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THE FIT AND SEXY GAY MAG ISSUE #138 OCT/NOV 2013

HORNY BOYS READY FOR IT? FSMAG FSMAGAZINEUK WWW.FSMAG.ORG.UK

ALSO F**KING FRIENDS DEAR 16-YEAR-OLD ME YOU MAKE ME ASHAMED TO BE GAY “I’M A FAT PIG - HELP”

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Condoms come in all shapes and sizes. Do the FITS ME quiz to find the best one for you.

StartsWithMe.org.uk

startswithme

@ startswith_me


HELLO!

Model: Stuart Martin instagram.com/littlestuart

Editor’s letter @IanHowley

Hello, pretty people! Let’s play a game. The year is 2013, the month October and you are a 16-year-old-lad who’s struggling with your sexuality. You know feck all about sex, sexual health and may never have heard of HIV before. Oh wait, sily us. That’s not a game... that’s reality! Who would have thought that 30 years after HIV appeared on the scene that in 2013 there would be gay men in their teens and twenties who don’t know what HIV is? Scary, but it’s real. Recently GMFA did some focus groups with young gay men to get their thoughts on sex, sexual health and gay life in general. The feedback we got was generally what we were expecting but what stood out was the lack of knowledge of HIV and how it’s spread. Some thought that HIV didn’t exist any more, some thought there was a cure or morning after pill. Some lads thought because they weren’t ‘man-whores’ they weren’t going to get HIV. Some thought that because they don’t go to bars in Vauxhall that they are not putting themselves at risk. Funny stuff there, eh? No. It’s not funny and certainly not a laughing matter. Of course it’s easy to snigger and ask “How have you never heard of HIV?” These lads should not be made to feel stupid because they don’t know HIV exists. This is the world we live in now, where we expect people to ‘just know’ about sex, sexual health and how to be functional people, and then get upset when we find a group of lads who have the wrong information. Being gay and sexual health knowledge should go together like bacon and cabbage, but this is not the case. Growing up gay is difficult, we all know that. We tend to have a tougher time ‘finding’ ourselves in our teens and twenties. We don’t get the right sex education, we’re not taught about how gay sex works and we are generally left to find out what’s what all by ourselves. So when a young gay lad grows up with a lack of basic sexual health knowledge is it any wonder 33% of all new HIV diagnoses in the UK are in their teens and twenties? And that figure is increasing. In this issue, FS has decided to have an open and honest conversation about what it’s like to be a young gay man dealing with sex and sexuality. Check this out on page 6. It’s a thought-provoking read. Also check out our ‘Fucking Friends’ guide on page 14 and Kristian Johns has written an honest letter to his 16-year-old self on page 5. We have lots of other great articles for you to read. So get stuck in and enjoy. Until next time. Ian Howley, Editor @IanHowley And just to shoe-horn this in, remember that FS is an unfunded charity magazine. We need your donations to keep us going. Please help by donating at www.gmfa.org.uk/donate. Thank you for your support. Cover shot by Chris Jepson © www.chrisjepson.com

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 138 was Ian Howley (Editor), Theo Bain, Stuart Haggas, Matthew Hodson, Kristian Johns, Gareth Johnson, Richard Lally, Liam Murphy, Gavin Smith, David Stuart and Lee Williscroft-Ferris. Model: Stuart Martin. Design and layout by www.christiantate.co.uk­. 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. Volunteers contribute to the planning, writing, editing and production of FS.

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HEPATITIS C INFECTIONS AMONGST HIV-POSITIVE GAY MEN ARE RISING

Hep C can be sexually transmitted by fisting, group fucking, sharing sex toys, sharing pots of lube or fucking without condoms. It can also be transmitted by sharing drug injecting needles or snorting straws. Hep C can cause serious liver disease and premature death. Hep C often shows no symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital.

ASK AT YOUR CLINIC ABOUT HEP C TESTING For more information visit www.gmfa.org.uk/hepc GMFA projects are developed by positive and negative volunteers. To volunteer or donate, call 020 7738 6872 or go to www.gmfa.org.uk Charity number 1076854 • Information accurate as of June 2010 • Design by craig.hewitt1@virgin.net Photography by James Stafford • Dakota Strong supplied by www.maleorderagency.com Supported by the Derek Butler Trust


