And now that she’s taken this step, even appearing on the cover of her own magazine, Hofmann wonders whether she’ll still have control of her life. “My PR firm and my boss want me to be a certain way . . . ” she says. She doesn’t want our photographers in her home—she lives in a barn that’s heated by a wood-burning stove with sheepskin rugs on the floor and a view of a scrubby field that’s home to five horses and an aged Shetland pony. When we go to the bar, she asks that I not mention the name. “I’ve never been a public person,” she says. “I’m just trying to keep a place where I’m safe and off the radar.”
And she certainly doesn’t want to talk about the man who infected her, who died in 2004. “Maybe because some journalist’s reaction would be to twist it into some titillating tale of I don’t know what, but trying to make it less about the issues and more about my particular story,” she says. And she has a point, of course: CDM hired her because she had the experience to edit a magazine and expand Poz.com. It’s hardly even available on the newsstands anymore; almost all of its 115,000 copies are given away in clinics.
It can’t be the magazine Strub started anymore. “There were certain kinds of stories that we had access to before they became sort of well known,” says Armstrong. “Because we were either living them or we had our ear to the ground in the community. Like the barebacking story, which was probably the most publicized cover story we ever had.” “Boys Who Bareback,” in February 1999, was certainly buzzy: An HIV-positive escort and porn star named Tony Valenzuela was profiled sympathetically (and pictured, gorgeous and naked, leading a horse) by Strub’s business partner Stephen Gendin, who died a year later of aids. An accompanying piece went to a barebacking party and quoted a “gift-giver” (a positive person who intentionally infects a negative person). There was a safer-barebacking sidebar. And though in no way did the magazine recommend the practice, many in the aids community still blame the magazine for somehow legitimizing it.
When our photo department called for the cover to be included in the timeline that precedes this article, Hofmann called back immediately, worrying that it was for this profile—that the “boldness” of that era would reflect poorly on her more inclusive magazine for women and “teenagers in Ohio.” “Everyone just takes the disease back to that—gay men are wild and promiscuous. That’s why we have the stigma. It’s such a tiny part of the disease, and of gay men,” she says.
“We’re worlds away from that now. We’re not a gay-lifestyle magazine.”