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FS132_COVER.qxd_FS 20/09/2012 10:34 Page 1

THe fiT and sexy gay mag issUe #132 OcT/nOv 2012

10

YEAR anniversary issue


Funded by the Pan-London HIV Prevention Programme. Terrence Higgins Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales (reg. no. 288527) and in Scotland (SC039986).

1 in 7 men on the London gay scene has HIV.* Sex is better without the worry. Use condoms. 24 condoms for ÂŁ5 from

Condom info at gmfa.org.uk/condoms

*Source: Gay Men’s Sexual Health Survey 2009 in 36 gay venues. University College London/Health Protection Agency


FS132_P03INTRO_FS 20/09/2012 11:07 Page 5

#fsturns10

Hello Ten years and counting! Wow, can you believe it? We’re ten years old this month. Well, in our current format anyway. Before FS became FS, we were known as F***Sheet. A newsletter that was originally sent to GMFA volunteers. Then in 2002, a fresh-eyed Cary James transformed that newsletter into the magazine format you see before you today. It goes without saying that FS owes a lot to our previous editor. So thank you very much Cary, we couldn’t have done it without you. Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fsmag Follow us on Twitter @FSmagazineUK

Ten years later and FS has become the leading publication for gay men’s health in the UK and maybe even the world. Our last issue was picked up by news sites in America and as far away as Australia. Unbelievable! FS has come a long way since 2002. But we wouldn’t be here

FXQuadro/Shutterstock.com

Cover shot by Chris Jepson © if it wasn’t for you, our readers. You’ve continued to support us www.chrisjepson.com

and in times when our funding looked to be under threat, you

Brought to you by were there to make sure we survived. So we dedicate this issue

to you. Thank you for your support over the last ten years. We hope we helped you in some shape or form. Here’s to the next ten years. Cheers! Funded by the Pan London HIV Prevention Programme Ian Howley, Editor.

Tweet me: @IanHowley www.gmfa.org.uk

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FS132_P04-08_FS10_FS 20/09/2012 10:52 Page 4

turns 10

FS celebrates its 10th birthday this month! The first issue of the magazine to be distributed on the gay scene in London hit the bars and clubs back in 2002 – so it feels like a good opportunity for us to take a look back at some of the things that have happened in that time. Words by Anthony Babajee (@t4rdis) and Gavin Smith.

l Will Young became the first winner of Pop Idol. He came out as gay shortly afterwards. l The gay club scene in Vauxhall started to expand rapidly. Action opened at the Renaissance Rooms, providing muscle boys with an alternative to Crash, and was

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2003 l Little Britain arrived on BBC3 and introduced the world to Dafydd Thomas, the only gay in the village, and Sebastian Love, who lusted after the Prime Minister. l GMFA’s Sex Tips for Boys press campaign featured young gay men holding up placards with tips on how to have better sex in front of major London landmarks.

l Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was repealed after 15 years. Section 28 was introduced by the government of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, and banned councils from ‘promoting homosexuality’. l Legendary cabaret performer Regina Fong, famous for her appearances at the Black Cap in

Camden, died. She left instructions for the vicar to end the funeral service by saying: "Now all of you fuck off and look at the flowers." l Brighton Pride took place over the weekend of 9 and 10 August, the hottest two days ever recorded in the UK. l Todd Grimshaw, played by Bruno Langley, became Coronation Street's first gay character. All was made clear when he tried to kiss Nick Tilsley, played by Adam Rickitt. l New employment regulations were introduced, making it illegal to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation.

2004 l Alan Hollinghurst won the Booker Prize for his novel The Line of Beauty, which chronicled gay life in 1980s London under the government. l GMFA began running its one-day course The Arse Class, designed to give gay men the sex education they didn’t get at school, in cities across England and Wales. l Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys, set in a boys’ grammar school in the early 1980s, premiered at the National Theatre, with a cast including Russell Tovey, Dominic Cooper and James Corden. It went on to win the Evening Standard, Olivier and Tony awards for best play.

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

2002

followed by the emergence of after-hours parties like A:M, Beyond and Later. l Long-time opponent of gay rights Baroness Young died at the age of 75. Though she temporarily succeeded in delaying several pieces of equality legislation in the late 1990s, she lived long enough to see the age of consent for gay men finally lowered to 16 in 2001.

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A lot can change in ten years. In 2002, you could smoke in bars and you used your phone just to make phone calls. New bars and clubs, TV shows, pop stars, celebrities and politicians have come and gone. Others that we thought had been safely consigned to history have come back with a vengeance. Bruce Forsyth, for example. William Hague. Steps. Bareback porn. The list goes on. However in terms of gay rights, things have definitely got a lot better. Ten years ago, an employer could discriminate against you or a hotel could turn you away purely because you were gay. Same-sex couples couldn’t adopt children and didn’t have the same legal rights as straight married couples. All of that changed thanks to legislation introduced by the government during its second and third terms between 2001 and 2010. Here’s our selection of the things that have made the last decade memorable for us at FS.


FS132_P04-08_FS10_FS 20/09/2012 10:52 Page 5

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

#FSTURNS10

www.gmfa.org.uk

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FS132_P04-08_FS10_FS 20/09/2012 10:52 Page 6

l The Civil Partnership Act 2004 was passed by parliament, giving same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples, including property rights, pension benefits and exemption from inheritance tax. The first civil partnership ceremonies took place the following year.

l Gay and lesbian couples gained the right to adopt children, after legislation passed in 2002 took effect. l Laws came into force which meant that homophobic abuse or violence could be treated as hate crime, the same as for crime motivated by race or religion, making it a more serious offence. l Elton John and David Furnish celebrated their civil partnership on 21 December, the first day that civil partnership ceremonies could be performed in England.

2005

2006

l Former cabinet minister Chris Smith, the first openly gay MP, disclosed that he is HIV-positive. l 24-year-old Jody Dobrowski was beaten to death in a homophobic attack on Clapham Common. Two men were subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. l Doctor Who was re-launched by Queer as Folk writer and producer Russell T Davies, 16 years after it was cancelled by the BBC. The first four series featured the omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman, who was so popular with fans that he graduated to his own spin-off series, Torchwood.

l GMFA launched its Responsibility campaign, with the message that both positive and negative men share responsibility for stopping transmission of HIV.

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l Brokeback Mountain, directed by Ang Lee, became the most successful gay-themed film of all time, winning three Oscars, four Golden Globes and four BAFTAs. l puffta.co.uk, the first commercially successful online magazine designed for gay teenagers, was acquired by Millivres Prowler Group, the publishers of Gay Times and Diva. l Scissor Sisters topped the UK singles chart for four weeks with I Don't Feel Like Dancin'. l Hollyoaks introduced gay character John Paul McQueen, played by James Sutton. The storyline of his relationship with Craig Dean was named Broadcast of the Year at the 2007 Stonewall Awards.

Police drug raid, which drew criticism in the gay press. It re-opened a few weeks later. l Scooch represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest in Helsinki with their über-camp, airline-inspired Flying the Flag (for You). They finished 23rd out of 24 entries. l Smoking was banned in all enclosed public places. Many bars and clubs introduced outdoor smoking areas. l Discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services became illegal. Previously businesses such as hotels could refuse to serve gay people purely because of their sexual orientation.

l John Barrowman launched the slogan 'Some people are gay. Get over it!', as part of Stonewall's Education for All campaign to tackle homophobic bullying in schools. The play FIT, written and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair, was also commissioned as part of the campaign. l Boyz highlighted an incident in which a number of young models tested HIV-positive after taking part in a bareback porn shoot in the UK. The story was later the subject of a report on the BBC’s Newsnight.

2008

2007

THIS COULD BE YOU!

