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THE FIT AND SEXY GAY MAG ISSUE #135 APR/MAY 2013

CHEATING

BASTARD!

“DON’T TELL MY BOYFRIEND”

FSMAG FSMAGAZINEUK WWW.FSMAG.ORG.UK

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Replay: My sex and relationships Do you have problems keeping or maintaining relationships? Do you have problems with intimacy or feel unable to have sex unless you’re under the influence? Are you ready to do something about it? Replay is a six-week course for gay and bisexual men. It will give you an opportunity to share your feelings and receive advice on developing meaningful relationships with people at work, with friends or with sexual partners. Using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), art therapy and motivational interviewing, facilitators will help you look at:

• intimacy • your relationship history • your needs in relationships • conditions you have for sex. All groups are led by Terrence Higgins Trust facilitators and aim to provide a safe, friendly environment and the opportunity to meet others. Sessions are held in central London locations including Soho and King’s Cross. For more information or to book a place, contact Groupwork London on 020 7812 1773 or email groupworklondon@tht.org.uk Terrence Higgins Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales (reg no. 288527) and in Scotland (SC039986). Ref: 0141605.


IMPORTANT!!

Model: Adam Morz @m0nkeyboi

Editor’s letter @IanHowley

We recently received some bad news here at FS HQ. As you may know FS is currently funded by the Pan London HIV Prevention Programme. Recently this has been disbanded and responsibility for HIV prevention has been moved to local authorities. In March, we found out that local authorities would not be funding FS after this issue. This is a major blow to us as we have been working our asses off to bring you a magazine that you, the gay men of London, would be proud of. So this really sucks. BUT it’s not the end of FS. GMFA, the charity behind FS, has decided to self-fund the magazine for as long as they can. GMFA believes in FS and from the recent feedback from our readers, you support us too. Since I took over as Editor we have seen FS go from strength to strength. Our digital version of this magazine has had over 22,000 reads for the last two issues and our FS app has had over 11,000 downloads on iTunes and Google Play. This shows us that FS is not a magazine we put time and effort into which then just sits in a corner in a pub. People are reading FS, sharing FS and (we hope) appreciate FS. We hope that what we produce has some sort of impact on you after you’ve read this magazine. So what’s next? We are currently putting a plan together to make sure FS is here in a year’s time. This is going to be tough and we may have to make some changes but we can guarantee you that we will do our best to keep FS going. If you value FS, and want to see it continue to provide information and advice for gay men, please email your London Council Borough Leader. You can find who that is at www.directory.londoncouncils.gov.uk. You can also send us an email of support to fsmag@gmfa.org.uk and we’ll pass on your messages. It may just help save this magazine. I hope you enjoy this issue. My volunteers and I worked hard on this and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did putting it together. Until next time... Ian Howley, Editor. Brought to you by

This issue is funded by the Pan London HIV Prevention Programme

Cover shot by Chris Jepson © www.chrisjepson.com www.gmfa.org.uk

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UPFRONT About time by Liam Murphy

@liamwaterloo

You know the feeling... You go home to the mother for the weekend and within a minute of stepping in the door you’re inundated with question after question about what you’re doing with your life. We all get it and we all feel under pressure to ‘succeed’. But we all know life isn’t that simple, as Liam Murphy finds out. I’ve run a marathon, been to China, begun work on a potential best-selling debut novel, bought my own house and found the man I’m destined to spend the rest of my very long life with. Remarkable, right? This is a list of things I wanted to achieve by the time I was 30 and because I’m so astonishingly brilliant, I’ve achieved… none of them. I can barely run for 15 minutes on a treadmill, the furthest I’ve travelled this year is to Dartford, I struggle typing an 800 word article, I can’t afford to pay my rent, I can’t even trick a man into kissing me, and I eat a lot of cheese and drink far too much coffee to have any hope of a long life. GO ME. I could be deemed a miserable failure; however, objectively, I’ve not done too badly. I have friends, family, access to internet porn and the ability to make columns like this one all about me. That’s not too shabby. So, why did I set myself these ‘inspirational’ goals for a set timeframe? While none were entirely unachievable, looking back at them, it does seem that I was setting myself up for a fall. Maybe I wanted to fail so I could have something to write about for a future article, maybe I thought aspirations would motivate me into bettering myself, or maybe,

I was just fooled into believing that accomplishments have to be made by a certain age or else I’m a steaming, coiled up, pavement failure. Every day we’re confronted by young, precocious little talentbuckets just waiting to make us feel bad. Let’s take Tom Daley (who I’m using as a catch-all for over-achieving youth – and because he gets his nipples out a lot). Not only does he excel in his chosen sporting field (pool?) of diving, while training for the Olympics, he also managed to successfully study and achieve top grades at school and release a best-selling autobiography (littered with nipple shots). He now even has his own TV show. It’s presented by Vernon Kay, but still. On the Richter Scale of achievement, Daley is registering at least an 8.5. What happens if you aren’t very good at flinging yourself off a board into a deep pool of chlorine-treated water? Does that make you bad at life? Well, no, not really. Firstly, we can’t all be expected to excel at something, because then we wouldn’t know when people are excelling as we’d all have the same level of achievement (that made sense, don’t say it didn’t). Secondly, who’s to say you won’t

Every day we’re confronted by young, precocious little talent-buckets just waiting to make us feel bad.

We asked: Do you feel under pressure to achieve certain things in your life? @Whirk_it As someone who’s now 31 and unemployed I’ve felt amazing pressure lately. My husband and I have a house and two dogs. Everyone is always pushing new career choices down my throat, even though financially we are stable. @kewxedge Relationship pressures. Achievement is relative, but Facebook/Twitter has created a competitive social culture between friends. @SohoGuy Mainly the awareness that you didn’t necessarily achieve all you planned to by the age you are now. @al1345 Career vs relationship, definitely. Having the opportunity to have all of one, none of the other. Nothing new. But it is to me! @BickNaker I worry about when I’ll obtain a tool collection for DIY of my own and stop just borrowing my dad’s. @ben1283 I think achievement is relative, but age makes you forget that. @platinumjones I think the idea that you have to be perfect and get to the ultimate is the clincher isn’t it? “Having it all” URGH : / @alexthomasmusic That stupid unrealistic pressure to live up to your peers’ achievements. And of those in the public eye. @CMpvt Divorce = how the hell do you afford to buy a home. Health — things start breaking or aching. BUT I’ve got happier as I’ve got older. @0hJamie The mid-life crisis thing. Eg: Am I who I want to be? What do I need to prove to myself? Then you look at the cost of changing.

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www.shutterstock.com/Alexander Santander

achieve some spectacular goal in your lifetime. Just because we haven’t won a televised talent contest, bagged an Olympic medal or whipped our hair back and forth by the time we’re 16, doesn’t automatically mean that our accomplishments mean nothing. Plenty of folk achieve their goals later in life, and not everyone has to be a child prodigy. Just take… that guy… from that thing… you know the guy. Anyway, my point is that there’s not some invisible hourglass hanging above our head like a personalised rain cloud, counting down to the time that any accomplishment is deemed meaningless

because you have to check the ‘30+’ box on a form. So what if it takes me until I’m 40 to even begin writing my first book, so what if my only trip this year is chemically induced and so what that I still haven’t learned to ride a bicycle (oh, like you’re good at everything). Let’s take our time, relax and take a moment out from the fierce ambition race to actually enjoy our lives. Who knows what we’ll achieve along the way. Oh, look, Tom Daley just singlehandedly saved the planet from an alien invasion. The over-achieving dick.

Do you feel under pressure to achieve certain things? Let us know @FSmagazineUK or post a comment on our Facebook wall, www.facebook.com/fsmag. www.fsmag.org.uk

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Taken a risk since your last negative test? Could you now be passing on HIV? Test at home with a postal HIV test. It’s free and confidential. Order yours or find other testing services at tht.org.uk/postaltest 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).


LIFESTYLE

KRISTIAN LIFE

Perfect life? Don’t make me laugh.