LIFESTYLE

KRISTIAN LIFE

Dear 16-year-old me: a letter from the future

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

@guy_interruptd

I’ve written this letter about a hundred times in my head over the years. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to visit my younger self, to tell you what life is going to be like. The first thing I thought when I began writing it was: ‘what’s the point?’ I know you. I’ve been you, and so I know better than anyone that you won’t fucking listen, but hey, this is my letter and I’m older than you, so respect your elders and at least give it some consideration. Where to begin? Well, you live in London now. You always thought of yourself – perhaps rather arrogantly – as a big fish in a small pond. You proclaimed you were a ‘city boy’ at heart, even though you had barely visited one more than a couple of times. But you launched head first into the bright lights and the big city, and now, ironically, you want nothing more than a quiet life. I know you’ll find that idea laughable, but as I write this on the eve of my 34th birthday, I can safely say that given everything that’s happened since I was you, all the highest highs, the lowest lows and the dramarama, that a quiet life seems like heaven. Some people see the world, some people hear the world. You? You feel the world. It’s caused you a lot of heartache. Your head is constantly full. You ran away from it for a long time. Sometimes that head of yours gets so busy from just feeling EVERYTHING that you have to drown it out by all means necessary. But I’ve come to realise that it’s not a curse, it’s a gift. Remember how you wanted to be a superhero? This is your superpower. You have the ability to make people feel things, to connect with them. Use it. By being truthful and honest, even when it feels scary and uncomfortable, you will help people. When I was you I had no selfesteem. I was always chasing something or someone to ‘fix’ me, to make life exciting. I’ve learnt the hard way that you can never rely on others to fill in what’s missing. If you want self-esteem, do estimable things. It’s

not about looking good, or having nice things, or having lots of sex. Those things are like a drug that eventually stops working. When you’re down and feeling self-involved, go out and do something for someone else. When you’re feeling ungrateful, count your blessings. Yes, I sound like a fucking hippy, but it works. I’m not going to lie. Life is going to get very, very dark at times. You’ll contend with a lot of things – an HIV diagnosis, alcoholism, depression and heartbreak, but they will be the making of you. Perhaps not immediately, but you will learn to turn them round. So I’m not going to warn you off doing any of them, but I will offer some advice; lessons I’ve learnt along the path of life, in the hope that you might spot them earlier than I did. It’ll save a lot of aggravation. Don’t ever try to dye your hair: and if you do, for god’s sake, don’t try to chemically strip the colour like I did a few weeks ago. Because it just turns ginger. And although we both think ginger men are hot, it’s just not a look you can rock comfortably. Especially with brown eyebrows. Appreciate your six-pack: Look down. See that? That’s going to be like the Holy fucking Grail by the time you’re 34. And while we’re on the subject, can you please try to eat a little more healthily? It’ll save me a hell of a lot

of resentment when it comes to the subject of dieting. Learn the difference between strong and hard: Take it from someone who still falls back on the ‘I am an island’ mentality. Islands are lonely. Hard people are usually just very, very frightened, so they’ve made themselves impervious. You see, when something is impervious, it doesn’t need to be strong because it can’t be damaged. Accept your vulnerable side. You’re not weak, you’re just human. We all need a cuddle sometimes. Smoking: Not cool. Not cool at all. Please stop trying to fit in. Did you know that it’s EIGHT QUID a packet in 2013? I KNOW, RIGHT? So don’t start. My lungs, teeth and skin will thank you for it. But hey, I know you’re going to start anyway (I secretly still miss it). So it comes back to my original statement. Given the chance to truly send this letter back in time and have you read it, would I warn you against decisions we’ve made? I honestly don’t think so. I’d certainly ask you to learn to be a bit more grateful for what you have; to live in the now, rather than living in a myriad of possible futures. But I’d rather let you learn the real lessons for yourself. And this brings me to my final point. Regret nothing: Make mistakes, fuck up, fall down and get back up again. It’s human nature to make mistakes, but that shouldn’t stop you from living. Don’t be the person who gets to the end of their life and says “I wish” – be the person who says “I did”. The only thing I want you to do is to go out and live this amazing, beautiful, painful, joyful thing they call life, and regret nothing – because in the end, it’s made you who I am. Live life with dignity, gratitude and bravery. And remember, when the world throws its worst at you and then sticks two fingers up and slams the door in your face, there is always hope. Just have a little faith and everything will come right in the end. See you in a few years. Seriously, kiddo, we’re going to be awesome. Just don’t ever dye your hair. I mean it.

Kristian Johns is an author and former editor. 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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HORNY BOYS – COVER STORY

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S –READY FOR IT? By Stuart Haggas

@GetStuart

Has there ever been a better time to be young and gay in Britain? Same sex couples in England and Wales will soon be able to legally marry their chosen partner, many schools are doing effective work to promote awareness of LGBT issues, and medical advances mean that HIV is not the death sentence it once was. However, as the gay marriage debate demonstrated, there are plenty of homophobes, bible bashers and right-wing politicians who still don’t support gay equality. Then there are questions about the gay scene itself: is a scene that places a great deal of emphasis on sex, body image, alcohol, illegal drugs and obsessions with the likes of One Direction and Tom Daley really a healthy environment for an impressionable gay teenager? Is the next generation of young gay men better prepared for the big, wide world?

OUT ONLINE

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

The internet can be a safe space for young gay men to discuss topics like sexuality, sexual health and relationships.