FIND OUT HOW YOU COULD MODEL FOR FS

THE FIT AND SEXY GAY MAG

l Atripla, the first HIV medication to involve taking only one pill a day, was approved by the European Commission. l FS was re-vamped for its 100th issue and featured porn star Harry Louis on the cover, before he went on to model for Kristen Bjorn, Lucas Entertainment and UK Naked Men. l Channel 4 screened a short season of gay programmes to mark the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality. It included the controversial film Clapham Junction, which received mixed reviews. l Fire in Vauxhall was closed down following a Metropolitan THE FIT AND SEXY GAY MAG

ISSUE #103 WINTER 2007

How many have you had?

Find out the truth behind binge drinking

‘tis the season to be moody

Beat the holiday blues

7 sexual resolutions to kick the year off with a bang PLUS

Win some new pants! Ditch your debts ‘My boyfriend pretends he’s straight.’

Set your relationship on the road to success

ISSUE #107 SUMMER 2008

Taking care of business Looking after your meat and two veg

Join the fun at this year’s Vauxhall Sports Day

6 WAYS

TO A SAFER SHAG

Where’s

your head at? Sort yourself out and start a new happier life

PLUS “Do I have to take an HIV test?” “I don’t want my mum to see my love-bite!” The latest from Positive Adam

l GMFA's HIV detector press campaign underlined the fact that you can't tell someone's HIV status from how they look and behave, or where you meet them.

l G-A-Y moved to Heaven after 15 years at the Astoria in Charing Cross Road. The Astoria was demolished the following year to make way for the Crossrail project. l Australian diver Matthew Mitcham won the gold medal in the 10m platform at the Beijing Olympics, with a final dive scoring 112.10, the highest single-dive score in Olympic history. American broadcaster NBC controversially cut away when he hugged his boyfriend in celebration.


FS132_P04-08_FS10_FS 20/09/2012 10:52 Page 7

#FSTURNS10

2009

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The return of GMFA’s Arse Class

l Grindr was launched, and rapidly became the smartphone app of choice for gay cruising. By 2012 it had four million users worldwide. l A press campaign by Terrence Higgins Trust used the image of a London bus to draw attention to a survey which found that one in seven men on the London gay scene had HIV. l The Pink Paper, founded in 1987, published its final print edition and became an online-only publication. l Professor David Nutt was sacked as Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by Home Secretary Alan Johnson, after criticising the government for distorting evidence on the dangers of ecstasy and other drugs. Seven other members of the council resigned in protest. l David Cameron apologised on behalf of the Conservative party for introducing Section 28 in the 1980s. l Following the death of Boyzone

#& '+* "', #&)# !

+ star Stephen Gately, an article by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail which was critical of gay lifestyles resulted in a record number of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission.

l Former Wales captain Gareth Thomas came out, becoming the first openly gay professional rugby player.

2010

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l The United States removed its travel ban on HIV-positive people entering the country. The ban had been in place since 1987. l 18-year-old X Factor winner Joe

McElderry revealed that he is gay. l Colin Firth won a BAFTA award for his leading role in Tom Ford’s film A Single Man, based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood. l Lance Corporal James Wharton became the first serving officer in the 350-year history of the Household Cavalry to formalise a same-sex relationship. His civil partnership ceremony with Thom McCaffrey took place ten years after the ban on gay men and lesbians in the military was lifted. l GMFA launched its Count Me In campaign, which used social media to encourage gay men to sign up to a five-point action plan to stop the spread of HIV. Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone highlighted the campaign in a video message for World AIDS Day. The campaign asked gay men to know their HIV status, keep themselves informed about HIV and how it

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l Gordon Brown formally apologised on behalf of the British government for the prosecution of Alan Turing in the 1950s. Alan Turing's code-breaking work during World War 2 was crucial to the victory of the Allied forces, but he was later convicted of 'gross indecency' (in other words, having gay sex) and committed suicide. l Gus Van Sant’s film Milk, inspired by the life of 1970s gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, won Oscars for leading actor Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

www.gmfa.org.uk

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FS132_P04-08_FS10_FS 20/09/2012 10:52 Page 8

#FSTURNS10 anniversary, but was shortened from a fortnight to a week due to budgetary constraints.

l Swedish footballer Anton Hysén came out as gay, only the second professional footballer ever to do so. Surrey and England cricketer Steven Davies became the first international cricket player to come out. l Terrence Higgins Trust launched its Clever Dick, Smart Arse safer sex campaign, which emphasized that condom use is the responsibility of both tops and bottoms. l The Drill Hall, a pioneering gay theatre company, sold the lease to its central London building after more than 30 years. l British film Weekend, directed by Andrew Haigh and starring Chris New and Tom Cullen, was nominated for an award at the London Film Festival. l First Out, London's first lesbian and gay café, closed after 25 years.

2012 l WorldPride was held in London for the first time, but was drastically scaled back because of the failure of the organising committee to secure adequate funding. " #

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2011

l The London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival celebrated its 25th

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l The Olympic and Paralympic Games gripped London, the nation and the world. Team GB’s only openly gay competitor at the Olympics, Carl Hester, won a gold medal in the team dressage, while Lee Pearson won his 10th Paralympic gold medal. l The Queen celebrated her diamond jubilee and jumped out of a helicopter during the Olympic opening ceremony. Her unofficial Twitter counterpart gave an interview to FS to mark the occasion.

is spread, not to assume someone’s HIV status, take personal responsibility for using condoms and to value their health. l Edd Kimber won the first series of BBC2's The Great British Bake Off. l Rugby union player Ben Cohen made a video for the It Gets Better project to combat homophobic bullying, and modelled for the cover of FS.

l The lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was lifted, though only for men who have not had gay sex for over twelve months.

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l Do you think we've missed something? Share your memorable moments on our Facebook wall at www.facebook.com/fsmag or use the hashtag #FSturns10 on Twitter.


Does your behaviour feel out of control? Can���t have a good time without drugs or alcohol? Wanting a relationship, but can’t stop having anonymous sex? Can’t have sex without being high? If so, we may be able to help.

FREE 8 week group programmes for gay & bisexual men to address addictive behaviour patterns. Evenings 6.00pm - 8.30pm in Central London, including two Saturdays. For more information or to book your place, please telephone Brian Wood on 0207 812 1516 Charity no 288527 (England and Wales) and SCO39986 (Scotland). Funded by the Pan-London HIV Prevention Programme.


FS129_COVER_FS 30/03/2012 08:22 Page 4

LLGS.org.uk

0300 330 0630 10am - 11pm daily

H Help elp us ccontinue ontinue tto o support support the community communit unitty b byy DONA DONATING TING or JOINING OUR TEAM of a award warrd winningvolunteers. winningv voluntteers. TTo o find out mor moree visit LLGS.org.uk London Lesbian esbian & Gay G Switchboard is a register ered charity.. C Charity Reg.. No. N . 296193 29 Registered R in England.


FS132_P11_Column.qxd_FS 20/09/2012 10:51 Page 11

kristian+LiFE

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

HIV and me a decade on

“Was that a public admission that you have HIV? Pretty brave if so.” I was reading a Facebook message I’d received after I’d commented on a report posted by a mutual friend, which claimed that circumcised men don’t catch HIV as easily. “Didn’t help me!” had been my rather flippant tuppence, having been snipped myself as a baby because I couldn’t pee properly. “Really?” I responded. “I thought it was pretty common knowledge among the gay community and media. I do a lot of public awareness work as an out positive guy.” “Ah, OK,” came the reply. “I was diagnosed not long ago and I’m still not very comfortable with telling people.” And neither was I to be honest, but then again, I've had a lot of time to adjust and make my peace with it. You rude: “I’m sorry, I couldn’t possibly see, this November marks my ten have sex with you now. I don’t want to years living with the Human catch anything nasty.” (Yeah, because Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV for short. I’m riddled with allsorts and I like Coincidentally, it’s also ten years since nothing better than passing it all on to FS published its first issue. Ten years people. It’s how I roll), I’ve of columns, articles and features encountered stigma on many levels which aim to educate gay and from some surprising men on sexual health and sources (a doctor, for HIV. Ten years of trying instance). Theworld to break down I’ve also been stigma. And yes, guilty of it myself. needspeopleto that’s me on the times I’ve standtallintheface Many front cover with assumed a guy ofstigmaandprove my tits out to will know mark our joint nothing, when in thatpositivepeople anniversary. I’m fact he’s more arenottuckedaway informed than I not looking bad for 33. Thank the realised. I inhospitals,gaunt, Lord for laboured over dyingandcovered Photoshop. telling the other half inlesions. I’m not going to lie when we first started and say I’ve had a bad dating. He hailed from time with stigma. Perhaps Basingstoke and had if I was a different type of been in a relationship for the person I would have. My perception of past ten years. What the hell would he people who have a problem with my know about the vagaries of HIV? His positive status is that it’s their first question when I finished burbling problem, not mine. Still, it’s not exactly my ‘confession’ was “How’s your viral nice when it happens. load? Is it undetectable?” Yeah, talk From the throwaway comments about a curveball. I think I fell in love like: “Is George Michael just ill, or has right there and then. he got AIDS?” (from an older relative Then there’s a friend of mine who of the boyfriend’s), to the out and out wrestled for weeks plucking up the