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

@guy_interruptd

“Have you ever contemplated suicide?” asked my GP the other day when I begged her for yet another prescription of sleeping tablets for my chronic insomnia. Erm, only about four or five times, but obviously that’s over the course of my whole life, not lately. I mean, that would be ridiculous, right? This was, of course my internal dialogue. My mouth smiled, my “I’m head shook a hasty still a human ‘no’ and my words being and a gay gave her a final reassurance. man, with a shit But yeah, body image and being that I I’ve considered an ever-expanding wouldn’t do suicide. More than the job properly once. Scary, right? thirtysomething and wind up And I’m not some gut.” in a wheelchair, manic depressive trapped in my own either. It’s scary how body and mind. many seemingly levelAfter Amy Winehouse headed people I’ve spoken died in the summer of 2011, to have considered suicide. about three or four months after I got Like, seriously considered it. Not the sober, I blogged about my personal flippant, ‘Oh my God, if I don’t get to battle with alcohol on my www. the gym in time for the WE Party this sexdrugssausagerolls.wordpress. weekend I might ACTUALLY have to com site, and again in my first post kill myself.’ kind of threat, but full-on vertical-slash-on-the-wrist, vodka-and- of the new year. The reaction was pills, no-fucking-about-I-really-fucking- unprecedented — the posts went viral on social media (not because of me, don’t-want-to-be-alive kinda shit. but a lucky retweet from Stephen Fry), I’ll admit I’m not the ‘sanest’ of people; I drank myself stupid for years, but what struck me was reading the comments from people who follow my and in my darkest moments (usually at random daily mutterings on Twitter, etc. 3am after a four-day bender) I would One comment in particular stood quite often fall asleep, after finishing my out: “I was genuinely upset and eighth bottle of vodka hoping I didn’t wake up. I hated the cycle of addiction. disheartened when I began to read this… I had no idea how your life had I hated the worry it caused and I hated dipped, I think I kind of assumed you not being able to stop, even though had it all; so now this has really made it was all I desperately wanted to do. me stop and think.” Fresh out of a booze binge, facing the Had it all? Sweet baby Jesus, no. ‘four horsemen’ of terror, bewilderment, Don’t make me laugh. But I had to frustration and despair, there were wonder: is that how I come across? times when I stood on a tube platform I’m certainly a lucky man; I’m not on and seriously considered chucking the streets for a start. I have a job, myself under a tube train. My only fear

somewhere to live, and a sane, patient boyfriend who puts up with me even though I’m a nightmare at times. But I don’t ‘have it all’. Addiction is never something you can be complacent about. I’m always an arm’s length from a drink. When the column goes off to the editors and the laptop shuts down, I’m still a human being and a gay man, with a shit body image and an ever-expanding thirtysomething gut, someone who battles with pride and ego, survives on about three hours of sleep a night, gets road rage, worries about money, never has enough time to do anything or see anyone, resents shoving pills down his neck on a daily basis, and then more to counteract their side effects, argues with family/ friends/lovers, kisses and makes up, apologises more than most, and in general, gets this whole ‘life’ thing wrong a heck of a lot. I drank because it drowned out the constant noise in my washing machine head. I drank because I found life painful. I don’t want to present an image that people can’t relate to, simply because they imagine me at my desk, happily typing out another FS column about my life and my perspective, because it’s fucking fabulous and I don’t have any worries. Because, believe me, I do. And I now don’t have the luxury of a nice cold beer or glass of wine to take the edge off, like most people. A sober life is a rocky road when you’ve been anaesthetising for as long as I did. Luckily, I’m a million miles from chucking myself under a tube train (random suicides really fuck up people’s commute anyway). I’m happy most of the time. Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be, but it took some bloody hard work and more than a few emotional bruises along the way. I’m not perfect and I’m not exempt from the curveballs life decides to chuck at random. Every issue I ask myself if my column is still relevant. Can people still relate, or is it time to step aside and let someone else take the reins? Time (and feedback) will tell, but if this column manages to help just one person help themselves, like I did, then it’s kind of worth publishing, don’t you think?

Kristian Johns is an author and former editor who now runs his own copywriting agency. When he’s not raising awareness of HIV issues, his sole mission in life is to convince his boyfriend to let him have a dog. www.fsmag.org.uk

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GMFA - for gay men’s sexual health. Unit 11, Angel Wharf, 58 Eagle Wharf Road, London N1 7ER Charity No: 1076854 part of

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ADVICE

THE ISSUE

that’s your bag) is an affirmation of our sexual identity. For others, an endless succession of sexual partners is a futile attempt to fill a void in our lives. The behaviour may appear the same, but the causes of that behaviour can be very different. Similarly, some gay men use drugs to escape, because they feel unable to cope with their lives. But we should not lose sight of the main reason that many gay men take drugs – because, just like our heterosexual brothers and sisters filling the clubs in Ibiza or Ayia Napa, we think they’re fun. We’re on a hiding to nothing if we try to consider the health needs of by Matthew Hodson @Matthew_Hodson gay men as if we are all part of one homogenous community. We’re not. We don’t all think the same way. We the drug taking, for many, is just the don’t all have the same struggles, the Are gay men, as some would have same values or the same desires. For it, ‘the biggest suicide cult in history’ or natural accompaniment to our lives of child-free adventuring. some people hedonism will only be are we just having a good time? So, is it because we’re gay, or is it a short phase, for others it may be a It’s well known that we have sex with because we’re men? If social pressures life-choice. more people than our heterosexual didn’t oblige heterosexual men to settle And I’m not saying this because brothers. We’re also more likely to down and have kids, wouldn’t they I think these choices are neutral. take drugs and drink to excess – be doing the same thing? And if our Drugs and alcohol aren’t good for you. and are much more likely to prance rampant sex lives and drug taking were They can damage your kidneys, liver, around in nightclubs with our tits to simply a reaction to homophobia in increase your risk of heart attacks the wind. Is this indicative of great our nurture, wouldn’t lesbians be more and seriously mess with your head. pain or of joy? promiscuous? The more men you have sex with, the Often we are told that the reason greater the likelihood of you picking up that gay men take drugs, abuse alcohol an STI, including but not limited to HIV. or have lots of random hook-ups is Sex and drugs and alcohol combined because we don’t really like ourselves; lead to people making decisions that the casual homophobia we have We have all around sexual safety that they wouldn’t been subjected to in our childhood has been raised with do when sober. Lives are lost or ruined been internalised, and so we seek to the idea that, as because of the poor choices that some escape by losing ourselves in sex and of us make. drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. I think that’s men, our goal is I believe that we need to increase part of the story but I’m not convinced to have as much sex our efforts to help men make healthy it’s the whole one. with as many people as choices, to end the miseries caused Alongside the hetero-sexism, or we possibly can. Is it by meth addiction and the ongoing toll worse, that we encounter as children, that HIV has taken on our community. we also hear traditional fairy stories any wonder that so But if we believe that these are the with princes seeking adventures, many of us do? behaviours that we need to address, battling dragons and slashing their as a community, to improve the health way through enchanted forests, whilst of our community, then let us consider the princesses sleep or keep house all of the reasons why they might be so for dwarves until they are rescued. common. We grow up subjected to soaps and I’m not arguing that this is a simple Tackling the hurt and damage that sitcoms which tell us that women causal relationship; I think all of us some gay men feel as they come to are looking for a life partner but men are a bit more complex than that. terms with their sexuality, even if it were are just looking for sex, keen to keep simple to do, may not be enough. As sowing their seed as widely, and for as Whatever the reasons why gay men fall into certain behaviour patterns, tolerance and equality become more long, as possible. deeply embedded within our culture we So in our gay world, where we have there is nothing pre-ordained about it. Lots of us happily settle into long-term may find that society’s historic all been raised with the idea that, as monogamous relationships. Lots of disapproval of our lives and lifestyles is men, our goal is to have as much sex us manage to get through life without inadequate as an excuse for our with as many people as we possibly snorting an army-size helping of sometimes reckless, but often joy-filled, can, is it any wonder that so many Columbia’s finest. Heterosexuals and behaviour. of us do? With our social and sexual lesbians are perfectly capable of being lives intertwined with a commercial sleep-around junkies (although they are gay scene, which commonly uses the Matthew is Head of Programmes less likely to be). prospect of sex to entice us off our at GMFA. This article is Matthew’s For some of us, sex with another sofas, shagging around can become a own opinion and not necessarily the hard habit to kick. And the drinking and man (or a whole group of men, if view of GMFA as an organisation.