Thanks to the internet, young gay men needn’t feel isolated any more. Today, questioning teenagers can go online for answers – and when a Google search for “am I gay?” returns about 1,260,000,000 results, it also provides reassurance that you’re not alone. Arron is 21 from Leeds. He explains how he came out when he was 14 and first experienced the gay scene online. “I was quite young when I came out, so it was through Googling I discovered what was out there.” James, 22 from London also started out online via websites like Gaydar and Fitlads. “I saw myself as fairly ‘straightacting’ and thought gay bars would be all screaming queens and dirty old men,” he says. “It was also much easier to browse profiles online than strut into a gay bar and start chatting to guys.” “My first experience was chatting to guys on websites when I was 15,” says Daniel, 23 from Worcester. “Chatting progressed to ‘camming’ (webcam sex) – which when I think about it was both awful and tragic, but also a good formative experience, exploring sexuality in a safe setting and all that.” The internet can be a safe space for young gay men to discuss topics like

sexuality, sexual health and relationships, helping to boost their knowledge and self-confidence. The largest online community for gay and bisexual teens and young adults is gayteenforum.org, comprising hundreds of active topics on all sorts of subjects. A post from a British teenager in August 2013 asked if the gay community is too dependent on dating apps like Grindr and Hornet, wondering if we’re headed to a future where online is the new way of meeting a boyfriend. Replies to his post included ‘Naterion’ in Birmingham who posted: “It has the widest selection pool and is the most convenient/cost-free form of finding a guy,” and ‘CJP’ in Devon who posted: “Although meeting by dating app might seem less meaningful, it’s the person and not the way you meet them. OK, you need to wade through all the dicks first, but it’s a teeny weeny bit less lonely that way”. Another British teenager asked for advice on using Grindr. Replies included “There are a few gems but mostly 50-year-olds. It’s really creepy. Just know that the block button is your friend,” and “You can never be sure whether it’s a real hottie or just a creep in disguise”. www.fsmag.org.uk

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FIRST TIME “My first experience in the gay scene was anonymously chatting to guys on Grindr,” says Jason, 18 from London. “Never meeting, just conversation.” Kyle, 22 from Coventry, also experienced the scene first via Grindr: “It was an odd blend of guys who were genuinely quite friendly, and those who were clearly just looking for sex.” “I’m 23 and I’ve only been publically out “Looking for about a year, so back I wish I had it was definitely easier to see what really known I was was out there via gay and come out Grindr, where I could keep a safe at school so I distance from could get on any potentially awkward situations,” with my life.” adds Nathan from Winchester. “The majority of young gay men meet their first sexual partner online,” says GMFA’s Matthew Hodson. “This has been true for the last decade, possibly longer.” already but they respect my view on my Arron was 16 when he first had sex. virginity.” “Personally I think I was too young,” he explains. “I really wasn’t prepared, but I think it depends on the person and their mental maturity. I know people who were more than capable at 16 of knowing what they were doing.” “I had just turned 17 when I first had As well as providing curious sex with a guy,” says Jason. “It couldn’t teenagers with information, the have come at a better time for me – it internet can also expose them to a helped me secure in my mind who I was.” world of porn, sex, drugs and cyber“I was 17 years old and it was bullying. with my boyfriend,” says Jack, 18 from “There are more ways for young Harrogate. “I think it all depends on how gays to connect with other guys, to you and your partner feel. My boyfriend gather information and to meet friends didn’t rush me and we waited until we and new sexual partners,” GMFA’s were both ready.” Matthew Hodson says. “At the same “I was 18,” says Kyle. “I don’t feel time, the speed of new media and social that was too young. It was a considered networking means that they’re going to be exposed to some quite extreme choice and wasn’t rushed.” content early on. The heavy drugs and “I had just turned 19, way too old!” sex scene, for example, is much more says James. “Looking back I wish I had easily accessible now than it would have really known I was gay and come out been years ago, and new technology at school so I could get on with my plays a major role in promoting those life, rather than worrying about it and keeping it a secret for years. I don’t think scenes.” Adult content on the internet is, in it’s something you should rush into with theory, accessible only to older users. the first guy you find, but you shouldn’t Outside of the internet, young gay men repress your sexuality.” may be asked to show ID to prove “I still haven’t had sex yet at the age they’re old enough to enter gay venues. of 21,” says Adam from Newcastle. “I This of course isn’t always the case, have always said I am saving myself for and determined teenagers are known the right guy, which I hope I have now found. I know my friends have all had sex to be resourceful. “I went to my first gay