courage to tell his new squeeze he was positive, assuming he’d get dumped on the spot. Turns out the new squeeze was also in the gang, and had been wondering how to broach the subject himself. Just goes to show you can never really tell. Today, being open about my HIV status is as automatic as being open about the fact that I suck dick, but it always helps to be reminded of my early days, trying to adjust to this new life full of hospital appointments, regular blood tests, a shedload of leaflets to read every night and an ever-present worry at the back of my head: “What if I infect someone else?” Do I enjoy being the ‘poster boy’ for HIV? Not really. I’m a bit more private than some would assume. But the world needs people to stand tall in the face of stigma and prove that positive people are not tucked away in hospitals, gaunt, dying and covered in lesions. We are fully functioning, valuable members of society, and it’s about time we were seen as such. So if it means putting my face on a poster or on the TV, then so be it. Maybe I was always meant to be HIV-positive. Perhaps this is what I was meant to do with my life. Who can say? I certainly can’t, HIV doesn’t define me any more than homosexuality does, but I’ll keep on shouting as long as there’s breath in my lungs (and probably long after people have grown sick of the sight of me). But that’s just me. If you’re positive too, how and when you disclose your status is up to you. It's your journey and there's no right or wrong way of doing things. It just has to feel comfortable for you, but there’s a famous quote by Gandhi, which I plan to have on my gravestone. It’s become the motto for how I live my life: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Happy anniversary, FS magazine. Here’s to the next ten years.

l Kristian Johns is an author and former editor who now runs his own copywriting agency. You can catch his personal musings at his blog, www.sexdrugsausagerolls .wordpress.com. Tweet me: @guy_interruptd www.gmfa.org.uk

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FS132_P12-17_HIV.qxd_FS 20/09/2012 10:59 Page 13

lifestyle

It’s been just over 30 years since the first case of HIV was recognised in the UK. In that time the disease has changed from a near automatic death sentence to a manageable condition, but many people hold attitudes towards HIV, and people living with HIV, that are still rooted in the 80s. Is it time to reassess how we view HIV? FS editor Ian Howley considers how his own attitudes to HIV have changed, and why it may be time to say “some people have HIV, get over it”.

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afraid of? My mind went back to the Before I joined FS magazine I knew very little about HIV. I had never met movie ‘Philadelphia’. I was someone who openly ‘had it’. I came associating HIV with death. I didn’t want to die. from a small town in the middle of Coming to work for FS magazine Ireland where my chief concern was was a huge eye-opener. As a trying to hide my sexuality. HIV negative guy working for a sexual wasn’t really on the radar. I remember asking my mother when I health magazine it can be quite difficult to understand the feelings, was very young what AIDS was? thoughts and lives of people living She replied, “It’s not something for with HIV. I wasn’t around for the you to worry about. 1980s ‘tombstone’ adverts and I It mainly happens in other didn’t know anyone who countries”. died because of AIDS. As I got older I educated To learn just how far myself. I watched the the HIV story has movie ‘Philadelphia’, Backinthe come I sat down and boy that scared 1980sifyou with Matthew the shit out of me. When I moved to weretoldyouwere Hodson, Head of Programmes at London in 2010, HIV-positivethen GMFA. Back in the before I started 1980s if you were work for FS youprobably told you were magazine, I was expectedyourlifeto HIV-positive then flicking through beoverpretty you probably one of the scene expected your life to magazines and saw a quickly. be over pretty quickly. THT advert. “1 in 7 gay The government’s guys on the scene has iceberg and tombstone HIV” was the blunt message. campaign rolled out in 1987. The To me that was a scary thought. As message was very clear – HIV a relatively naive 26-year-old in a infection was a death sentence. If brand new city I wanted to do what you had HIV you counted your life a 26-year-old does. However it was expectancy in terms of a few years, my first night out on the scene and, maybe a decade if you were lucky. It after seeing that advert, I was wasn’t unusual to hear stories of thinking every guy I fancied might people who were diagnosed and ‘have it’. I started stigmatising then died within a matter of people, looking for ‘signs’, really weeks, or even days. stupid stuff. And what the hell was I www.gmfa.org.uk

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Ian: What was the deal if you were HIV-positive back in the 80s?

Ian: What is the future of HIV prevention?

Matthew: Unless someone had visible symptoms of AIDS they were very unlikely to disclose their status. I knew two people who only came out as HIV-positive in their suicide notes. Many men cashed in their savings, sold their life insurance and left their jobs so they could travel the world. Some people probably came to an earlier end because they made the decision to take as much pleasure from their remaining days as possible.

Matthew:There is a need to counter the growing invisibility of HIV, and this requires action from both HIV positive and negative men. As HIV is now a chronic manageable condition, there is a need for greater understanding of the realities of living with HIV in the treatment era. And to promote this understanding there is a need for many more HIV-positive role models.

Ian: So when did it all change for HIV?

Ian: Positive role models? Like who?

Matthew: Improvements in mortality happened rapidly from 1996 onwards, and along with those improvements in the health of people living with HIV. Over time, this led to HIV being less visible on the gay scene, as we were less likely to see people with obvious symptoms of HIV infection or to know people who had been diagnosed with AIDS, and less likely to know people dying as a result of HIV infection. It should not be forgotten that for some the treatment revolution came too late. However many men who had become seriously ill were able to make a significant recovery, often when they had previously lost hope of survival.

Ian: Did this lead to a change of attitude towards people living with HIV? Matthew:The shift in attitudes has perhaps been less dramatic than the shift in mortality and illness for people living with HIV. As HIV retreated from view, many people who had lived through the worst of it had difficulties adjusting to the changed outlook. There was a certain amount of ‘them and us’ in the discussions, leading some men who had witnessed the destruction wrought by AIDS in the 80s and 90s to disparage the experiences of the generation that followed. And some of those younger men met this challenge by becoming intensely involved in activism but with a frame of reference that was defined by the earlier, deadlier phase of HIV.

Ian: Why is this? Matthew: A recent study suggests that more than 80% of HIV transmissions are from men who don’t know they have HIV. So sex with someone who hasn’t disclosed doesn’t mean that they are not living with HIV. It may mean that they’ve chosen not to disclose (and with sexual rejection of men who disclose so common place this is hardly surprising), or it may be that they are unaware that they carry the virus. That’s why it’s important to get yourself tested for HIV. And if someone hasn’t been diagnosed, they won’t be on treatment, and so their viral load will be higher and they will be more infectious to their partners. So the actions that are required to reduce both stigma and new infections are for HIV-positive men to disclose their status, and for HIV-negative men to respond to that disclosure in such a way as to make it more likely that the person will continue to disclose in future. One will lead to the other.

“Most peopleIknow withHIVwould saythattheir diagnosiswasa life-changing moment.”

Matthew: People like Kristian Johns (our cover model) have been in the forefront of this, but the level of enquiries about his status that he has to deal with illustrates how exceptionally brave he has been in talking about his status. It is easy to stigmatise the unknown.

