIV negative people can take to prevent the spread of the virus).
#TeamJadam is the story of love in the face of challenge, love in the face of stigma and love in the face of judgement. I’ve witnessed firsthand the everyday mindfulness these two bring to both their relationship and their spin classes, making themselves and the community around them stronger and more inspired.
Think of all the times we’ve been scared to share a deep secret because we were sure it would make us “damaged goods.” Think of all the times we’ve struggled with self-doubt in our relationships. But when I watched this proposal, I realized we can all bring the same raw, unfiltered willingness to share our hearts and put ourselves out there to the table as they have, but only if our foundation is honesty and mindful action.
As a gay man, HIV touched my life long before my diagnosis. Whether you are positive or negative, LGBT or straight, what Jared and Adam represent is a lesson in how to come to love without prejudice.
In the mindfulness and meditation community, we talk about being present, open and honest with ourselves and our partners. And in my personal practice, I’ve done a fair bit of contemplation on the heart sutra—something that stands at the core of Jared and Adam’s message.
One line of the sutra talks of removing the walls of the mind. Loving consciously is all about removing those same walls that build up around the heart’s mind. This couple shows us that if we put aside the fear of not meeting all the requirements on our “Ideal Mate Checklist” (health, income, family, geography), we might find the love of our lives.
I’ve felt doomed by my status before. And doomed by my cerebral palsy when I was a kid. But when I see couples like Jared and Adam who deal with their chronic condition every day and choose to live life in the fullest and most present moment, I see that my struggle isn’t a sign that I’m damaged, but rather a sign that I’m just a human looking for another human to love. What closes me off to progress is my own fear.
I see partners like Adam, choosing to be empowered, informed and loving in spite of daily challenges. I feel hopeful that one day I will find my Adam—someone who will love me for me and take steps to put their own fears to rest.
Jared and Adam have made a career out of helping others reach their physical and mental potential. With this new chapter in their lives, they can further be beacons of positivity by inspiring us to reexamine what we look for in a partner and let go of fear.
The fact is, HIV has gone from a death sentence to a chronic, but manageable, condition in just a few decades. But attitudes haven’t always kept up. Stigma against those with HIV and AIDS persists and for many people it is the sole reason that keeps them from getting tested or attempting to find love—fear of rejection.
By standing with Team Jadam and celebrating the beauty of their commitment to each other as an outspoken, mixed-status couple, we get to watch love evolve. By learning from them, we can watch stigma dissolve. By bringing that willingness to love openly into our practice, we can refresh our hearts and recalibrate our awareness to our own prejudices and fears.
For me, I’ve learned that through education and compassion, I can choose to be open about who I have the capacity to love. And I’ve also learned a vital lesson in hope; hope for a future free of self-inflicted stigma, where all types of love is celebrated.
Author: Jonathan-Joseph Ganjian
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: YouTube screenshot