Is it because we’re gay or is it because we’re men?

www.fsmag.org.uk

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COVER STORY

So you think he’s faithful? by Liam Murphy

@liamwaterloo

Admit it. We all want it. The ‘happy ever after’, to meet ‘the one’, to settle down in the country with our lover and an army of pugs. The pursuit of love is human nature and the exhilaration you feel when you finally find a boyfriend is intoxicating. Unfortunately, it’s also human nature to have our cake and have sex with it too. This isn’t an exclusively gay trait – heterosexuals are just as guilty of thrusting their genitals at the nearest package of flesh – however it’s a reality we have to consider in this tricky world of dating. Why do people cheat?

“I ended up going back to someone’s house with a group of guys for a ‘chill out’ and before you knew it, nakedness happened.”

Maybe you were unhappy, drunk, horny, drunk and horny, drunk and horny and bored, or maybe you’re just a bit of a git. Whatever the reason, however justified, cheating does happen. It could just be a quick blowjob or it could be a full-blown tenman gangbang. The reasons and the act in question don’t matter as such – it’s the betrayal that counts. That’s not to vilify the ‘cheater’ completely; many circumstances can lead to someone going astray. You could be arguing with your boyfriend a lot, it could be a retaliation for how you’ve been treated by your significant other, or maybe

to move in with me but he didn’t want to break up with me either. I did love him but I felt trapped and we were obviously drifting apart. I was going out with my friend without him a lot and it seemed like he couldn’t be arsed to make the effort to interact with us – he never really did to be honest. One night I went out and got absolutely trashed – drink, drugs – you name it, I did it. I ended up going back to someone’s house with a group of guys for a ‘chill out’ and before you knew it, nakedness happened.” Jesse had planned to keep it to himself but he decided honesty was the best policy. “When I saw my boyfriend next he was asking me about my night out. Something snapped in me and I thought ‘he probably doesn’t even fucking care anyway’, so I told him what happened. He was devastated and it left him kind of broken. I cried, he cried and it was all very messy. I realised how much I loved him but it was all too late. He didn’t trust me anymore and I was left feeling like a bit of a scumbag.” Cheating doesn’t always lead to the destruction of a relationship however, as Michael can attest to. “I’d been with Drew (my partner) for about five years and things weren’t great. I’d started to use the net to cruise guys, and one day I arranged a ‘meet’ and went and hooked up with someone. Because I’m a bit stupid and forgot Drew and I share a laptop, he looked through the history and found what sites I’d been using. I braced myself for the shouting and crying and throwing of vases but he was really calm. He just looked at me

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

G BASTARD! there’s been such a communication breakdown that you’ve gone elsewhere for comfort. Or it could be that you really are just a bit of a git.

The cheaters “I really didn’t see myself as the bad guy at the time,” 25-year-old Jesse tells FS. “I’d been in a relationship for about two years and I just felt it wasn’t going anywhere. He didn’t want

and basically told me he was doing the same thing. We had a massive talk, which actually lasted about two days, and we realised we really loved each other and we’d let the relationship fall apart without even really wanting to. There was a minor wobble when we found out we’d brought crabs into our bed – we never really figured out who it was – but now we’re stronger than ever, with a strict ‘no cheating’ agreement.” www.fsmag.org.uk

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The open relationshippers

condoms when fucking other guys, and I went for an ‘MOT’ every four to six months, so I wasn’t too worried. Open relationships are fairly common in the gay community and Well, one day I got a call from my friend who informed me that his boyfriend while they’re not for everybody, had some nasty symptoms and that some loving, committed couples I should go for a check-up, as I was are comfortable in exploring their sexuality outside their partnership. the only regular casual partner they had. It turned out his boyfriend had the “My boyfriend Jason decided to go LGV strain of Chlamydia, so I had two abroad to study and because of the weeks of precautionary antibiotics and distance, I resigned myself to the celibacy. I know they had no sex, with relationship not lasting,” explaines each other or other guys for around 28-year-old Martin. a month and when I asked them how “However, we loved each other they got it, it turned out they both had and decided to give the long-distance shagged someone separately without thing a go, but open it up to defuse protection, so they couldn’t be sure some of the tensions a long-distance who caught it first. I think the trust was relationship can bring.” When it comes gone for them after that and they broke to their sexual health, Martin and his up a short time later.” boyfriend take no chances. “Obviously we play apart and we have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in place when it The monogamisers comes to sex partners. The strictest of the rules is ‘safe sex always’ but if Carlos has been with his partner an accident did happen – a condom for just over a year and they breaking or anything else particularly have a completely committed, risky – we would tell each other. We monogamous relationship. “We both go for a check-up every eight made the decision to not use condoms months just in case, because we’d when we have sex. The main reason rather be safe than sorry.” They also was that I tend to lose sensation during think communication is the key to their sex if I wear one, even when I use the relationship’s success, “You can solve a extra thin condoms.” The decision to lot of problems before they happen not use protection is something he just by talking through your discussed at great length feelings about them. with his partner. “We The openness in our did use them at first “Once you stop relationship wouldn’t but as we’re in a work without 100% committed using condoms, being open with relationship, we I believe monogamy each other, and decided that the is a mandatory rule. because we talk trust was high After all, it’s about regularly about it, enough to not we can alter the wear condoms. commitment, trust rules as we go Cheating is not and loving and to make sure they an option for us protecting each work.” and if we ever When it comes get interested by other.” to open relationships, someone else, we’ve it’s not just boyfriends agreed that it’s probably who need to be aware of their time to move on.” Carlos and sexual health, it’s the ‘guest stars’ too. his boyfriend did take precautions Thom told us about his hook-ups with before deciding to ditch the condoms a couple that led to a trip to the GUM however. “We went to a GUM clinic clinic. “I used to fool around with a guy to get a full barrage of tests done a few years back and then lost touch. and only when the results came back We reconnected again a little while ago with the ‘all clear’, did we decide to and he told me he now had a boyfriend keep the condoms locked up in the and they enjoyed inviting people into bed-side cabinet. Once you stop their ‘love making’. The boyfriend liked using condoms, I believe monogamy the look of me, so I jumped at the is a mandatory rule. After all, it’s about chance. I used to go round to their commitment, trust and loving and house about once a week for fun and I protecting each other.” did that for a good few months. I knew Adam, on the other hand, has they shagged about a lot with other been in a monogamous relationship people, as well as going to saunas for the past two years but still uses and sex parties, but they always used condoms with his boyfriend. “For me,

it’s not a trust issue at all. I think using condoms is a good habit to get into and it’s one I always practise. It doesn’t seem to affect me sensation-wise, so I always just whack one on when getting down to business. It’s like an automatic process for me.” He explains that there are several other factors that led him to keep using protection. “To be perfectly honest, I do use condoms for hygiene reasons too. We all know that anal sex can be… messy… for lack of a better word, no matter how many precautions we take. I’m pretty squeamish with that stuff, so a condom for me acts as a handy glove for your penis! It’s probably not the most important reason to use a condom, but it works for me!”

The I think we’re monogamisers It’s understandable, when you’re in a relationship, that at some point you may want to do away with condoms and indulge in some bareback bumming with your once and future love. However, as much as you trust them, would you quite literally put your health in their hands? The decision to go bareback with your boyfriend can have some repercussions, especially if you find out that your partner hasn’t been entirely faithful. “I was so in love with my boyfriend of the time that I didn’t even question not using condoms,” explains 32-year-old Chris. “We were together for a year or so and very happy. Except one day I noticed a discharge from my penis and a mild burning sensation when I went to the toilet. I’d never had an STI before, so I didn’t even consider a GUM clinic and I went straight to my GP (which was a little bit embarrassing) who then referred me to a clinic. I confronted my boyfriend about it, and he confessed to Grindr-ing his way through most of London. He couldn’t tell me whether he’d been completely safe or not. It’s a shame because it’s made it very hard for me to trust guys who are interested in me now. I did learn one thing though: I will always use a bloody condom!”