Ian: How do we bring down stigma? Matthew: HIV needs to be more visible again. Not in terms of images of people who are clearly ill, but reflecting how it is for most, although not all, people who are doing well on treatment. We need to challenge some of the outdated perceptions about HIV.These attitudes can be effectively challenged when you know that there are people living with HIV amongst your acquaintances, friends and the people you have sex with, but this depends on people with HIV being brave enough to talk about their status. And whilst disclosure is probably the best tool we have to tackle stigma, the high levels of stigma around HIV continue to prevent men from disclosing, and provide the conditions for stigma to flourish.

“Thereisa needtocounter thegrowing invisibilityofHIVand thisrequiresaction frombothHIVpositiveand negativemen.”

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partners and I don’t struggle to understand why men who believe that they do not have HIV are scared to have sex with men when they disclose. The truth is, though, that as a strategy, avoiding sex with men who disclose their status is ineffective.

Ian: Should all positive men disclose their status? Matthew: Gay men, of course, have the right to turn down sexual

Ian: Why should anyone care about remaining negative if being positive is a manageable condition? Matthew: I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that having HIV doesn’t have a huge impact on your life. Most people I know with HIV would say that their diagnosis was a life-changing moment. Although the outlook has improved enormously for people with HIV, it’s still better to remain uninfected. There is no cure. Once you have been infected you will always have HIV, and there’s the potential that you will transmit the virus to your sexual partners. The treatment for HIV only works if you take it. If you have HIV, you have to take drugs every day and if you fail to remember to take them this can have a serious impact on your health. Sexual negotiation becomes that much more complicated – if you disclose your status you may well face rejection, and if you do not disclose you will face vilification.


FS132_P12-17_HIV.qxd_FS 20/09/2012 10:59 Page 15

lifestyle

What you can do to fight stigma Tackling HIV-related stigma is one of the hardest things to do. FS editor, Ian Howley, tell us why we need to fight stigma. Some people would have you believe that people need to be scared of HIV and therefore people living with HIV. This is not true. When I came to London, I was naïve, very naïve. Skip forward two years and here I am, the editor of this magazine. I live my life around people, some of whom are positive and some who are not. I don’t see their status, I just see them. Am I scared of HIV and becoming infected? I certainly don’t want to become HIV-positive but HIV doesn’t scare me the way it did back in 2010. Do I want to become infected? Of course not. I want to have a natural child in the future. Becoming positive will dramatically decrease the chances of that. But that’s not the only reason I want to stay negative. I don’t want to have the hassle of going on medication; I don’t want to have to deal with possible side effects; I don’t want to have to give up my time to get my blood taken (I hate needles and they can never find my veins); I don’t want to have that conversation with my family; I don’t want to meet a guy and feel I can’t approach him out of fear of rejection. I don’t want to be positive, simples. But if it happens, then I know that even though I don’t want to go through all that crap, it’ll be OK in the end. Why do I know that? Because I’ve had the pleasure to meet so many men who happen to be positive. They have opened my eyes so much. But if you, like me, don’t want to do any of the above then I firmly suggest you do the following.

Protect yourself

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Bring condoms and lube with you on nights out. And if you forget them, look out for the Freedom packs available at most bars. Don’t assume you’ll be able to predict someone’s status. If you think you can do this, you can’t. You are a fool. www.gmfa.org.uk

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Don’t assume that someone will tell you their status The vast majority of positive lads will not want to pass on HIV to you and will do their best to make sure they don’t. But as in all walks of life, there are going to be some people who don’t always take the care that they should. If they struggled to use condoms before they became positive, what makes you think they’re going to suddenly find it easier after they’ve been diagnosed? Plus about one in four gay men with HIV haven’t been diagnosed, don’t know they’re positive and, because they won’t be on treatment, will be more infectious too. 80% of new infections come from people who didn’t know they have HIV. Protect yourself!

Test, test, test Know your status. You are more likely to stay negative if you know your status. Even if you say “But I use condoms all the time”. Condoms break and about 2% of HIV transmissions are from oral sex. Also, it can be quite easy to say “Fuck it, I’m probably positive anyway” and put yourself at risk. If you know your status then you can make the right sexual choices for yourself. If you find out you’re positive, well then you can get the help and support needed to lead a happy and healthy life.

Drop the fear And finally. Being scared of people with HIV will not keep you negative. It just makes you an ass. Ian Howley, Editor. @IanHowley

Useful links: l For sex and sexual health advice and more on HIV prevention visit, www.gmfa.org.uk/sex. l For info on PEP and how it can help you stay negative if you’ve been exposed to HIV within 72 hours, visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/pep. l If you feel you need to talk to someone about being positive, or how to deal with any issues surrounding this feature, visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/counselling.

16 |

True-life story

How it felt to be diagnosed HIV-positive, by Sam, 25 from Birmingham. It’s a Wednesday afternoon. I’m in France, drink in hand, sunning myself surrounded by my mates. Life doesn’t get much sweeter than this. The iPhone on my chest that’s serving up my chilled tunes suddenly vibrates and I almost drop my drink. It’s too bright outside to see the screen, so I head back into the villa and then I see the message. It’s from the GUM clinic I’d visited the week before: “Please call us URGENTLY regarding your recent test results.” Once I worked out how to dial internationally I got through to someone at the GUM clinic, who told me that she couldn’t discuss the results over the phone and that I’d have to come and see them in person. When I told her that I was currently abroad I suddenly detected a hint of alarm in her voice as I was told, “Come and see us as soon as you land! And don’t have sex until then!” Well that was my holiday ruined. I spent the rest of the week panicking. What was it? Why couldn’t she discuss it? Why was she alarmed? Why couldn’t I have sex? The day after I landed I headed to the clinic. I got there before they were even open so I had to hang around in the car park. Finally I got let in, and sat in the waiting room on my own as a woman mopped around me. A little while later a nurse and a student nurse called me into the consultation room. Before my bum had even hit the seat I could tell it wasn’t good news. The student nurse didn’t know where to look. The nurse lunged at me with a plastic cup of water and cut right to the chase: “I’m sorry to tell you, but your HIV test has come back as positive.” I just sat there quietly, so quietly you could hear people walking along the corridor outside the room. The nurse finally asked me if I was alright, to which I replied “yes” – I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the two nurses. After a brief chat I was given a bag of leaflets and I was on my way, with an appointment at the local HIV clinic for the next week. I called the only HIV-positive person I knew, my friend Paul, who came to collect me and then talked me through the leaflets over a few beers. Very shortly after that, and with my consultant’s blessing I began treatment. It’s normal to wait for your immune system to dip to a certain level before they start you on medication, but I wanted to get ahead of the game. I’ve never been one to take a back seat in life, and I wasn’t about to start now. A year later my immune system is in a great place, and my viral load (the amount of virus in the blood) is so low the clinic can’t even detect it. I can’t even begin to imagine what state I might be in by now if I’d not gone and got tested. It doesn’t even bear thinking about. Although it might sound weird, getting tested was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. It’s allowed me to take control of my own health, and be more responsible with my sexual partners. To anyone out there who’s contemplating getting tested I have only two words for you: DO IT. If you’re worried about needles, find yourself a clinic that offers FastTest (the rapid 5 minute HIV test with no needles). If you test negative you’ll get rid of that worry at the back of your mind and should you test positive you’ll have the information and support to take control of your own life.

l Tweet Me: @UKPositiveLad


FS123_ADS_FS 07/04/2011 19:52 Page 31


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lifestyle

are all gay guys fucked up? by Stuart Haggas

“All gay men are fucked up.” Well there’s a statement that we’ve all heard or may even have said in the past. But do we really believe it? Are all gay guys “fucked up”? Do our actions have any impact on how we see ourselves, see others or have an influence on our choices? A recent survey by Stonewall shows us that gay men may be more likely to smoke, do drugs, drink more alcohol, worry about our body image and even self-harm. But is this REALLY down to being gay. Is it down to our surroundings, lifestyle choices or is it just pot luck? Let’s explore the report first and see what Stonewall discovered.