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

AGE RESTRICTED

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COVER STORY they have started to educate young said to have exchanged almost 8,000 people about issues such as sexting and messages, and met seven times for sex, safety online, there’s nothing tailored to before the boy’s sister found explicit photos and texts from the teacher on her the needs and lives of young LGB people – this is really where we need to start. brother’s mobile phone. Such cases have not gone unnoticed The age of consent is there for a reason.” Arron, Jack, Adam, James and Daniel by Grindr. “Grindr treats the age all confirm they didn’t get relevant sex restriction very seriously,” explains education at school. “I think I know quite Grindr’s Joel Simkhai, “and we do our a bit but only through experience,” says best to ensure all users are a minimum age of 18 years old, while Apple requires Arron. “I know there are some places out there gay men can find the info they users to be 17 to download the need, but I don’t think they get app from its iTunes store. a lot of exposure so it can To help us in our efforts, be quite hard to find.” we ask all users to “You may “I learnt nothing help us by reporting be good at from school about any user that they having safer sex come across who negotiating sex when you’re gay,” has violated our online, but how says Jack. “It was terms of service by confident would all heterosexually using the ‘report’ based, but a district function on our you feel with the nurse from college app. We have a person standing in was helpful and large and diligent front of you?” showed me what’s team of moderators safer and what isn’t.” focused on monitoring “I honestly don’t think and ensuring users there is enough support for adhere to our guidelines. teenagers,” says Adam. “At my If a user is in violation, we will ban the user and notify him of the reason school, which is a Christian school, they didn’t really talk about sex anyway – but for the ban. As an added precaution, when they did it was just between a man we encourage parents to add parental and a woman. But many of the teachers controls to their children’s iOS and Android devices to help ensure that their were accepting, especially when some of them found out I was gay. I think more children cannot access sites and apps.” There have been several highinformation is needed in today’s society.” profile cases involving young gay “There was very little information men whose online connection led available as a teenager,” says James. “I to a face-to-face encounter that got went to a Catholic school and there was out of control. no information on gay sex or relationships The first Grindr-related date rape at all, other than the generic ‘use a case to be reported involved a 15-yearold Vancouver boy who was allegedly “Sites have to take responsibility to condom’ which applied to all sex. There sexually assaulted by a 54-year-old man ensure that as many processes and was the occasional moral discussion in he’d met via the app. safeguards are in place as possible, classes but never any practical advice or Last year the Huffington Post to prevent incidents such as these,” information.” “My knowledge about STIs is god reported on a 15-year-old Florida boy says the LGF’s Lucy Rolfe. awful,” admits Daniel. “I wouldn’t know who became infected with HIV after “I think it’s a real concern if young having sex with a 30-year-old man he gay men, who may not be well-informed which symptoms indicate which STI and, to my embarrassment, I have no idea met via Grindr; while earlier this year about HIV and sexual health, think that Queerty reported on two HIV-positive their partners will be responsible for their how HIV is transmitted between people Florida men aged 32 and 40 who were health,” adds GMFA’s Matthew Hodson. – whether kissing and oral sex are safe. Whether teenagers have it better now jailed for not disclosing their status and “Some apps are better at promoting for having sex with a minor, following a health issues than others. I think it’s really I wouldn’t know, but if they don’t I have no idea how else they’d get information poppers, hot-tub and bareback session important that all gay men who are new regarding safer sex except from the with a 16-year-old boy they’d met via to the scene at the very least know that Grindr. These two cases came to light HIV exists, is still around, that there’s still inernet. As for the dangers of drink and because it’s a crime in Florida to not no cure, and that just because someone drugs, I’m fairly clued up – I used to take disclose your HIV status, and in both doesn’t use a condom doesn’t mean that recreational drugs fairly often, but don’t now as I’m a masters student and don’t cases the accused men could have been they are HIV-negative.” have any cash.” charged with attempted murder. “We also need to be educating “I think most people at school knew In September last year, the Daily young people as early as possible so condoms stopped STIs but they were Mail reported on a 35-year-old married that they understand consensual safer never discussed in the context of actual deputy head teacher in Cheltenham sex, and know where to go for trusted who was sentenced to two years in information and advice,” Lucy continues. gay relationships,” James continues. “For example where you get them, using them prison following an affair with a 16-year- “Unfortunately, sex education in schools for oral, the awkward moment when old pupil he met via Grindr. They were doesn’t cover these issues. Although club by myself when I was 15,” Matthew acknowledges. “It wasn’t hard to break the rules then, and it’s not hard to break them now.” It is however even easier to lie about your age online. Typically all you have to do is “click OK to confirm that you are 18 or over” to access gay porn websites and gay dating sites and apps like Gaydar and Grindr – but is this a good or bad button for young teenagers to click? “Particularly for young men who are below the age of consent or who are vulnerable in some way, the internet can be something which exposes them to things they may not fully understand, be prepared for, or are able to consent to,” says Lucy Rolfe, Wellbeing Manager of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation. “We know that many young gay and bisexual men, due to feeling isolated, prefer to connect with others online, rather than go to a group for example. Doing everything online can make it difficult to then connect with others face-to-face. You may be good at negotiating sex online, but how confident would you feel with the person standing in front of you?”