The HIV issue Lei was dating his boyfriend for around six months before a revelation changed things forever. “Things were going really well. We had loads of fun together, we were getting closer emotionally and the sex was fantastic. We used condoms most of the time, but there were occasions when the excitement got a bit too much

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COVER STORY and we didn’t quite manage it. I’m a bottom and I’ll be honest, sex without condoms feels so much better. I get tested regularly at the clinic but he never really had, so we decided a quick check-up was needed. He came round to my flat that night and I could see he was pale and visibly shaken. He’d been diagnosed as HIV-positive.” After the bombshell, Lei made When it a difficult decision comes to open that he thought was ultimately for the relationships, it’s best. “A few weeks not just boyfriends later I decided who need to be to break up with aware of their him. I know he didn’t cheat on sexual health, it’s me and he got it the ‘guest stars’ through previous too. encounters, but after I got tested and it came back negative, I made the decision that being in a relationship with someone who was HIV-positive was more than I could handle. I know it seems selfish, but I prioritised my health first and I knew that if we tried to give it a go, the pressure would eventually break us up. I stayed friends with him and I’m still there to support him. Many a night we’ve met up and talked through how he’s feeling and how he’s getting on. I admit that it’s not my finest moment and I know many couples can make it work but, at the time, it wasn’t for me. The one thing I did take away from the whole experience is that condoms are pretty essential, especially at the beginning of relationships. I feel like I really dodged a bullet.” However, as Lei says, mixed HIV status couples can make it work. Ross and his partner had been together a number of years when he discovered that he was HIV-positive. “It was a definite life-changer but we both approached it in a very sensible, organised way. My doctor told me, I told my boyfriend, and we worked out a plan. He coped so well with it. I mean, of course he was worried, but now that I’ve been undetectable for a few years, that helps somewhat.” As Ross and his partner have an open relationship, honesty has always been key to their partnership’s success. “When we first got together, he told me that we couldn’t have a long-term relationship unless it was open. This required serious thought and a lot of growing up on my part, I think. The key was honest communication and www.fsmag.org.uk

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COVER STORY lot of evidence that suggests that a hefty proportion of heterosexual couples aren’t actually monogamous either. Most successful relationships are built on a solid foundation of good communication. People change, and so change within a relationship is inevitable — but if you keep on talking to each other then you’re well placed to avoid the hazards that relationships can run into.”

What’s your ideal relationship? In a recent survey conducted by FS, we asked you what you wanted from a relationship. The results varied from ‘someone you can trust’ to ‘someone with a huge package and sizeable guns’. Here are some of the responses:

“My ideal relationship would be with someone who is equal, who treats me with respect and is an important but not the only part of my life.” “My perfect relationship would be with a man who is caring, passionate, understanding, supportive, romantic, creative and a great cuddler.” “There is no such a thing as an ideal relationship. Every relationship is different and that’s what makes it special. But what’s important in all cases, is being honest with each other. You can’t build a relationship on a lie.” “My ideal relationship would be with a man who is tender, loving, treats me with respect and courtesy, has a genuine personality, a warm wonderful sense of humour… and has a nice body and a big dick.” “Monogamous, and emotionally and sexually fulfilling are the things I look for in my ideal relationship.”

Communication is the key Whether you’re monogamous, in an open relationship, cheating or cheated on, it’s clear that when it to comes down to you and your boyfriend’s sexual well-being, honest communication with your partner is vital. If you decide to no longer use protection, then try and make a trip to the clinic part of your routine. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust each other. Just consider it as normal as going to the dentist. Sona Barbosa, Counselling Team Leader at the GMI Partnership, thinks that the decision to stop using condoms with a partner, no matter how long the relationship, should not be taken lightly. “Health and emotional factors are at risk here. The key issues are communication and trust. Being able to communicate with and to trust a partner is essential. Lack of trust can seriously damage a relationship and one’s self esteem and selfconfidence. Living in doubt can take away a person’s ability to believe in themselves. I know clients who have told me that they became paranoid and extremely controlling, making their partners feel suffocated and trapped in the relationship. It’s very important that partners communicate with each other, listen to each other and respect each other’s views and feelings. This is the only way they’ll be able to reach a decision about what type of relationship they want to be in. If they do agree to an open relationship, I suggest they go back to using condoms and make sure they get tested frequently. However, agreeing to an open relationship and being able to deal with one and accept it is a different story. At some point this will need to be an individual decision depending on what each person wants and feels comfortable with.” We know that not everyone cheats and there are some fine upstanding monogamous men on this dirt rock, but for our own sexual health, we need to at least squint through the rose-tinted glasses (designer, of course) and be aware that a slip of the penis can happen. We know that using a condom every time you have sex isn’t always realistic but honest communication with your partner is. Tell them what you want from your sex life and maybe you can work something out that gets you both off, whether that’s an open relationship or not. Become more oral... you know you want to.

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Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

agreeing what would work for both of us. Because I’m HIV-positive, he uses condoms with me and he gets tested annually. We have a wonderful doctor who helped us with the longterm planning for an HIV-positive individual. My advice for anyone in an open relationship, especially a mixed status one, is to be safe, be honest, be thoughtful, be supportive and be responsible. Communicate your needs and listen to your partner’s needs. Have fun together.” “It doesn’t matter whether you’re gay or straight, once you’re in a relationship you’re much less likely to use condoms,” says Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes at gay men’s health charity GMFA. “Sometimes couples talk about this first, ensure that they both have the same HIV status and work out what they would do if one of them, for whatever reason, put themselves at risk outside of the relationship. All too often though that discussion doesn’t take place, or people find that they’re unable to keep to the agreements that they have made.” Matthew unfortunately hears a similar story a lot through his work at GMFA. “If you talk to a group of men with HIV about how they got it, you will inevitably hear stories of people who became infected because they believed that they were in a monogamous relationship - and found out, too late, this wasn’t the case. About a third of men with HIV believe that they got the virus from sex within a relationship. Of course that doesn’t mean that there are no monogamous relationships, just that sometimes it’s hard to know whether your relationship truly is monogamous.” When asked why he thinks open relationships are more common in the gay community, Matthew believes it’s down to unrestrictive relationship models, “Perhaps because we don’t see our lives reflected in the fairy tales we hear as children, gay men seem to be happier to explore a range of relationship models. I know couples in relationships that are completely open, where either partner can have sex with anyone at any time, others who do threesomes (or more-somes) but ban any sexual activity when the other partner isn’t present, some couples who are happy to talk about their playing around and others who allow it but only on condition that they never talk about it. For a lot of gay couples though, the traditional, monogamous model is the one that they prefer. While gay men may be more accepting of alternatives to monogamy, there’s a


RELATIONSHIPS SURVEY SO DO YOU THINK HE’S FAITHFUL? We asked our readers via Facebook and Twitter to fill in our relationship/monogamy survey. Nearly 600 of you responded, and as promised here they are. Let us know what you think on Facebook or Twitter. What is your current relationship status? Single

34.0%

Dating

6.1%

In a relationship

46.9%

Civil Partnership/Married

12.9%

Only people who ticked ‘In a relationship’/ ‘Civil partnership’/ ‘married’ were asked to answered the following questions: How long have you been in your current relationship? Less than a month

1.1%

1 - 3 months

4.0%

3 - 6 months

7.1%

6 months - 1 year

5.1%

1 - 3 years

20.8%

3 - 5 years

14.8%

5 - 7 years

12.3%

7 - 10 years

10.3%

10 years +

24.5%

What kind of relationship are you in currently? In a monogamous relationship (we only have sex with each other) 78.2%

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

In an open relationship (we have agreed that we can have sex with other people)

SAYS: Is it a surprise that only 21.8% are in an open relationship? How many times have we heard the phrase “gay men can’t do monogamy”? Have we just broken an urban myth? The next few questions might help with that.