www.gmfa.org.uk

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Let’s get the stats! With 6,861 respondents from across Britain, Stonewall’s Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey is the largest survey of its kind ever conducted. Some of the findings are quite interesting: in particular it provides some evidence that gay and bisexual men are more likely to smoke, drink and take illegal drugs than their straight counterparts. The survey reports that twothirds of gay and bisexual men have smoked at some time in their lives, and 26% of us still smoke compared with 22% of men in general; 42% of us drink alcohol on three or more days per week compared with 35% of men in general; and 51% have taken illegal drugs in the last year, compared with just 12% of men in general. We’re also more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and to self-harm and attempt suicide. Half of us have felt at some stage that life was not worth living, and in the last year 27% of gay men and 38% of bisexual men thought about taking their own life, compared with just 4% of men in general. Thankfully, not all thoughts lead to actions, but it’s nevertheless worrying to learn that 3% of gay men and 5% of bisexual men attempted suicide in the last year, compared with just 0.4% of men in general. Some other stats show that Britain’s gay and bisexual men are more likely to be physically fit and healthy, with over half of us having a normal body mass index (BMI) compared with under a third of men in general – however, almost half of us worry about the way we look and wish we could think about it less. If we are to believe these results, they show that we gay men may drink a bit too much, put too much powder up our noses and find it difficult to be happy with our body size. But is this because we are gay? And does it stop us from being happy?

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Inthelast year27%ofgay menand38%of bisexualmen thoughtabouttaking theirownlife, comparedwithjust 4%ofmenin general.


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lifestyle

UNheaLthY LIFestYLe? “It’s easy to say that gay men do unhealthy things because they are gay,” says GMFA’s Matthew Hodson. “But we need to remember that plenty of heterosexual people do unhealthy things too, like drink, smoke, take drugs and have unprotected sex – it’s not just about sexuality”. Are we more likely to do the sCeNe OF the CRIMe these things because we are gay? “Well for some things, our sexuality We live in a world where prejudice and lack of acceptance of our probably does play a role. Gay men sexuality still exists, which is why are more likely to take drugs, for many gay men feel a stronger sense example, and that behaviour is of belonging when we’re out on the likely to be self-perpetuating. If scene. While we may feel it you’ve got friends who take necessary to show drugs, you’re more likely restraint at work, with to be offered drugs “I’verun family members, and and to take them than if you don’t drugandsexual when we’re at the supermarket, know any drug addictiongroups local café or cinema, we users. wherepeople can be ourselves on Also there’s some the scene. data which havesaid‘We’re For many of us, suggests that gay gaymen,whatdo our social lives men hang on to revolve around clubs habits longer than youexpect?It’s and bars and that’s heterosexuals,” whatwedo.” partly to blame. “I’ve Matthew adds. “Lots run drug and sexual of people stop addiction groups where smoking, or give up people have said, ‘We’re gay drugs, when they have men, what do you expect? It’s what children and, although some gay we do,’”explains Alison Hunt, a couples do raise families, it’s not as psychotherapist working with common as it is for heterosexuals.” addictions groups at Terrence You could also argue that gay Higgins Trust. “When you challenge men are more prone to excessive that, people can think you’re drinking, smoking, drugs and challenging their sexuality, which unprotected sex because such you’re not, but the things have things are more readily available to gelled together.” us than our straight peers. “You’re “A lot of gay businesses do a always going to have people who great deal to support and build throw themselves into a hedonistic communities, and I’m grateful for lifestyle,” says Matthew. “For some that,” says GMFA’s Matthew Hodson, people it will only be a short phase, ”but the gay scene, for the most for others it may be a life-choice. part, is business-led.” Drugs and alcohol aren’t good for you, they can damage your liver, kidneys and heart. And they can also COMMUNItY sPIRIt FS asked readers via Facebook lead to men making unhealthy whether a sense of community still decisions about sex that they wouldn’t make if they were sober. If exists for gay men. Many of you

think it’s mostly about sex – and think this is a bad thing. “All the gays at my college are sex-mad alcoholics so I think there is little community,” replied Jack. Ben agreed, saying: “The sense of community is lacking. There are things about the scene which I think are welcome, like gym going and looking after oneself. The excessive drinking and drugs and sex can bugger off in favour of something nicer though.” “Sadly the sense of community has been lost. Gay culture now appears to revolve around sex. I have been looking to increase my circle of friends for a while now but sadly it would seem all guys want are fuck buddies,” replied Michael. “I think the majority of gay men are fake and looking out for one thing.

But there are some genuine guys out there. It’s just a shame that everything has to focus on how many men guys sleep with. I think it gives gay men a bad name,” said Alex. Others believe a gay community still exists, you’ve just got to look for it in the right places. “There is still some sense of community here, though it tends to be with the older 40+ generation and our venues more than the youngsters in theirs,” said Paul. Rod agreed, adding: “I think amongst the older generation who had to overcome prejudice, fear and misjudgement there is still a community. And in more rural areas there are stronger genuine gay communities. I think in the cities the commercial bar/gym culture is taking over, and this is what much of the public think of as ‘gay culture’.” So is the gay scene to blame? “Some people get strength and support from the gay scene, but others find the gay scene just as unwelcoming and intimidating as any straight bar. And it’s obvious that if you’re hanging out in bars and clubs you are going to be

t

you start to feel that you’re not in control, if you frequently wake up regretting what you did the night before, or not remembering, it’s a sign that you need to take action to turn your life around. It may not be easy, but there is help available.”

www.gmfa.org.uk

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lifestyle

WhO’s JUDgINg WhO? So how about body and looks issues? According to the Stonewall report, we are more likely to be healthier but lack self esteem. Is this down to being gay, and are we more likely to be happy if we are ‘gym fit’? “It’s true that lots of gay men worry about the way that they look, and gay men are more likely to exercise regularly and less likely to be overweight than their heterosexual equivalents”, says Matthew Hodson. “I think it’s wrong to assume though that all the guys with gym fit bodies are confident and happy. Sure, some of them are, but I know lots of gay men who go to the gym because they are insecure about the way that they look, or their ability to fit in or find a boyfriend. Again, I don’t think that this is unique to gay men. The pressure that is placed on gay men to look a certain way, or to conform to a particular ideal, represents nothing new for women. And I think that there is an increasing pressure on heterosexual men to have perfect buff bodies now.” Sona Barbosa, the Counselling Team Leader at the GMI Partnership, “A lot of gay men have assumptions and beliefs about gay culture from what they see in magazines and other media, which is often just a stereotype of what actually exists. Many people I speak to are fine with the way they look, they just worry more about how people think they look. There are those who think they need to look a certain way to be liked or loved and this can lead to them having sex with any man that shows an interest. This can be dangerous emotionally, as well as physically. The important thing is to encourage people to try and get out of the mindset of the ‘gay’ stereotype and start thinking more about how they feel about their bodies”. Matthew adds: “Fear of ageing is so prevalent that we joke about people having an actual age and a ‘Gaydar age’. I can’t help but feel that the failure to value getting older has a negative impact on men’s willingness to lead a healthy

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lifestyle, whether that’s about not taking drugs, or about consistently using condoms.”