SEX CRIMES

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?

www.fsmag.org.uk

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COVER STORY you actually try to use them the first few times. I also think teenagers assume HIV only affects older guys who’ve had lots of sex, and that they won’t get it from another young person.”

being aware of the risks.” “London is very different because it is so big,” adds James. “You walk into a bar and you don’t recognize anyone unless you’ve lived here a few years. As a young person looking to make some friends it can be frustrating. But I find most bars are very welcoming and the people are friendly as long as you behave yourself. Young gay men may be comfortable Nobody likes to see little twinks running being out online, but what happens around looking for attention!” If school didn’t provide answers, when they take their internet-honed where can you get advice about skills into the real world? safer and consensual gay sex? “I James explains that he didn’t go think the advice is out there, it’s out on the gay scene until he moved to just knowing where to get it,” says London. “I lived near Newcastle at the Dan, 24 from London. time, which has a great gay scene, so “There are dozens of websites and it was a massive opportunity wasted. blogs, and the rise of social media has Arron believes there’s too much of I first started going to gay bars when I certainly helped. I’ve never been stuck a focus on sex and body image on moved down to London. I went to them for places to go, for example on sexual the gay scene. “I think it’s giving on dates with guys from Gaydar, so I health services. I’d like to think I knew the impression to people outside already felt more comfortable walking in a bit about safer sex and alcohol/drug the gay world that all we’re dangers, but experience says otherwise.” with someone else. I still felt really young interested in is sex and vanity – most of the guys seemed to be late “I think the information has to be which is damaging the reputation found,” Kyle adds. “It’s not handed out as twenties/early thirties. I still find it hard to of the gay community – and it readily as it is if you are heterosexual but meet guys my own age.” makes you feel quite isolated if “I don’t have that many gay friends so you don’t think you fit into the if you ask the right people, or even if you I’ve only been to the bars and clubs with image, making it harder for you to just use Google, there is no shortage of straight friends,” says Arron, “so it felt information.” want to go to the bars and clubs.” more like I was with outsiders rather than “I go to a few gay friends I have, “Yes, there is definitely an emphasis I was one of them.” maybe even do a Google search,” says on sex – you can see it from space!” “From my experience the Arron. “Sometimes you get says Dan. “You have magazines focus is definitely on the advice you need, promoting the perfect body on their enabling singles to sometimes it’s a matter covers, perfectly ripped bar staff in “It would meet,” says Kyle. “But of experiencing it clubs. It’s sending a message that you have been good if you are looking to before you know should look like this, and I think that to discuss gay meet someone in what it’s about.” puts a lot of pressure on some people a club you should “I usually use to achieve that ideal. It doesn’t have relationships with be aware of what Google to find out to be an essential part, but sex sells, actual people when I you are getting any information right?” was much younger so yourself into. If that I need really,” “I wasn’t comfortable at first,” Dan I’d at least thought you are looking for says Adam. “Apart continues. “It was all new and exciting, something more from the internet, but at the same time quite scary as about it before relationship- focused, I was surrounded by far more selfI tend to ask my meeting up with it isn’t the place to friends, some of assured and confident guys. There’s people.” find it.” whom are gay too. I always a part of you thinking you might “I think if you’re very think a lot of the advice be doing something wrong or that you confident and the type of that they give to me is just from won’t be accepted – which is stupid person that likes clubbing and being their experiences.” looking back.” social, then it’s quite easy,” Arron “I don’t think there’s an effective “Since I’ve come out I’ve definitely continues, “but if you’re not into that network designed especially for young been more aware of my appearance – I people. For sexual health I would go to a sort of thing then I think it’s very hard to pay more attention to what I’m wearing, find a place where you feel comfortable GUM clinic. For everything else I would how my hair looks, and how I look in and open, and I think that’s a risk in itself photos than I used to,” says Nathan. “I have Googled it,” agrees James. “I only found out about sex and relationships by because you can end up feeling very still feel very self-conscious and find isolated.” dating people. It would have been good myself intimidated by guys who exude “Personally I had no problems fitting to discuss gay relationships with actual more confidence than me, or look in and feeling welcome,” says Dan. “I people when I was much younger so I’d better than I do, but I don’t necessarily moved at my own pace, chatted with, at least thought about it before meeting think this is exclusive to the gay sector met and then started having sex with up with people.” of society.” guys when I was ready. That being The problem with relying on “There’s nothing wrong with having said, there are risks out there. There something like Google is that it’s not lots of hot well-dressed guys on the are obviously guys who might be willing necessarily reliable, as the LGF’s Lucy gay scene!” James says, “Having said to take advantage of someone new to Rolfe points out: “There’s a lot of bad that, some people do spend too much the scene. For example, they might be information and advice out there and time at the gym, and not enough time online, so we have recently started to do pressured into barebacking without really socialising, which can’t be healthy.”

GOOGLE IT

virtual drop-in sessions on various sites, so that men can get reliable, high quality information on whatever they need.”