Have you ever cheated on your current partner (had sex with someone else without his consent)? Yes

26.7%

No

71.8% 1.5%

Not sure

If not sure, please explain why: We don’t give consent to each other, our personal life and sex life are separate. Not sex, but just kissing. To the best of your knowledge, has your current partner cheated on you (had sex with someone else without your consent) Yes

14.7%

No

77.4% 7.9%

I don’t know

If you don’t know, please explain why: I have strong suspicions he has but he denies it, and I have no proof. I don’t have him geotagged and I don’t have people following him with cameras. I’d like to believe he is not but honestly who knows what people do when they’re not with you. I have my suspicions something happened a long time ago but this has never been confirmed. The following questions were asked of all gay men who answered our survey. Was your longest relationship...

21.8%

Less than a month

2.5%

When we break this down by age: Monogamous/Non-monogamous Under 16 years old

1 - 3 months

5.1%

3 - 6 months

7.8%

6 months - 1 year

10.0%

97.6%/2.4%

1 - 3 years

19.4%

25-35 years old

3 - 5 years

15.2%

5 - 7 years

10.5%

100%/0%

17-24 years old 89.8%/10.2%

36-50 years old 64.3%/35.7%

Over 50 years old 52.4%/47.6%

7 - 10 years

10.0%

10 years +

19.4% www.fsmag.org.uk

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When we break this down by age we found that for most gay men aged 1735 their longest relationship was 1-3 years, and for those aged 36 years and over it was 10 years or more. Thinking about all the relationships that you have had, how often have you cheated (had sex with someone else without your partner’s consent)? In all my relationships

5.9%

In the majority of my relationships

7.7%

In about half of my relationships

4.2%

In some of my relationships

18.8%

Just the once

22.1%

Never

41.3%

Comments: I discussed this with a lover, what exactly is cheating? Is it having sex without your partner knowing and without his consent or is it getting caught? I think it is a lack of respect. If you cheat on me in a way I can 56.3% never find out that is respect, but if you concoct an affair with of the people constant texting and sloppily who admitted to hidden communications, that is cheating. cheating in all of I entered into an open their relationships relationship with a guy some time ago — I wasn’t picked up an comfortable with it, but did it to STI. make him happy. So he was sleeping with lots of other people while we were together. I hated it, but technically it wasn’t ‘cheating’ as I’d said it was OK. I slept with other people too, to try and keep up with him.

Comments: It was not really official as a relationship at the time, so I guess that Have you ever been diagnosed was OK? with an STI while in a relationship? The relationship was already over and Yes 23.7% he was hanging on to it like a mad man.... I just had enough of his vitriolic No 74.8% behaviour and slept with someone. Not Not sure 1.4% proud of it and will not do it again! I started cheating and then knew it Comments: was really the end of the relationship. I was infected with HIV from my Only one partner was tedious enough boyfriend. to expect monogamy. I gave one partner an STI, chlamydia, but we had just started dating and it was not a result of adultery. Another partner gave me an STI but we assumed it was a pre-relationship infection until I discovered he was cheating quite extensively. No, but a long-term partner got crabs whilst we were together.

Thinking about all the relationships that you have had, how often has your partner cheated on you (that you are aware of)? In all my relationships

3.3%

In the majority of my relationships

7.8%

In about half of my relationships

6.7%

In some of my relationships

27.2%

Just the once

18.5%

Never

36.5%

Nearly 24% of people said they have picked up an STI while in a relationship. When we look closer at these stats we can see that the age range that was most likely to be diagnosed with an STI while in a relationship is the 36-50 year old bracket. Over 50% were currently in open relationships. 56.3% of people who admitted to cheating in all of their relationships picked up an STI. Not surprisingly, the fewer the relationships you had where there was cheating, the less likely you were to have picked up an STI in a relationship.

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

Nearly 24% of people said they have picked up an STI while in a relationship.

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COVER STORY

FS SAYS: WHAT WE HAVE LEARNT We all know relationships are a tricky thing. Everyone is different and we all act differently in different situations. If relationships were easy then you would never need any advice, would you? But from looking at our survey results it’s clear that better communication is needed. Whatever you want from your relationship, whether that’s an open relationship or 100% monogamy then you need to be clear with your partner. And here’s why: If you are having sex with someone else without your partner’s consent then you need to know the risks.

In 2011 about 3000 gay men were diagnosed with HIV. About 80% of all new HIV infections came from people who didn’t know they were HIV-positive. Around one-in-five positive men still don’t know they are HIV-positive. So if you are having sex with someone who is not your partner and you are not using condoms then you need to test for HIV regularly. And if you fuck up? PEP is available.

What is PEP?

PEP is a course of HIV medication which you can take if you have been at risk of infection. The course of HIV medication lasts 28 days and, if you start taking it within 72 hours of putting yourself at risk, it may be able to prevent you from becoming infected with HIV. PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis – in other words it’s a form of protection (against HIV) that you can take after you have taken a risk or had a condom break on you. For more information on PEP, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/pep. For more info on HIV testing, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/HIV. To find out where to get tested for STIs and HIV, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/clinics.

www.fsmag.org.uk

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SCREAM AND SHOUT AND LET IT ALL OUT! Why has suicide become the number 1 killer of young gay men? By Stuart Haggas @getstuart

Evidence in fact shows that gay and bisexual men are more prone to depression and suicide than our straight peers. In 2011 Stonewall conducted the world’s largest survey ever of gay and bisexual men’s health needs, with 6,861 respondents from across Britain. The survey found that 50% of gay and bisexual men had felt their life was not worth living, compared with 17% of men in general – with 46% of gay and bisexual men saying they’d felt this way within the last year. 27% of gay men and 38% of bisexual men said they’d considered taking their own life in the last year, even if they wouldn’t do it, compared with just 4% of men in general. The survey also found that 3% of gay men and 5% of bisexual men had attempted to take their own life in the last year, compared to just 0.4% of all men. Teenagers are even more vulnerable, with 10% of gay and bisexual men aged 16 to 19 having attempted to take their own life in the last year. FS Magazine’s editor Ian Howley tells me that these statistics don’t surprise him. “It’s more worrying that in this day and age gay men still feel

children are brought up to think that like they have nowhere to turn,” he they will find someone, get married and elaborates. “The ‘gay journey’ can be have children themselves. As a gay quite difficult for many gay men, while some find it easy. When I was 12 years teenager, I thought that being gay was a bad thing — there was no future for old, I started to realise that I was gay me, I was never going to have children and I hated it. I thought everyone was and was going to be alone going to reject me. I thought my forever. When you can’t family would disown me. I see a future for yourself, simply didn’t want to be 27% of gay why would you value gay. Over the space your life? I believe of a year I fell into a men and 38% of that many young deep depression bisexual men said gay men, even in and at age 13 I 2013, still can’t tried to take my they’d considered see a future for life for the first taking their own themselves, which time. I failed, but life in the last year explains why they it did not stop are more likely what was going compared with just to do drugs, drink on in my mind. 4% of men in more and attempt The depression got general. suicide.” worse and I went on “We live in a society to try to take my life which is rapidly moving twice more. I was 16 at the towards full legal equality for time of my last attempt. lesbians and gay men,” adds GMFA’s “Why did I do it? It was mainly Matthew Hodson,” but as the recent down to fear. I feared being ‘gay’ debates over gay marriage have and everything that went with it. I just wanted to be ‘normal’ and like everyone established, there are many who would take away these rights, and who are else around me. And I think that’s the unafraid to voice their disapproval of case for lots of young gay men who gay people. Rejection by your family are finding themselves. Heterosexual

Shutterstock.com/dundanim

The word gay once described someone who was light-hearted and carefree, or something that was brightly coloured and showy, but in the latter half of the twentieth century it became more commonly associated with homosexual men. It appears to be an apt word choice, because the stereotypical gay man is often portrayed as light-hearted and carefree, with a love of everything bright and showy. Although this cliché is not entirely without merit, the truth is that our lives don’t always sparkle like sequins and disco balls.