MIND OveR MatteR According to the Stonewall report, we gay men are also more likely to be depressed or try suicide. Why is this? Homophobia is widely blamed for higher rates of depression and suicide in gay men. Dr Ilan H. Meyer of UCLA says: “The higher rates of mental disorders and suicide among gay people likely result from the extra stress associated with living in a homophobic society.” Fear also has a lot to do with it. “Fear is a bitch,” adds FS Editor Ian Howley. “When I started to realise I was gay, I was terrified, terrified of what people would think, terrified of rejection from friends and family, and when you have no-one to talk to you can easily become depressed. I’m not afraid to admit that I tried to

take my life three times in my teens, and it was purely down to not wanting to be gay.” So how do we beat this? “I think it’s a lot easier growing up gay in today’s society than it was when I was going through my teens. But remember that not everyone has the same ‘gay journey’, so we need to be a bit more supportive of each other”. Ian adds: “We also need some more gay role models to look up to. Obviously people should look at their parents as a role model but they can’t know what it’s like to ‘be gay’ so more more openly gay men like Gareth Thomas and Russell Tovey are needed. Stong, sound, everyday guys who just happen to be gay. This will help younger people become happier and healthier gay men in the future.”

won’t want to have sex, but it can affect it in other ways as well. Studies have shown that men who are depressed are more likely to take risks in sex that they wouldn’t take if they weren’t depressed. “This means you may be less likely to use condoms or more likely to have sex that you don’t really want to have”, says Matthew Hodson. “Depression can also lead to isolation and loneliness. It’s easy to get shags online with men you wouldn’t normally have sex with because you are feeling lonely. All of this can lead you putting yourself at risk of HIV and STIs”.

aRe YOU FUCkeD UP? So are all gay men fucked up? Of course not. It’s true to say that some gay men have a harder time ‘finding themselves’. This may lead you to drink more as you try to make new mates or to have more sex. Spend more time on the scene. You may also take drugs to ‘fit in’ but this does not mean you are ‘fucked up’. FS Editor, Ian Howley, says: ” The biggest thing you can do is look at your actions and see if they are affecting your life. So if you think you are drinking too much, then do something about it. If you think you are abusing drugs too much then do something about it. If you are having risky sex, then do something about it. If you are feeling depressed, then do something about it. But don’t think that all this stuff happens to you because you are gay. It happens because you make the choice to drink, smoke, do drugs or have unprotected sex. Being gay is just part of your life and something you need to embrace in a positive way”.

l To read the Stonewall report in its entirety visit www.stonewall.org.uk/ documents/stonewall _gay_mens_health _final.pdf. l For ideas on how to enjoy the gay scene and be a part of the wider gay community, GMFA have a directory of gay and gay friendly sports clubs and social groups. Visit, www.gmfa.org.uk/theguide

FUCkeD UP sex LIFe?

l For help anywhere in the UK try London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard: 0300 330 0630

Many guys think that the only way that depression impacts their sex life is that if they feel down they

Discuss this article on Twitter using #FSturns10.

Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock.com

surrounded by people drinking, taking drugs and copping off with each other, and you’ll be more likely to be doing the same.” So what should gay men do? “It’s probably healthier if you can maybe look past the gay scene every now and again. There are social groups out there that doesn’t involve alcohol, drugs or random sex. There’s more than just the gay scene to the gay community.” adds Matthew.


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BReakINg the haBIt? These three simple steps can help, according to Anna Fielding, Head of Editorial for the advice website www.thesite.org. | First, reinvent your routine. “If you’re used to dancing with saucer eyes most Saturdays, then it might be wise to avoid clubbing for a while,” advises Anna. “It doesn't have to be forever, just long enough for you to get back in touch with having a good time on your own terms.” | Second, tell your friends what you’re doing, so they’re less likely to wave temptation under your nose. “There’s no shame in wanting to straighten out, either for a temporary period, or permanently,” she says. | Third, find something else to fill your time – avoiding temptation is one thing, but it doesn’t amount to much if you’re left with nothing to do but stare at the TV. Anna explains: “Be creative with your time, and do things your habit would otherwise have prevented.” Like driving a car or talking sense perhaps. If you need more help, think about trying your GP. “They’ll be able to suggest local support services and in extreme cases can even arrange a detox programme,” says Peter Stevens, agony uncle for gay magazine QX.

Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock.com

Anyone who thinks they’re an addict and wants to help themselves should look up their local Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous – both run separate gay groups. l For information on alcohol, drugs or if you feel you need help, visit www.londonfriend.org.uk

www.gmfa.org.uk

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FS132_P24-25_ISSUE_FS 20/09/2012 11:42 Page 24

LIFESTYLE

!

THE ISSUE

Women worship

by Liam Murphy Tweet me: @liamwaterloo

Why do you go Gaga for Kylie and Madonna?

Gay men, like any facet of humanity, admire/look up to/idolise many people for many different reasons (I have a friend who idolises his local baker – he really likes cakes). However it could be argued that women lead the pack by some considerable distance when it comes to being worshipped by the gay community, or so it seems at least. The collective social media scream emitted by the nation’s gay contingent when the Spice Girls rolled out on top of black cabs during the Olympic Closing Ceremony is probably enough to prove this theory. What is it about the 'X' chromosome that gay men are particularly drawn to?

WondEr WomEn The women that tend to be idolised are fiercely ambitious, highly successful and are at the pinnacle of their chosen field. In a world dominated by ‘Alpha’ males, these women have battled against the odds to reign supreme, which, if we’re honest, is something gay men often have to face. We identify with and admire them for this very reason. Just look at Madonna: her climb to the top of the pop mountain is unparalleled and despite having a demeanour that could never be described as 'warm',

24 |

she is admired for the power she wields, as well as the songs she sings (although less so for her acting ability). These women defy stereotype and this is what many gay men are also trying to do, making these celebrity women-folk the ideal icons.

“There’s

one thing that these dazzling ladies don’t have, and that’s a big old penis, despite the rumours surrounding Lady Gaga ”

Emotionally invEstEd As gay men, we tend to have to address our feelings at a relatively early age, as we process the realisation that we’re attracted to the same sex. This ability to be ‘in touch’ with our emotions is perhaps what makes us gravitate to certain famous females. It could be the spleen-venting angst of an Alanis Morissette album or the overwrought wailing on a Celine Dion record that taps into the part of us that’s an exposed, vulnerable mess, or maybe that’s just me.

s_bukley / Shutterstock.com | Featureflash / Shutterstock.com | cinemafestival / Shutterstock.com

Madonna, Liza Minnelli, Cher, Kylie, Dolly Parton. What do these women have in common, other than their almost supernatural ability to defy the ageing process? They are all gay icons.


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sExy Without sEx There’s one thing that these dazzling ladies don’t have, and that’s a big old penis (despite the rumours surrounding Lady Gaga when she first appeared on the music scene). Without the danger of possible sexual attraction threatening to fog up our senses, we can truly appreciate their talent for what it is. Of course we still love a beautiful woman. We love the aesthetics, but it’s more objective, looking at them as works of art, rather than someone we want to hump. See, not everything in the gay community is about sex. Sometimes it’s about not wanting to have sex.

Camp Perhaps it’s the spectacle. The flamboyant outfits, the over-the-top dance routines, the ‘fabulous’ lifestyles, the impossibly handsome boyfriends/husbands; maybe it’s this that appeals most to our sensibilities. They could represent something that part of us wishes we could openly embrace but repress, or perhaps, more accurately, we enjoy clapping, laughing and dancing along to brightly-coloured entertainers. Flair for the dramatic...

s_bukley / Shutterstock.com | Featureflash / Shutterstock.com | cinemafestival / Shutterstock.com

CaptivE audiEnCE Being a gay icon is a business. Sometimes we are told certain people are our idols, without us having much say. It's practically written in the press gumpf sent by the artist's PR. These ladies are marketed directly at us, tailored to appeal to different aspects of gay culture. Some of us are essentially powerless to resist these temptresses, whether it's courting us with a 'live your life the way you want to' pop anthem or the over-the-top flamboyance of a Hollywood startlet's off-set antics. Resistance is apparently futile. Maybe it's because women are just a bit wonderful sometimes. As are men. And some performing animals. Idols, icons, role models – whatever you want to call them – are subjective and of course there isn’t a rule that declares that we must all worship the Lady Gagas of this world. However it can’t be denied that these wondrous females often hold a very prominent place among the gay community. It’s OK to have an idol. However if you find yourself a bit obsessed with your idol, then maybe it’s time to step back a bit before Kylie gets a restraining order.