OUT ON THE SCENE

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

SEX AND BODY OBSESSED

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OLDER – BUT WISER? What do young gay men think of the more established gay men they see on the scene? “There are always more experienced guys looking to get you into bed, and a lot of inexperienced young people probably get taken advantage of,” James says. “I think young guys are often too polite or too drunk to tell people to leave them alone. Young people can learn a lot from older guys, as long as they have the confidence to tell them to sod off if they get creepy. Having said that, they can obviously be very sexy – up to a certain age!” “I think they’re sexy!” says Arron. “I love the older men! I know a lot of people find them creepy, but I always think that’s gonna be me one day, clinging to my youth.” “I’ve had mixed experiences with older guys,” Nathan adds. “Unfortunately, most I’ve encountered have one thing on their mind – some openly admit to getting turned on by ‘fresh meat’. Others, however, have been nothing but supportive and aware of how I, as a younger gay guy new to the scene, could be intimidated by the whole situation.” “My partner is 42 and I am 22 so already a fairly large age gap there,” says Kyle. “No, I don’t find it creepy – I think you need to find someone who is close to your emotional age rather than your physical age, and things will work much better.”

IS THE PARTY OVER?

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

Many young people enjoy sex, drinking and partying regardless of their sexuality. But is there a perception that young straight people eventually settle down, get married and start a family, whereas many gays don’t. And indeed as they get older a lot of guys keep on partying, drinking, doing drugs and being promiscuous. Will the new legislation legalising gay marriage in England and Wales change this perception? “I think that it’s likely that gay marriage will encourage more people to settle down, just because there will be more social support for people to do so,” www.fsmag.org.uk

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COVER STORY drugs or sex as a way of coping with says GMFA’s Matthew Hodson. “But distress, harming themselves or as a way there will always be people who would of self-medicating because of underlying rather carry on partying. I can’t imagine that lesbians and gays will have children issues, then it’s important that services such as ours at the LGF are there to as often as heterosexual couples, if support them.” for no other reason than it takes some So what does the future hold for planning to start a family if you’re gay. today’s young gay men? For lots of heterosexuals it just “In ten years time, I see happens.” myself in a secure job “Society is changing “People with my own place, in many ways and in same sex hopefully with my we don’t know how boyfriend living things will pan out relationships should with me too,” says in the future,” adds be able to marry if “And maybe the LGF’s Lucy they want to, stay single Jason. a dog or two.” Rolfe. “Perhaps and party if they want “I’d like to see some LGB people myself settled maintain a lifestyle to – equality is about in a relationship,” of going out and having a fair and agrees Dan. “Not partying simply equal society necessarily married, because they want for all.” but I would like to be to, and I’m sure many of someday. I like that feeling these people are also in that someone cares for you long-term relationships or civil and you have someone to care partnerships. There are perceptions about.” that this is what LGB people do, when “In ten years time I’ll appreciate the in fact I’m sure many would rather stay security of a dependable long-term in and watch Coronation Street! The partner,” says James. “If I find a decent important thing here is about choice, one, I’ll want to marry him!” and the reason for that choice. People “I’d like to see myself settled down in same sex relationships should be able and married to my boyfriend,” says Jack. to marry if they want to, stay single and “Having a job I enjoy, and even two party if they want to – equality is about children and some pets.” having a fair and equal society for all, “Happily married with a couple of pet which means people having a choice. dogs,” says Kyle. However, if people are using alcohol,

“Hopefully in better shape that I am now,” says Nathan. “Maybe having been with a guy for a couple of years, not married, but comfortable with each other and still having fun.”

SEX!

Think you know it all when it comes to HIV and STIs? GMFA has a whole website dedicated to helping you to learn about sex and sexual health. From ‘how risky is oral sex’ to ‘how to get fucked’. Take 10 minutes and visit www.gmfa.org.uk/sex to see what you do and don’t know. To find your nearest clinic to test for HIV and STIs, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/clinics.

SAYS: WHAT’S NEXT? Sex is a huge part of growing up. Exploring your sexuality should be fun. No young person should be entering the gay world without the knowledge of how HIV and other STIs are transmitted. It’s scary that there lots people out there, of all ages, that don’t know HIV exists. We in Britain have a knack for finger pointing and placing the blame on others. “It’s the government’s fault”, “no, it’s schools I blame”, “no wait, what about their parents”, “no, actually it’s the sexual health charities, fault”. So who is to blame? Well, every one of the above, including you and I. In an ideal world the government would roll out a major sex education programme that gives young gay men all the support and skills they need but that’s not going to happen any time soon so it’s left to us, the gay community, to make sure young gay men grow up into healthy young gay adults. The best thing to do is ask yourself what can you do to make sure younger gay men get the best education and support they need. We asked Matthew Hodson how GMFA intends to support young gay men in the future. He says, “Over the last few months we’ve spent a lot of time talking with and, more importantly, listening to young gay men to find out what it is they need to know, and how they want to get this information. We’ve heard that many young gay men don’t see HIV as something that’s likely to affect them, or think that a cure is just around the corner. “Projections suggest though that today’s young generation are the group most likely to become infected. So we’re working on new campaigns to make sure that gay men of all ages know that their sexual health is important and needs to be protected. We’re also exploring ways of helping gay men to value themselves, so that any feelings that they are not valued or are not good enough can be countered and don’t lead them to take risks with sex or drugs.”