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LIFESTYLE

Shutterstock.com/dundanim

!

www.fsmag.org.uk

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HOMOPHOBIC, NOT TECHNOPHOBIC Although Ian acknowledges that things have changed quite a bit since he was a teenager, the underlying issues that contributed to his depression and suicide attempts haven’t been eradicated – but they’ve adapted to the 21st century. “I would barely talk in school because I thought people could tell from the way I talked. I even watched how I moved my body so as not to give out signs. But when I was a teenager, bullying was left at the school gate,” Ian explains. “Now it can be a 24-hour experience. Young gay men have to deal with so much more shit these days — Facebook bullying, YouTube clips being shared amongst other young people. Your bullying experience stays with you all day every day. Many young people find it difficult to escape. It’s no wonder then that young

Shutterstock.com/Themalni

gay, and others find it hard to come or condemnation by your church is all out to their friends. If they are religious, too common. Of course this has an they may find that their religion rejects impact on the way that we feel about LGBT people or asks them to reform ourselves.” or remain celibate. All of this takes Founded in a room above a an emotional toll on people. bookshop near Kings Cross Thankfully, our society is station in 1974, the changing and becoming London Lesbian & Gay “If we can more tolerant, and Switchboard today LGBT people has 180 volunteers all work together now have more trained to handle to make sure young rights than ever, all manner of calls gay men develop into in everyday life, from 10am to in the law and 11pm every day. stable and healthy in employment. “LGBT people are adults then young However, as more likely than gay men are less the recent row heterosexuals to likely to attempt over gay marriage be discriminated demonstrated, against, to be suicide” there is still a lot of bullied at school homophobia out there or in the workplace, (sometimes masked as to be isolated, to have ‘traditional values’). There is still abuse shouted at them in the queerbashing (the recent attacks in street,” their spokesperson tells me. east London) and school bullying is still “Some people find that their families a very serious problem.” or communities reject them for being

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LIFESTYLE

SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION INCLUDE:

gay people are becoming depressed from bullying. This is something that we have to tackle. The digital age has made it so much easier for young gay men to be bullied because of their Feeling sad or down a lot of sexuality. And many young gay men the time, even when there’s no don’t know how to deal with this. We reason. need to send out a message that this type of behaviour is not acceptable.” Feelings of despair that The It Gets Better project was you can’t escape. founded in the United States in 2010. A lack of feeling or emotion. Its goal is to help prevent suicide You don’t feel anything and among LGBT youth by utilising the have lost the ability to feel internet in a positive way. The initial idea happy. was for gay adults to upload videos Feeling exhausted and of themselves to convey the message lacking energy all the time. that the lives of these teenagers would improve, thus helping them feel less Continuous and long mood isolated and alone. As the campaign swings, when you change from grew in momentum and stature, people feeling happy to despairing, from many different countries and walks sorrowful or angry and of life added their voice, including US irritable. President Barack Obama, British Prime The things that used to Minister David Cameron, and celebrities give you enjoyment or make like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. you happy leave you feeling “What I love about the It Gets numb or uninterested. Better campaign is that it does truly Withdrawal from or avoiding reflect most people’s experience of family and friends. coming to terms with their sexuality,” Inability to concentrate says Matthew. “Most people, when or a loss of interest in your they’re young, are desperate to fit in, work. be accepted. If you know that you’re different from most of your friends, Putting on or losing a lot of because you’re lesbian or gay, it can weight. be very distressing, particularly with the Different sleep patterns. high levels of homophobic abuse that You might not be able to fall are bandied around classrooms and asleep or you can’t get up in the schoolyard. As you get older most the morning. people learn to cherish the things about Feeling so bad that you them that make them special, that make think it would be a relief to die them unique. At the same time we or hurt yourself. might find that a lot of our fears about being gay were unfounded: we still have families and friends that love us, For more info on depression we can form long-lasting relationships, and how to deal with it, visit even raising a family of our own is not www.nhs.uk/livewell/ ruled out. And so it does get better, depression. and I hope that hearing that provides comfort to those young people who are bullied and isolated and struggling as only part of the picture. a result.” “Stonewall have done a magnificent job with this but I think the buck lies with us all,” explains Ian. “And not just from a mental health aspect, but in terms of the health of all gay men as they get older. There is research Gay teenage suicide gets deserved to state that if gay men value their lives they are more likely to look after attention in mainstream media. themselves, by not abusing alcohol, The likes of Stonewall do serious doing drugs and having riskier sex. campaigning on this issue, and You can tell a person all you like to there are groups, foundations wear a condom, but if that person and charities in the UK and doesn’t value their life then why would internationally such as the Ben they use protection while having sex? Cohen StandUp Foundation This is why the development of how and the Trevor Project that work young gay teenagers grow up to be specifically in this area – but it’s

Shutterstock.com/Themalni

A VALUABLE LESSON

young gay men is a job for us as a gay community, no matter what the aim of an organisation is. If we can all work together to make sure gay teenagers develop into stable and healthy adults then they are less likely to attempt suicide, abuse alcohol, do illegal drugs and put themselves at risk of HIV and other STIs.” “The INSIGHT study, which looked at differences in attitudes between those gay men who became HIVpositive and those who did not, found that men with low self-esteem were more likely to acquire HIV,” adds Matthew. “In many cases, men become infected not because they think HIV isn’t serious, but because they think that their own lives are not valuable. Safer sex isn’t just something that happens to you, you have to choose it and take active steps to ensure that you maintain it. If you are struggling just to carry on with life, it’s easy to see how that can translate into not taking precautions to protect your own health.”

SHARE YOUR CONCERNS When you’re in so fragile a mindset that you’re feeling depressed and contemplating suicide, you’re vulnerable in all sorts of ways – and although you may choose not to take your own life, you may still choose to use drugs or alcohol or not to use condoms. So what can you do to shift your mind into a better place? “I would say to any person who is struggling with feelings of depression, whatever their sexuality or HIV status, don’t try to go it alone,” says Matthew. “Talk to someone, whether it’s a friend or a professional counsellor. There are people and services who can help.” Sona Barbosa, Counselling Team Leader at the GMI Partnership, agrees: “Look for support immediately, whether through family and friends (unfortunately not always possible), or through a professional. I would advise both! Isolation is the worst solution. There are several organisations providing LGBT services, including GMI, which provides mentoring and counselling services to gay men.” “At London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard, we do get calls from LGBT people who are suicidal, and who have thought seriously or even attempted to take their own life, and we take these calls very seriously,” their www.fsmag.org.uk

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LIFESTYLE spokesperson adds. “Our volunteers receive specific training on how to take such calls. But thankfully suicide calls are relatively rare. More often, we take calls from people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives, but not so bad that they are contemplating suicide. The single most common reason people phone is that they’re coming out, and while that can be a difficult experience it can also be a very happy one.” Nonetheless, in 2012 almost 10% of calls taken by volunteers at LLGS related to depression and suicide (these calls can be subdivided to: anxiety 4.5%, depression 3.6%, suicide 1.1%, self harm 0.6%). “In terms of some of the emotions that come up for callers, there is a spectrum, from feeling a bit anxious through to serious depression and suicide, but each call is unique. Our volunteers are trained in how to empathise with callers. We would want to offer support to that caller, talk through how they’re feeling and the reasons they are feeling that way. We always seek to recognise the emotions that are coming up and explore ways in which the caller can deal with those emotions, as well as practical things they can do perhaps in their lives to help them deal with their situation. We are also positive about being LGBT. But we don’t tell people what to do – we talk through the caller’s options, and how they might start to feel better, but we always leave it to the caller themselves as to what they do next.”

DEPRESSION + HIV Another factor is that discovering you’re HIV-positive can in itself lead to depression and thoughts of suicide. “For most people, being diagnosed with HIV is a life-changing experience and the hardest part of adjusting to

contemplate suicide it’s usually down to a combination of factors. It’s easy to see that having an incurable, potentially life-threatening, widely stigmatised disease will add to an individual’s burden. It’s hard to get precise figures but I’ve seen a number of studies from around the world talk about suicide as a major cause of death amongst people living with HIV.” When someone is diagnosed with HIV they should be offered care and support. “Sometimes though that individual may not be ready to accept such support at the time but may need it later,” says Matthew. There are a number of free counselling services for gay men in London and around the UK, and you can find details of these at www.gmfa.org.uk/counselling.