We asked: Who is your female role model/icon and why? @ShamTheMan Beyonce – probably because she's so ‘powerful’ as such. @danielsturman I'm not especially attached to any female icons any more than male icons and only ever respond to their talent, never politics. @colinbags If they can be role models and iconic individuals then so can we. @chrisjregan I'm not sure it's true; I don't feel very drawn to them. Might just be a stereotype that most don't want/care to refute? @thisislucio Mine is Deborah Harry, because she looks equally classy and slutty at the same time. @IanHowley Mine is Melanie C. I was drawn to her tomboy image back in the 90s and the fact she supported Liverpool FC. @backtoblack1984 Because they want to have the same adulation and focus on their private lives as on them. @ec1matt Mine’s Cher – career doldrums and a crappy marriage followed by toyboys, sell-out tours and a Best Actress Oscar. @j__a__i We're drawn to strong feminine personalities because they opine on being in control of their lives and loving men. Kylie for me. @carrozo More often than not I personally find effeminate traits in some gay men to be an off-the-shelf identity for the insecure. @djkettlety Can't say ever had an icon, but friends have, and reasons varied I think from dramatic lifestyle to fashion and flair. @JonBradfield It started with the Catholics and Mary. @ryanscollins I wrote a paper on this! My idol is Britney Spears and it’s because I can identify with her struggles, story and style. @LONESOMEshark Men had no relevant idols, aeons ago, so chose strong female icons as role models. Read that on a postcard, I did. @RogTat We don't all have female icons. Have you considered it as a form of group/social conditioning or ID? @brighteyesboy We lack feminine male or ‘sissy’ icons like Quentin Crisp. Male icons are often required to be ‘tough’. Only feminine male icons we have are comedians like Alan Carr who open themselves for ridicule. lTell us who is your icon and why by tweeting us @FSmagazineUK

lDiscuss this on Twitter using

#FSturns10. www.gmfa.org.uk

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FS132_COVER_FS 20/09/2012 12:23 Page 26


FS132_P27_Opinion.qxd_FS 20/09/2012 11:47 Page 27

OpiniOn

“I’m totally sick of the gays”

Nito/Shutterstock.com

by Mario Danneels.Tweet me: @MarioDanneels

I’d been happily sitting in my hetero bubble aka ‘the real world’ – sipping pints with the lads in my local on a Saturday night – for quite some time when a friend dragged me to Gran Canaria this summer. My preconceived idea of hell got worse the night we arrived and I was introduced to the ‘wondrous’ world of the Yumbo Centre. In case you are as uneducated in gay iconography as I was, the Yumbo Centre boasts one of the biggest concentrations of gay bars in the world, apparently. I warily screened my surroundings and balked at the thought of having to come up with a full week of different excuses not to have to mingle with the fake-orange-skinned-and-bottle-blond, shrieking crowd I became estranged from about three years ago. My friend and I compromised: we would “Why do you enjoy the scene?’” I alternate between ‘going gay’ and interrogated my friend while we were going to the pub. Even then I managed trying to outshout Madonna blaring to ‘miss’ a few gay nights, courtesy of from the speakers. “Because I feel pretend tiredness. I had applied this more comfortable in gay bars”, he trick before at a barbeque on a posh replied. Me: “It makes me feel London rooftop when, surrounded by uncomfortable.They don’t represent unbearably fake and pretentious gay me.” “That’s because you’re getting company, I had feigned looming older,” he gleefully retorted, a mere sunstroke to escape after only one two years short of 30 himself. I burger. pointed out that I was at least I don’t want to go all ten years younger than Samantha Brick on my most of the other own kind, but I felt queens out that night. “Themean increasingly acute “And they look world,Istarted embarrassment absolutely and even desperate for it, tounderstandand occasional tragic”, I accept,wastheone nearly vicarious shame said. watching these I don’t suffer Iwasmovingin, holiday-goers at from internalised withallitsdrama, the Yumbo Centre. homophobia, nor back-stabbing,and can I tearfully recall I particularly cringed at the a torturous coming casualsex.” British tourist walking out, that would make down the steps to the me want to distance bars in what looked like a myself from the typical gay low-cut flamenco dress, scene that I often find arms, hands and fingers curved in all ridiculous and utterly exhausting. It directions, flanked by two equally seems as if most people hooked on it flamboyant friends as if he were Dana are so insecure and lonely that they International on her way to her encore need to forge an individual identity at the Eurovision. ‘No dah’ling, not for that’s… identical to everyone else’s, me!’ he giggled at a local trying to sell based on the coincidence of their him a toy watch.The Spaniard sexuality. It’s not like I’m subsequently turned to me trying to condescendingly judging looking in flog his ware. Please, don’t pigeonhole from the outside: from the tender age me into the same category because we of 19 until my early retirement at 28, I happen to both be gay, my eyes lived on and for the scene. I also begged. happened to be a bag of issues. What I

didn’t realise for years is that the place that felt like a safe haven from the mean outside world, was reinforcing whatever issues and insecurities I had and making them considerably worse. The mean world, I started to understand and accept, was the one I was moving in, with all its drama, back-stabbing and casual sex in search of, and mistaken for, meaningful affection. As I grew up and became somewhat wiser I, unwittingly at first, started withdrawing from the gay herd. I’ve been leading a much happier, more content and satisfying life since, in a place where priorities aren’t focused around the occasional navel-gazing of a minority group that sometimes refuses to integrate into wider society, preferring its cocoon of ‘individuality’ and which then, ironically, shouts out its indignation at being treated differently. I am writing this from the south of Italy where the sun beats down as mercilessly as it does in Gran Canaria. Yet the people are tanned, not tangoed. I switched on Grindr to find the nearest gay was 25 miles away. Instead, two evenings ago I sat outside a tiny bar when two boys joined me. They were keen to practise their English and we kept chatting all night. I smiled when Edouardo excitedly told me about this girl from Milan he’d just met, and how he’s hoping they’ll go a long way. He picked up a deck of cards and taught me how to play. It was an idyllic, perfect night, serenaded by crickets rather than Kylie, with genuinely friendly handsome boys to chat to instead of ones that were secretively dissing me or trying to get into my pants. It was back in the real world for me. There is, of course, nothing wrong with a gay shindig, but it’s the segregation many gays seem to opt for that worries me. There is a life off the scene that is extremely rewarding and more stabilising. Are the men devoted to a life solely amongst their peers not precisely creating the segregation they ought to resist, with a warped sense of community and values as a result?

l Do you agree with @MarioDanneels? Tell us @FSmagazineUK and use #FSturns10. www.gmfa.org.uk

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advice

Sort it out!

FS readers and a trained counsellor give their advice on how to tackle one of life’s problems.

This month’s problem...

“I just saw my mother’s new boyfriend in a sauna.” – Ashley from Croyden

Your say...

rehearsing your explanation as to why you were at the sauna. Jack via email

Dear ashley

Dear ashley

I would tell your mother the one fact that you know and let her sort it out. You don't know if he is bisexual, you don't know whether he has sex with other men and you don't know if he is putting your mother at risk of anything. You do know that you saw him in a sauna where men go to have sex. I think that's all the information your mother needs to ask her partner the right questions. I'd also start

Just a couple of pieces of advice around this for you – although I can really understand you wanting to protect your mum and her feelings the reality is it’s actually not your business what your mum’s new boyfriend does or doesn’t do, in or out of gay saunas. They may have discussed this, they may not have and I think that if you did either let him know that you saw him there or

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you told your mum that you had, it will most likely end up with you getting blamed for breaking them up or poking your nose in. Eric via email

Facebook responses Personally, I would say he's gay. What straight man would go to a gay sauna? I’d mention it to your mother but in private. Joshua Personally I'd say don't jump to conclusions without an explanation. How long have they been together? Perhaps have a word


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with him first and see what his response is. For all you know, she may already know about it and be extremely embarrassed and not want you to think less of her by you knowing as well. On the other hand, if she doesn’t know then, a cheat's a cheat. Knee the twat in the balls and talk to your mum about it. David