Do your bit and help GMFA support young gay men by donating. Visit www.gmfa.org.uk/donate.

GMFA Unit 1 GMFA To su

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hometesti


Free Stop Smoking Courses for LGB&T people in London.

TEST FOR HIV AT HOME No appointment No waiting room No needles

Order a free HIV home testing kit online at, www.gmfa.org.uk/HomeTest. GMFA - the gay men’s health charity. Part of in partnership with The Health Equality and Rights Organisation is a registered charity, incorporating GMFA. Unit 11, Angel Wharf, 58 Eagle Wharf Road, London N1 7ER. Charity No: 1076854. To support our work to volunteer, visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/donate. GMFA projects are developed by positive and or negative volunteers. To support GMFA’s work visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/donate. hometesting October 2013.indd 1 FS138_P6-12-HornyBois.idml 13

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

20/09/2013 15:55 26/09/2013 23:16


LIFESTYLE

FUCKING FRIENDS! By Liam Murphy

@liamwaterloo

Being gay can be confusing and tough. When you take your first timid steps/stride purposefully/sashay (delete as appropriate) out of the closet, it’s easy to be blinded by the bright pink light, and stumble around excited and confused, tripping over the etiquettes and rituals that are so ingrained in the Gayverse. The most delicate of balances to strike is that of your penis versus your social circle. Your friends may well be the most important thing in your life, but left unchecked, your burgeoning man-mound can dominate all, cutting a swathe through your social life. How can you negotiate that difficult sex-friendship equation? FS has put together the Fucking Friends guide, a list of simple pointers for any gay neophyte to follow, which will assist on the path to establishing a fully-fledged homosexual social circle and a rambunctious sex life.

1: MAKING FRIENDS THROUGH SEX

each other first, and then we’ve all been introduced and made friends by osmosis. We don’t have ‘relations’ any more, but it feels as if we’ve got that part out of the way. There’s no unspoken horniness with each other – we’ve seen it all and pretty much done it all!”

evening, but that never happened. He made excuse after excuse not to see me, until I eventually confronted him and he admitted that sleeping together was a mistake. We didn’t speak for a good year after that.” It’s not all drama and tattered By and large the gay community is a friendships however, as Ben recounts. big incestuous pool of fluid swapping, “I slept with a close friend of mine right? I bet that within your social a few years back. We went out and circle at least four of you have seen got absolutely smashed – we drank each other’s penises, if not touched all the shots – and we decided to go them. With your mouths. This may back to my flat to continue the party. seem like a shocking and definitely not We sat extremely close on the sofa made up statistic, but former cuddle and he leaned in for a kiss, which I buddies can actually be an efficient and Showing willpower and restraint can reciprocated. We ended up in bed effective way of meeting new friends. be hard and if you’re not intimate with and had a pretty good time. The Once any sexual frisson between two a friend with whom you have a mutual next morning was admittedly a little people has been expunged from attraction from the off, then it bit awkward. Instead of ignoring it, I their system (disgusting could lead to a drunken tackled it head on and we both agreed innuendo intended), fumble years down the it shouldn’t happen again but it was they can then focus line, which puts the something that we just needed to get on building a solid very fabric of the “My best friend friendship in danger. out of our systems. It actually made friendship. is someone I us a lot closer and we can discuss “My university “I’ve met quite met in a gay club. intimate things we may not have done wasn’t the most a few friends before.” homo-centric of through oneWe kissed, had a places and there night stands or a quick fondle in the were about five quick fumble in a smoking area and of us in my year,” club,” confesses explains 24-year21-year-old Kyle. went home old Christian. “At “My best friend is together. ” the end of my first someone I met in a year I met this other gay gay club. We kissed, It can be very easy as a gay man to lad called Andre and we had a quick fondle in the misinterpret feelings of friendship with started chatting about boys, the smoking area and went home those of love. It has happened to the scene and things. I guess inevitably, together. We agreed to go on a date best of us. You spend every day with as our exposure to other gay men was but had so much fun and so little someone, share your most intimate quite limited, we ended up doing stuff sexual chemistry without the booze, secrets, laugh together, cry together, together. I thought I had feelings for we decided just to keep hanging shop together, drink together. Then one him, and I told him so in a club when out without the sexual stuff. Now I day your friend will flash you a smile we were a bit pissed. We stumbled couldn’t live without him.” 26-year-old and you get a warm tingly feeling in the home and one thing led to another. The pit of your stomach (and somewhere Graham agrees, “Half of my friendship next day, we arranged to meet up that group have met through sleeping with south of your stomach). You start