CHALLENGE YOURSELF

life with HIV isn’t the physical issues – it’s the emotional ones,” GMI’s Sona Barbosa explains. “Finding out that you have HIV is likely to have a whole range of emotional and practical implications; you’re likely to be experiencing strong feelings at this time, such as feeling depressed. Depression is a very common condition for people diagnosed with HIV. It makes you feel sometimes helpless as well as hopeless, therefore more vulnerable.” GMFA’s Matthew Hodson adds: “There have been huge advances in the medical treatment of HIV over the last decade, and people with HIV diagnosed at an early stage have now a near normal life-expectancy. However the stigma attached to being HIVpositive remains huge. When people

“I NEED HELP NOW!” If you are in crisis and need support or someone to talk to

right now, Samaritans is there for you no matter where you are or what age you are. Samaritans provides confidential, non-judgemental support, 24 hours a day for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide.

Call: 08457 90 90 90

Email: jo@samaritans.org

“The biggest challenge we face in beating suicide and depression in gay men is realising that they are the only people who can overcome it. No matter what any of us want, if someone who is depressed doesn’t want help then there is very little we can do,” admits Ian. The turning point for Ian was when he accepted his sexuality. “When I went through my depression, I didn’t know I was depressed. I didn’t know what depression was or how to deal with it. I think everyone needs to educate themselves on depression, how to spot it in yourself and then how to deal with it. If you are depressed and feeling suicidal then the best advice I can give is to ask yourself if you want to beat it. If you do then there are many services out there that can help you overcome it. I made it through depression and suicide attempts by myself, but I’m a lucky one. Not many have the strength I had, so please tell someone how you’re feeling and overcome it before you make the same mistakes I did. I went from not wanting to be gay, to trying to take my life because I was gay, to now being the editor of a gay men’s health magazine. What I’ve learnt from that whole process is that all it takes is a small bit of courage and your whole life can change.”

You can contact the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 or www.llgs.org.uk, or find details of local switchboards and organisations that offer face-to-face counselling at www.turingnetwork.org.uk.

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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.


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OPINION

OPINION

Gay slut shaming – stop it, stop it right now!

www.shutterstock.com/Igor Kireev

By Saif A

@mrseras

I love a slut. I love being with someone who has such a flame in his heart, or loins for that matter, for the pleasures of another man that he completely abandons all self-regard with an aim to satisfy this insatiable hunger for another person and it is magnificently compelling. They are terrific. They have this mystical quality of selfabandonment when it comes to other people they like that they free themselves from their insecurities and make it wholly about the other person, and will scale their actions in response to the how people react to them. In my opinion, they’re incredibly powerful and interactive seducers, who we all really need to learn something from. It is incredibly hard to resist someone who’s giving it his all just so he can get a piece of your attention; it’s passionate, it’s consuming and it’s very, very flattering. To be slutty is to be sexually liberated. To be slutty means you are free and open to experiment and chase what thrills you in a sexual capacity and develop your tastes to discover more about yourself through other people. It is a form of physical expression, and we gays have always been big on expression. In fact, we are fighting for people to see that it doesn’t matter how we express our physical desires, we are still people who are doing no harm and thus deserve equal rights. So why, then, is there this internal judgment of those who get labelled as ‘slutty’? The politics may have had something to do with it, but there has been this recent surge in prosaic morality that dictates that we must all conduct ourselves in an ‘appropriate’ manner to be deemed acceptable to society at

“It is incredibly hard to resist someone who’s giving it his all just so he can get a chance of your attention”

large. This almost scripturesque form of thought is ironic, considering the message of what we, as ‘deviants of sexuality’ want society to understand. The problem we have is that the world ‘slut’ is wrought with negative connotations. You have people who will dismiss an interest in someone because they appear to have any of the attributes of a slut. Slut shaming, a phrase that was coined through ‘slut walks’, is something the gay society needs to stop in its entirety. Slut shaming is the practice of judging someone based on how they act or dress; it is mostly used to suggest that if a provocatively dressed woman was to be raped, it’s OK because of the way she acted or dressed. In essence, she was asking for it. Do we, as a community, condone that kind of message? I, personally, do not and I don’t think you should either. To slut shame is essentially allowing the thought that because a man takes off his shirt in a club, he is ‘game’ and up for it and the important matter of consent is ignored when it should always be something clear and established. For all you know, he could just be literally cooling off from the heat of the club, and you’ve already assumed the ‘worst’ of him. It is very unbecoming of us to assume something of anyone and in the last issue of FS, there was an opinion piece by @jamesy_moo on body image [Am I a bad gay for not taking care of my body?, page 25] that bothered me because there was this message of uppity superiority to keeping your clothes on by saying that mystery is better. The message to take away here is that you are no better for keeping it on, and you are no better for taking it off — just do whatever it is you want to do, let people do whatever they want to do and let’s stop judging other people for the choices they want to make.  

Do you agree with @mrseras? Tweet us @FSmagazineUK and let us know what you think. Do you have an opinion you’d like to share in FS? Maybe you’d like to have a rant about gay life? Tweet us @FSmagazineUK or email us at fsmag@gmfa.org.uk and tell us what you’d like to talk about. www.fsmag.org.uk

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HEALTH

CAN ANAL SEX CAUSE PROSTATE CANCER? Ahhh, this little gem. Here’s a common myth that has been doing the rounds for years and years. Can partaking in a bit of bum action cause prostate cancer? First and foremost, we are going to break that myth straight away and say no. Anal sex does not cause prostate cancer, but prostate cancer is something that you should be aware of and know how to look out for. What is the prostate? The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis that is found only in men. It’s also known as the male ‘g-spot’. It’s about the size of a walnut, and is located between your cock and your bladder. The main function of the prostate is to help in the production of cum. The prostate produces the thick white fluid that is then liquefied. The fluid is mixed with sperm, produced by your balls, to create semen. And taah-daah, there you go!

How common is prostate cancer? Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Each year in the UK about 36,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. It accounts for 25% of all newly diagnosed cases of cancer in men. The chances of developing prostate cancer increase as you get older. Most cases develop in men aged 70 or older but it’s not uncommon for it to happen to younger men too. For reasons that are not understood, prostate cancer is more common in men of African-Caribbean or African

descent, and less common in men of Asian descent.

Symptoms can include: Needing to urinate more frequently, often during the night. Needing to rush to the toilet. Difficulty in starting to urinate or pee (hesitancy). Straining or taking a long time while urinating. Weak flow. Feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully. These symptoms shouldn’t be ignored but they do not mean you definitely have prostate cancer. Many men’s prostates get larger as they get older due to non-cancerous conditions.

Outlook The outlook for prostate cancer is generally good. This is because, unlike many other cancers, prostate cancer usually progresses very slowly. A man can live for decades without having any symptoms or needing any treatment. Many men die with prostate cancer, rather than as a result of it. Prostate cancer can usually be cured if it is treated in its early stages. Approximately 10,000 men die from prostate cancer every year in the UK. All the treatment options carry the risk of significant side effects, including loss of your sex drive, the inability to maintain or obtain an erection and urinary incontinence. For this reason, many men choose to delay treatment until there is a significant risk that the cancer might spread.  

