Alan Ezequiel Ruiz is 21, HIV-positive, and has divisive opinions on contemporary LGBT issues. It is not surprising that someone so young would be sorting through layered identity issues, but Ruiz often seems ahead of himself, taking hard stances and sharp turns on issues that engage many.
“I struggle with being gay still… I can’t stand gays,” Ruiz said. “But I can’t stand most people — most people are disappointing.”
When I met Ruiz on a Saturday, he was walking dogs in Midtown. As we talked, he mentioned plots to get rich and famous; and he was quick to say that he wasn’t afraid of anyone hearing anything. At one point, I reminded him he was on the record.
“Sweetie I don’t care. If someone who is paying my bills is listening to this, please excuse me,” Ruiz said.
I then asked him who was paying his bills.
“Nobody but me.”
Ruiz has lived in and around Ridgewood, Bushwick, and Maspeth since middle school, after his mom moved there for healthcare reasons.
“It’s disgusting, I’m surprised I got insurance here,” Ruiz said, adding that he wanted to be rich so that he could take care of his mom.
After Ruiz came out as gay, he moved with his mom to Ridgewood. He stayed in the neighborhood while attending high school for only two months. He then moved to Miami, to Long Island, and then Miami again where he would eventually graduate. Ruiz started working at a call center. He felt despondent.
“I just really, really hated it. I didn’t feel like I was thriving…Miami felt so small,” Ruiz told me. “I was alone in this world; I had to take care of myself.”
During this depression, Ruiz discovered he was HIV-positive. He had felt the symptoms for a while: it hurt to look around, an indication that his lymph nodes were swollen. A nurse practitioner at the call center where he worked confirmed his fears.
“’We’re not saying this because you’re gay but you may have HIV,’” Ruiz remembered the nurse saying. Ruiz vowed to kill himself if he had the virus.
“I know it’s not a death sentence… but it’s like a scarlet letter, you know?” Ruiz told me.
A week before he moved back to Ridgewood, Ruiz got the call he had feared: he was positive for HIV. He started medication a month after he arrived in New York, and then began dating a Long Island guy he met on the dating app Grindr.
“One of the biggest things was that he was the first person I’d been with since I found out I was positive,” Ruiz said as he slurped a spoonful of chicken noodle soup at a restaurant. “I kind of used him as an emotional crutch.”
Ruiz, who considers himself an “old soul,” says that the relationship failed because the guy was a sex addict.
“It was my first time trying to meet someone my own age. Honestly, never again,” Ruiz said. “He was sending my nudes to his ex!”
Since Ruiz has been in New York, he’s slept with four men, many of whom have lucrative jobs and nice apartments. Not one of them lives in Brooklyn.
I wondered if that meant Brooklyn guys were out.
“Not necessarily. I just haven’t given them a chance,” Ruiz said. “I date for money.”
“I remember my ex boyfriend — we’d been going out a year and four months — and for the last five months, I thought I was just gonna use him,” Ruiz told me. “But then I realized I wanted his companionship, too.”
“Basically, I’m a social climber, what can I say?” Ruined said, pausing for a beat. “Honestly, I have a plan to rule the world. World domination.”