Dear ashley Your mum’s boyfriend may not be gay, but if he’s going to gay saunas for fun, it’s pretty clear that he’s not straight. Which leaves you with two questions – is he putting your mum’s health at risk, and is he putting your mum’s heart at risk? There is some evidence that closeted gay men are less likely to have sex which puts them at risk of picking up STIs, probably because they know that if they got an STI that would involve some difficult conversations with their wives or girlfriends. However, you saw him in a gay sauna. Men who go to gay saunas are more likely to have lots of sexual partners, and men with lots of sexual partners are more likely to pick up STIs, even if they always use condoms. Could you talk to him about this? Tell him that you’ve seen him in the sauna and you’re worried about your mum? It could be a really tricky conversation but, on the other hand, do you really think that you’d be able to carry on pretending that you haven’t seen him there? Matthew at GMFA

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A counsellor’s opinion... Rob Wardle, GMI Partnership Services Manager, says: Dear ashley It is understandable that you feel completely thrown by seeing your mother’s boyfriend in a gay sauna and it is a natural human response to feel confused, anxious and concerned about the situation. That being said, there are many possible explanations surrounding this that you may have not considered. Your mother’s boyfriend could have been there with a gay friend, he may be bisexual and your mother may know about him visiting saunas or he may be confused about his sexuality and trying to figure it all out – there are many possible explanations. The question of if he is gay is not a straightforward one. Some men identify as gay or bisexual, some

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men identify as straight and sleep with men and some men don’t like to label themselves at all. Similarly, with regard to your concerns about him putting your mother at risk, without knowledge of what type of sex he is having, if any, you cannot know what risks there may be. If indeed he is having sex with men and the sex is unprotected then there will be a higher level of risk of exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is clear that you feel worried about the situation and feel uncomfortable being around him and your mother with so many unanswered questions going round in your head. Before jumping to any conclusions and telling your mother, it may be best to speak to him directly first. Although difficult, try to be neutral going in and remain open to his explanation. It is important for him to understand how the situation is making you feel and that you also feel it is important for him to discuss things with your mother. If he refuses to talk about it or speak to your mother at least you will have tried to go to him first before making a decision on whether to talk to her. If he tells you he is sleeping with men but refuses to talk to your mother then at least you will have more information to base your decision on. But remember, don’t jump to any conclusions without all the facts! Useful links: www.gmfa.org.uk/sex www.gmfa.org.uk/counselling www.gmipartnership.org.uk

Next month’s problem... I have a very small body, my arse is very tight and it’s hard for me to be the bottom during sex. My new boyfriend is 8 inches when hard and likes rough sex, really rough sex and it hurts, so much so that I bleed quite a bit after. I find that when we don't use condoms it doesn’t hurt as much. Am I doing any harm to my arse by letting him fuck me hard like this? Also is there anything I can do to help me take his cock without it hurting so much?

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l If you have some advice to give, or you have a problem that needs sorting, email: fsmag@gmfa.org.uk.

Sort it out EXTRA GMFA answers your other questions and worries.

How safe is frottage? I was with a guy recently and I was rubbing my cock around his arse. We rubbed for some time and my cock was in the entrance of his anus, but there was no penetration. Should I be concerned about HIV? Frottage is very safe. So long as you did not penetrate there would be no realistic risk of HIV transmission. HIV is a delicate virus and does not survive long when exposed to air. This is why it is usually transmitted when it is enclosed, as it is during penetrative sex.

Q

Spit or swallow? The other day my boyfriend asked me if I would swallow his cum. I am not against the idea but don't know anything about it. I looked on your website and it speaks about avoiding it to prevent any STIs. However if my partner is all clear and I swallow will it harm me in any way? If your partner is free of any STI then there is no risk from swallowing his cum. Many STIs can be transmitted by oral sex, and this is the case even if you don’t swallow cum, or get cum in your mouth. It is rare that HIV is transmitted by oral sex, although it happens, and it is extremely unlikely to be transmitted by oral sex if you avoid getting cum in your mouth. Many couples are monogamous but other couples are not. It is sensible to discuss such matters with your partner so you know what your personal agreement is, and what steps to take if either of you slips up. Although there is no harm in swallowing his cum, you should only do it if you’re happy to.

Q

For more info on sex, sexual health, STIs or to ask a question, visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/sex. www.gmfa.org.uk

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HeaLtH & advice

i

Listings

Counselling/mentoring lThe GMI Partnership offers free sexual health counselling and mentoring to gay men in London. For more information visit www.gmfa.org.uk/counselling or ring 020 7160 0941. You can also visit: www.gmipartnership.org.uk.

Clinics

Helplines

lFor a list of GUM services in London visit www.gmfa.org.uk/ clinics.

lCALM - A helpline for men feeling out of control or suicidal. Call 0808 802 58 58. Lines are open 4 days a week, Saturday to Tuesday, 5pm to midnight. lThe London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard: 0300 330 0630. Available daily 10am-11pm. lTHT Direct 0808 802 1221. Available Monday to Friday

Condoms lFreedoms provides free condoms and lube on the scene. They also sell low-cost, high quality condoms and lube via their online shop. Visit: www.freedoms-shop.nhs.uk.

10am-10pm and weekends 12noon-6pm.

Websites lFor information about sex, sexual health and what’s on offer in London, visit www.gmfa.org.uk.

Workshops and courses lTHT and PACE offer free courses and workshops to gay men in London. To find out more about what’s on offer, visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/gwk. lAlternatively, for PACE workshops phone: 020 7700 1323 or visit: www.pacehealth.org.uk. lFor THT courses and groups phone: 020 7812 1773, or visit: www.tht.org.uk.

Sex Positive An opportunity for HIV-positive men to talk with other men about their experiences of sex, relationships and life, with the purpose of gaining insight and understanding, and where desired, support and ideas for making changes in the future. Participants are asked to commit to all three days of the workshop before booking. The groupwork begins on Friday 26 October at 6.30pm and continues on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 October from 10am to 5pm. lFor more information visit www.gmfa.org.uk/gwk or call PACE on 020 7700 1323.

Get your Gaydar on with THT Share your experiences of life with HIV, get support online and get answers to your questions. Login to www.gaydar.co.uk, click on chatrooms and search for the Community Room called ‘THT – HIV+ Groupwork’ chatroom. This workshop takes place Tuesdays to Thursdays from 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

Published by GMFA Unit 11 Angel Wharf, 58 Eagle Wharf Road, London, N1 7ER Tel: 020 7738 6872 Email: gmfa@gmfa.org.uk Website: www.gmfa.org.uk Charity number 1076854 ISSN 1750-7162

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The FS team for issue 132 was Ian Howley (Editor), Anthony Babajee, Mario Danneels, Stuart Haggas, Matthew Hodson, Liam Murphy and Gavin Smith. Design and layout by www.christiantate.co.uk. FS is part of the Pan London HIV Prevention Programme. Appearance in FS is not an indication of an individual’s sexual orientation or HIV status. The views of our writers are not necessarily the views of FS, of the organisations mentioned, GMFA, or of the editor. You can view the current issue and past issues of FS online at: www.gmfa.org.uk/fs. Volunteers contribute to the planning, writing, editing and production of FS. To volunteer or donate, contact GMFA using the details to the left.

vgstudio/Shutterstock.com

lFor more information visit www.gmfa.org.uk/gwk or call THT on 020 7812 1773.


FREE FOR GAY MEN

C

OUNSELLING

M ENTORING H EALTH TRAINER 020 7160 0941 www.gmipartnership.org.uk gmi partnership

GMI_FS_july11.indd 1

GMI Partnership services are free and provided by Londoners from diverse backgrounds, who are trained and supervised to work with men across the City. The GMI Partnership is funded as part of the Pan-London HIV Prevention Programme. Š The GMI Partnership 2011

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fsmag @fsmagazineuk #FSturns10 www.fsmag.org.uk

www.gmfa.org.uk/fsapp


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