Content warning: These are unfiltered accounts of people's personal experiences and there are graphic descriptions of symptoms of physical and mental experiences with monkeypox (mpox) that may be disturbing to read.
When I first heard news about mpox circulating in the 2S/LGBTQ+ community, a few of my friends expressed concern about me contracting it. As a sexually active queer person, I go out at least once or twice a month to the sauna in Montreal and, in the summer, I sometimes cruise parks two or three times a week. A few of my close friends are doctors or nurses working in 2S/LGBTQ+ clinics and they told me to pause my sexual activities until the mpox vaccine was available in Montreal.
I decided to limit my sexual activities to a few people I know who were being careful, because I was very afraid to contract the virus. Over the course of two-and-a-half weeks, I only saw three guys. Two of them were regulars, and one of them contacted me the day after I had a mpox test to tell me that he had it. The reason I got tested was because I started to have spots on my penis. At first, I thought it was syphilis because I had tested positive for it back in April and the two spots on my penis were in the exact same place. After seeing a doctor who works at the Agora clinic in Montreal, he confirmed with me that it was indeed mpox.
Four days later my spots started to grow and hurt more, so I asked my doctor for medication. The pain was so intense that I had to get a prescription to help me sleep at night. I also had to take some time off at work because I wasn’t feeling mentally good (stressed about transmitting the virus to my co-workers or clients, or how the virus could develop) and I had a lot of symptoms (spots, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, headache, muscle aches). I isolated for three-and-a-half weeks and was only able to see my friends outside from a safe physical distance. The worst symptoms I had was during my last week. After a very good night's sleep, I woke up with a lot of spots on both my hands. It was very difficult to hold things or use my hands without any pain. The spots disappeared after five days, but I never knew what it was. It took five-and-a-half weeks for the wounds on my penis to disappear. Still today, I have a scar where my biggest wound was.
During all that time, the worst thing was not to be able to touch myself as I was healing. All the physical symptoms that I had were on my penis and I was so disgusted that I couldn't even look at it. I felt very isolated, and I missed a lot of activities with my friends—but not being able to relax while jerking off was the cherry on top! Now that I have recovered and feel more comfortable showing my penis, I can start having sex again but it’s not the same since having mpox. I realize that I’m way more careful about my sexual health than I used to be. Having mpox was definitely the worst sickness I’ve ever had.
Some of my friends or “friends with benefits” got mpox after me and I looked out for them. I felt so lucky to have the strong resources that my medical friends gave me that I had to share their contact info with those who need it. I also tried my very best to answer their questions.
In general, I don't really feel traumatized by the experience. I still have a little scar on my penis to remind me that I had it, but it’s not that much of a deal when I look at the size of it. I’ll definitely be able to live with it.
Gean G. has a master’s degree in classical music and works in sterilization at the University of Montreal’s dental faculty. Originally from Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, they have been active in Montreal's queer scene for 10 years.
For more information on how to protect or care for yourself when it comes to mpox, please click here.
[CBRC asked several folks who contracted mpox if they wanted to share their story, in the hopes of reducing stigma and providing much-needed firsthand information for our communities. We know not enough is being done to support people with mpox and we commend these folks for their bravery in choosing to share their experiences publicly.]