Five things that men in the gay community do not want to talk about.
By: Aaron M. Laxton, HIV-Infected Queer, Activist & Blogger
Recently while in Washington, DC to lobby for HIV/AIDS issues on the Capital Hill, I found myself talking with activists from across the country. These conversations are always interesting due to the fact that activists are by definition typically high-spirited and type "A" personality types. Events where activists are able to spend time together usually involve a time for using each other as a sounding-board, reflecting on both national and local issues. It is these conversations that allow us to gauge what impact we are having within our own communities and regions. Below is a list of five things that men in the gay community do not want to talk about however there is a need for an honest conversation.
1. Bareback Sex/Random Sex
Raw bareback sex is very much taboo and is seen as something that "others" do. Let's be honest though... Regardless of whether we want to talk about it or not, it is happening. I am a firm believer that a real conversation regarding prevention also needs to include risk-reduction practices that are inclusive of guys who exclusively practice bareback sex. Until we start to have an honest conversation about barebacking, we will never be able to successfully prevent exposure within the community.
Most, not all, gay men are sexual and the ways in which we go about finding tricks is as endless as our imaginations. Some guys use Craigslist while others use phone applications such as Grindr, Recon, Scruff or Growler. The one thing that I know is that while everyone has checked one of these formats out at one time or another, many people act as if they never have. Wake up and recognize the people are doing it and that an honest conversation is the only way that we will be able to reduce new HIV infections and exposures to other STD/STI's.
2. Crystal Meth
Tina, PNP, Party and Play... It goes by a lot of different names. Regardless of whether we acknowledge it or not, it is still a major issue within our community. There are many reasons for why gay men choose to use. Some men use crystal to avoid their emotions while others choose to use because of sexual disfunction. The incidence of guys that are using crystal is alarming. We must recognize that addicts come in many shapes, sizes, ages and economic variations. Addicts are your friends, family members, co-workers, fellow activists, clients and so on... Addicts are good at hiding who they really are however if you pay attention you will recognize the signs. An addict loses interest in things that once interested them. They will slowly stop caring about friendships and relationships and eventually they will isolate themselves as their addiction takes over.
What starts out as recreational use slowly morphs into a full-blown habit. In time you are doing things that you never thought you would do.
3. HIV/AIDS and aging
Let's face it, as an LGBT community we move those who are older out of the lime light. This might be done out of fear or maybe an inability to face our own mortality however that does not excuse or absolve us of this behavior. Most of our bars are filled with younger community members and if an older community dares to brave the cold-contemptuous glances of snotty-twinks the result will be a bitchy million-dollar attitude. It does not matter that it is directly as a result of activism from an aging LGBT community that a younger generations enjoys unparalleled freedoms and equality that a previous generation could only dream about.
4. HIV criminalization
34 states and 2 US territories have criminal statutes that specially criminalize HIV. Since the LGBT community is disproportionally affected by HIV it only seems logical that the community would push for modernization of these draconian HIV criminalization statutes. As gay men we must change how we view HIV criminalization and we must educate ourselves. The sad reality is that gay men are directly impacted by the application of laws that stigmatize those living with HIV/AIDS and are directly responsible for violence against those living with the disease, cause people to not get tested and subsequently treated to HIV or to stay in care after diagnosis.
5. Issues that are specific to minority groups.
As an LGBT community we must admit that the strategies used for white MSM ( Men who have sex with men) are not the same as those are used for say African Americans or Latinos. Until we start to have a real conversation about the cultural variations within our own community and how they play into exposure/transmission we will never be as successful as we could be in reducing new infections. One such example would be within the African-American community and men who have sex on the downlow.
As a community we can either continue to look at the world through rose colored glasses or we can address these issues head on. The conversations start one at a time until a dialogue is occurring throughout the community. Will you continue to perpetuate an attitude of ambivalence within our own community or will you resolve to have a real conversation concerning the issues impacting our community?