When Asked: Do Tell


People know when they are hearing a Lie.

They know.

They may not know that what they are hearing is a Lie, but they know something’s amiss. At a subliminal, virtually pheromonal level, something just doesn’t seem to fit.

The longer the Lie remains told…the longer the absence of Truth extends and the more woven into the teller’s tale that Lie becomes, the more undermined becomes the credibility of the teller.

Thus, now is a good time to eradicate a fundamental Lie for which I am responsible.

The Real Reason I Left Dubai.

In 2014, when the company under whose auspices I was consulting for Meraas in Dubai parted ways with Meraas, I was offered an excellent, Executive Position at Meraas in order that I might continue with the project. And by “excellent,” I mean pretty darn good.

I declined the job.

In the face of the resultant chagrin, consternation, confusion (and ultimately rancorous burned bridge) of the Powers that Be at Meraas, the reason I gave them – that I’d love to do the job, but remain as a consultant to the company rather than become an employee – just didn’t make sense.

It didn’t make sense; because it wasn’t true.

More money, health insurance, living and travel allowance, all the benefits of working for one of the biggest companies in the UAE were offered me and I declined; saying I wanted the “freedom of consultancy” and the “security” of position and reporting structure inherent in a consulting  contract.

(I know: that sounds like bullshit…because it is bullshit. Yet that is the story I attempted to sell.)

Ultimately, my sense (since confirmed) was that the declination was taken personally and I was dismissed as any sort of viable option; subsequently and repeatedly rejected for subcontracting opportunities for having taken action that was nonsensical and offensive.

I remained in Dubai for another 18 months or so, seeking to build a freelance business with Show and Event agencies; a few of which opened conversations with me in exploration of full-time positions.

Again, my response was that I’d rather remain freelance and only take on projects for which I am especially qualified; therefore circumventing the perceived need to do work I didn’t particularly like in order to justify my part of the overhead.

Again with the bullshit.

The fact is that; in order to work for a company based in the UAE, one must apply for and receive a Resident Visa. Part of that process is a blood test.

It is illegal to be HIV+ in the UAE.

Not only would I not be granted said Visa; I would have immediately been deported due to the status of my blood, once the results were in.

Having HIV is a Very Big Deal in Dubai, and flying under the radar on successive 30-day tourist visas is not only illegal in and of itself; but exerts an insidiously powerful stress on an individual. Knowing that a visit to a doctor could result in deportation – thus fearing everything from car wrecks to kitchen accidents – offers a deep-seated unease and distressing absence of simple security that can be profoundly draining and affect simple day-to-day activities and relationships…and attitudes.


That’s another thing. One cannot share this extremely important and personal fact with one’s closest friends, with people who care for one and for whom one cares, as the knowledge begets responsibility to report said fact. Far too much unfair pressure to put on a friend or on a friendship.

Ergo, one carries all this secretive pressure inside. Alone. Fearing even to email or SMS to anyone anything that could possibly alert Any Conceivable Censors (not that emails are scanned or anything, over there) to the fact of one’s illegality.

Then, there is the problem of obtaining one’s meds. Once my contract with the US-based company for which I was working was gone, so were my quarterly trips to the US; rendering me unable to pick up my quarterly supply of the critical drugs that had kept my status at Undetectable for so many years.

These drugs can’t be mailed or shipped and are technically illegal to bring into the country; they can only be smuggled. (Fortunately, middle-aged white guys don’t find their bags being searched, so often.)

As it unfolded, I had to go without my meds for the final six months I was in Dubai. I could not monitor my blood, of course, and had no idea what the effect of ceasing the protocol might be on my own health.

You want stress? I’ll give you Stress…

So, I came home.

[Note: Fortunately, within six weeks of returning to San Francisco and access to medicine, I am again completely undetectable; a testament to a foundation of years of rigorous attention to the protocol.]

So now, the previously-unasked “…how come everyone who goes to Dubai makes a ton of money except for you” question has an answer.

This is why I came home; for access to full health care and to work from here. Still working everywhere but necessarily selective about where I can work and to where I can travel while so much of the world still operates under archaic if not draconian laws – based in fear and ignorance.

Whither a solution?

This anecdote, though personal to me, is of importance to our entire industry.

I dare say that there are scores if not more expat employees faced with similar dilemma throughout the world.

This is an issue that I believe the officers of our industry – operating as Global Business Citizens – are beholden to employees to address.

Recently, I was offered a dream job. A massive spectrum of responsibility for a set of IP’s that I heartily embrace – work that speaks to my barely post-adolescent fanboy id as well as my type-A Creative Producer / Project Manager self.

I wanted this job; but…it represented 18 months in Malaysia.

While the rules in that part of the world aren’t as severe as those of the UAE in this respect; the fact is that the laws on the books provide for rejection of HIV+ individuals for residential visas. To be sure; these laws are selectively applied – with White and Western Privilege holding great sway. But, the laws remain in place.

It is apparently quite easy for Western Professionals to remain under the radar in Malaysia, as long as doctors are selected carefully; but it is still against the law. With such laws on the books, any change in local or international political relationships could alter the level of enforcement.

Again; absence of security begets absence of freakin’ security.

So there’s that: and the legal / logistical obstacles and hurdles inherent in actually, dependably obtaining meds in Malaysia.

I was completely open with the Director for whom I’d be working, who was offering me this job; candid about my experience in Dubai and the concern I had for security of job, residence and medication. He was aggressively supportive and bent over backward to make this work.

The problem being that ultimately, despite all conceivable workarounds, it is technically illegal.

And babe, “technically illegal” remains illegal. I simply do not want to “go there.”

Further, were I to have taken the job, I would have had to:

  • Carry an additional (to the company policy in Malaysia) insurance policy in the US in order to cover and obtain my meds in the US. My protocol are not even yet available in Malaysia. This could cost me as much as an additional $600 or $700 a month.
  • Get myself to the US at least every three months, if not every 2 – depending on what my insurance would support – in order to get the meds. This is not something for which my employer would (or should have to) pay.
  • OR
  • Have a friend pick up my meds, get those meds to someone who works for my employer and is traveling to Malaysia to carry and smuggle through customs. Illegal.

See where we’re going, here?

The hiring company, the LGBTQ organizations in Malaysia and HIV communities in that country all were encouraging to me in that there are ways to “make it work.” None of them are entirely legal.

This, IMHO, is a conversation to be had at Corporate / Government levels. This is not a problem for individual employees, prospective employees and the informal local networks of hiring officers, managers and co-workers to manage via some sort of Underground Railroad.

It’s a big deal. There’s no telling how many employees or prospective employees throughout Asia, Arabia and beyond are working with, through or under this anxiety-producing dilemma…or are simply not taking the jobs due to the risk.

Money talks. 

As business is growing exponentially in these parts of the world, we call upon our business leaders to not only be aware of this but to address it in negotiating contracts with foreign governments; right there on the list with taxes, sanctions, land and water rights, and all the other little legislative favors that are effected at city, state, regional and national levels.

There is plenty of research, plenty of data and there are plenty of doctors available to accompany your accountants and lawyers and executives to these meetings. Take some along with ya. Get this cleared up.

So. That’s why I came home. Certainly willing and still seeking to continue to work all over the world; just not willing to flout local laws in order to do it.


[As it happens, “IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” is still a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. Free. Read it. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/imho/id555219645?mt=11 ]