For more information, visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/ cancer-of-the-prostate www.prostatecanceruk.org www.macmillan.org.uk/ cancerinformation www.fsmag.org.uk

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HEALTH & 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’m 29 and undateable. Help me!” – 29lonelyheart

Your say... Facebook responses DEAR 29LONELYHEART First of all, you’re probably no more ‘fucked up’ than the rest of us — we all have weaknesses and we all get trapped in poor behavioural cycles, especially when it comes to relationships. If alcohol leads you to do things you regret (that is the general effect of drinking anyway) you should try abstaining for six weeks so that you stop seeing it as a crutch. When you’re feeling low and you’d normally reach for

a drink, opt instead for an activity — bake a cake, read a book, have a good ol’ grooming session – anything. This might sound strange but maybe you should also hold off from sex for a while. Take some time to build your confidence and figure out who you really are and what you really want. Don’t fall into the ‘I just want a guy to cuddle me at night’ trap. Really think about it – what sort of man could you connect with? What interests would he have that you share? What would he like to do with his weekends? Then, when you’ve built your self-confidence and figured out what you’re looking for, don’t pursue men who are clearly not what you’re looking for. And when you’re dating guys, be honest every

step of the way — don’t ignore turn-offs just to get past the fourth date because that’s going to stop you from making a true connection. In truth, it will happen naturally – I suspect you just need to spend some time on yourself before it does. Daniel Marshall I’m in the same boat as you, my friend. I’m 37 and still single. I’ve had the same experiences as you and been in the awkward situation where I’ve been the only one stood in the corner of a club on my own till the house lights come on. Seeing guys coupling up and going their ways, while I take the lonely taxi ride of shame. Your ideal guy won’t be far away but he may have difficulties reaching you. In the

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meantime try and do something like I have and pick up a hobby or interest to take your mind off the situation for the time being. I’m a believer that things happen when you least expect it. Never tie yourself in knots as that will send you into a downward spiral of anxiety and depression. You don’t want to go down that road. Robbie Tackleberry Walker A lot of the behaviour we drift into when we feel lonely comes from the fear that we will end up staying that way, but if you have the capacity to love (which I don’t doubt for a moment) it’s just a matter of being patient until you find someone who appreciates that in you and has the capacity to do the same for you. We all can shy away from telling a potential partner that he is of interest because entering into a relationship means sharing responsibility for our emotional life to someone else — and that can be a scary thought at the best of times, especially for those of us who have managed to avoid doing it so far! Smile at yourself in the mirror each morning (or whenever), remind yourself of all the things you like about yourself, think of the joy you caused when you came into this world, and then think of the guys you date trying to do the same. Someone will click with you. After that you’ll need to make it up. David Gordon Wilson Don’t ever think you’re damaged goods — you’re not. The only thing you have to be is patient. The one thing you need is to find is yourself first. If you think you’re undateable, automatically that’s what it’s gonna be. You need to heal yourself before letting anyone in. If you accept yourself first, others will too. Trust me — I’ve been there. When you see yourself as deserving of real love, even with flaws, you will get love. Believe me. But you need to know that deep down in your heart. No one’s damaged goods, undateable or unloveable. Everyone deserves real love. Rush ‘n Noiz

A counsellor’s opinion... Sona Barbosa of the GMI Partnership says: DEAR 29LONELYHEART

Being an adult and never having been in a relationship is more common that you may think. It sounds to me that there might be some self-esteem issues at stake here. Many people suffer from periodic bouts of low self-esteem. Recognising it is positive as this way you can work towards doing something about it. To be able to be in a healthy and happy relationship you need to be able to feel (emotionally) healthy and happy within yourself. You say you cannot ‘connect’ with these guys... Are you ‘connecting’ with yourself? Low self-esteem can be detrimental to any and all relationships, dating or otherwise and attempting to attract a loving partner when suffering from low self-esteem is an uphill battle at best. One of the effects of having low self-esteem is seeking love and affection in all the wrong ways and places, and taking risks, which is what you seem to be describing. Low self-valuation may lead some gay men to use sex encounters as a coping strategy, without considering safer sex practices. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you protect yourself. I would strongly advise you to speak to a health adviser or trainer and discuss safer sex. Low self-esteem is something you can change — with a bit of hard work and patience. It might be helpful for you to get support from counselling. Counselling can help you look at your expectations and beliefs regarding relationships. It will also examine how negative beliefs became embedded in your sense of self. By addressing these negative beliefs and paying attention to evidence of your strengths, abilities and accomplishments, you can begin to feel better about yourself. Bringing these new feelings to your interactions with others leads to experiences that build positive self-esteem and positive relationships. The GMI Partnership provides counselling for gay men living in London. Visit www.gmipartnership.org.uk.

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

Spit or swallow? What is the risk if someone cums in your mouth? There is some risk if someone with HIV cums in your mouth — more than from oral sex without ejaculation in the mouth, but not nearly as much as from unprotected anal sex. It is estimated that about 3% of HIV infections are as a result of oral sex, but bear in mind that oral sex is a very frequent sexual act, so the proportion of oral sex acts that result in transmission is low. There is only a risk of transmission if the person who cums has HIV. The risk is reduced if the person with HIV is on treatment and has an undetectable viral load.

Shooting HIV How long does HIV stay in cum after shooting? HIV is a relatively fragile virus and so does not survive for long when exposed to air — however this does not mean that HIV transmission cannot take place if someone ejaculates and then that cum enters somebody else’s body. The longer it is outside the body, the less chance there is of transmission.

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

Next month’s problem... I suffer from premature ejaculation and it’s ruining my sex life. I’m 24 years old and have suffered from this for about four and a half years now. I start having sex and as soon as the guy touches me I tend to cum. It’s embarrassing and is affecting any chance of getting into a relationship. The only time I don’t cum too quickly is when I’ve been drinking but I feel like I’m using drink just to have sex. I’m not sure if it’s caused by anxiety, stress or do I have an STI? Any advice would be appreciated. Andy

First of all, let me assure you If you have some advice to give, or you have a problem that needs sorting, there is nothing wrong with you! email: fsmag@gmfa.org.uk. www.fsmag.org.uk

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HEALTH & ADVICE

LISTINGS

Counselling/mentoring

Where to go for help and advice in the London area.

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

The 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.

Websites

Helplines

THT 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. Alternatively, for PACE workshops phone: 020 7700 1323 or visit: www.pacehealth.org.uk. For THT courses and groups phone: 020 7812 1773, or visit: www.tht.org.uk.

CALM - 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. The London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard: 0300 330 0630. Available daily 10am-11pm. THT Direct 0808 802

Condoms Freedoms 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.

1221. Available Monday to Friday 10am-8pm.

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

Workshops and courses

The Black Connection The Black Connection is a monthly group where Black gay and bisexual men come together to meet, talk, socialise and share experiences about their lives in a supportive and attitude-free environment. There will be opportunities for participants to network and connect with other Black men, exploring the challenges they face and issues affectiing their lives. All Black African, Black British and Black Caribbean men are welcome to attend this popular group. The group meets on the third Sunday of the month and is facilitated by experienced Black groupworkers Dennis L Carney and Anthony Johnson. The next workshop takes place on Sunday 21 April.

For more information visit, www.gmfa.org.uk/gwk or call PACE on 020 7700 1323.

Who should I tell? Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

A one-day workshop giving people a safe space to explore issues around disclosure — including discussion of myths and fears. Space will be given to share individual experiences, feelings, and concerns. A good opportunity to practise skills around disclosure and to increase confidence. This workshop takes place on Saturday 4 May from 10am to 3pm.

For more information visit, www.gmfa.org.uk/gwk or call THT on 020 7812 1773. The FS team for issue 135 was Ian Howley (Editor), Theo Bain, Stuart Haggas, Matthew Hodson, Liam Murphy and Gavin Smith. Design and layout by www.christiantate.co.uk­. Our cover model this month was Adam Mroz (@m0nkeyboi). 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

FS is part of the Pan London HIV Prevention Programme.

Em

Te We

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.fsmag.org.uk. Volunteers contribute to the planning, writing, editing and production of FS. To volunteer or donate, contact GMFA using the details to the left.

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GM Lon and


Free Counselling gmi partnership

Email: counselling@gmipartnership.org.uk Tel: 020 8305 5002 Web: www.gmipartnership.org.uk

GMI Partnership services are free and provided by Londoners from diverse backgrounds, who are trained and supervised to work with men across the City.

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For some gay men unprotected anal sex is horny, intimate and feels natural. They also worry about the risk of HIV and other STIs. We can offer you a space to talk about safer sex and learn how to reduce risks, regardless of your HIV status or ability to pay.

The GMI Partnership is funded as part of the Pan-London HIV Prevention Programme. Š The GMI Partnership 2008

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GMFA - for gay men’s sexual health. Unit 11, Angel Wharf, 58 Eagle Wharf Road, London N1 7ER. Charity No: 1076854 GMFA projects are developed by positive and negative volunteers. To support GMFA’s work visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/donate. part of Responsibility2012.indd 1

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FS magazine 135