2: SLEEPING WITH FRIENDS

3: FALLING FOR FRIENDS

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Photos: Chris Jepson © www.chrisjepson.com

to look at him in a different way and feelings start to grow alongside a burgeoning obsession. Then every time he talks about another boy or kisses one in a club you die a little inside and a psychosis starts to take hold. Suddenly you decide that he doesn’t give you enough attention and you start to get more and more possessive of his time. Obviously he notices this and begins to distance himself from your increasingly unhinged ways and this is when you break. You call him crying to confess your undying love and pledge to be with him forever, an offer he politely and rightly rebuffs. You are then left as a broken shell of the man you once were, emotionally frayed, alone and minus one good friend. Thomas has a similar, but not quite as dramatic story: “He wasn’t quite my best friend, but we spent a lot of time together. My feelings got stronger and stronger, and I did get a bit obsessed.

One day your friend will flash you a smile and you get a warm tingly feeling in the pit of your stomach (and somewhere south of your stomach). I used to check where he was through Facebook and got insanely jealous if I saw he was out with other guys. I used to get really moody with him and I could tell I was pushing him away, but the more I tried to relax and back off, the deeper my ‘love’ seemed to get. Our group of friends booked a holiday together and that’s when things kicked off. I saw him pull another guy and I broke down in tears. He saw me and I had to tell him. He was really kind and understanding, but he did start to distance himself which I could hardly blame him for. We’re still in each other’s

lives but there’s always that barrier there now.” It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Brooks and Dan happily point out: “We were friends for years, and witnessed each other through a variety of different boyfriends and shags, until at one fateful party we hooked up. There’s no big dramatic story really! We’ve just been together ever since. We had that base of friendship and it’s made our romantic life stronger and more durable.”

4: FRIENDS WITH EXES Falling into a deep and committed relationship within your first year of being an ‘out’ gay man is a common pitfall. Telling any mammal with ears that he’s ‘the one’, before cheating www.fsmag.org.uk

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forget it or move on you’re not ready to be mates and a part of their life. I don’t even refer to him as my ex any more, he’s just my best mate, and has been for years. People ask if there’s any chance of us getting back together and I just can’t imagine it. It’d be weird – the context of our relationship is completely different.”

5: FRIENDS THROUGH APPS Certain branded, location-based, gay dating apps have made it easier than ever to meet new people. Before this technological sex-craft first appeared, gay humans had to venture out into the world in order to find others with like-minded interests, even having to converse with their mouths and expose their genitals to each other in person.

But with the likes of Grindr, you don’t even have to get out of bed to meet new people – just jump online and take your pick. “I know that a lot of guys think it’s just for quick meets and shags, but it can be a great way to meet new mates – I’ve met loads through it!” says 25-year-old Adrian. “I was just really upfront with people on there. I explained that I wasn’t looking for sex, just friends and dates. Obviously loads of people blocked me but I ended up chatting to someone into the same scifi stuff as me, and he then introduced me to his friends. I didn’t really have that many gay mates before and Grindr really helped.” It’s perhaps an unwritten rule that you should openly show disdain for sex-hunting apps, while secretly having it on your phone – hypocrisy about sex is vital for a young gay man. “Oh, we’ve all got it on our phone,” admits 27-yearold Dean, “and we’re all secretly using it to meet people, we just don’t all say it out loud. I’ve met a few friends and boyfriends through Grindr, but if other people ask how we met, I just make up a story – ‘I met them in a bar’ or ‘I met them at the supermarket’ – anything but admit that we met through a gay dating app. There’s definitely a stigma still attached to it.”

Photos: Chris Jepson © www.chrisjepson.com

on him five weeks later because you’re ‘bored’. This will ensure that the now ex-boyfriend will never speak to you again and that he will do anything in his power to tarnish your once good name. For optimum effect, make sure that you were publicly ‘in a relationship’ on a social networking site, so when this changes to ‘single’ you have to explain to each and every one of your friends what an awful bastard you’ve been. Of course that’s not always the case, but maintaining a friendship with an ex can be tricky. “I pretty much lost my best friend when I broke up with my ex,” says 23-year-old Gabriel. “We did everything together and when we broke up – it was an amicable split – I was lost. I wanted to stay friends but he couldn’t handle it and wanted a clean break. I also lost a lot of mutual friends after the break-up. I pretty much felt I was starting all over again.” 29-year-old Michael found it a different story however: “My ex and I tried to be friends straight away and that didn’t really work, but we took a bit of time away to ‘heal’ and then got back in touch when everything had settled. I think it’s just got to happen naturally. Take time apart first and then if you reconnect as mates, you connect as mates. Don’t force anything and let go of the stuff in the past – if you can’t

There seems to be a very fine line between wanting to make friends and wanting people to see your manhood. It’s all a bit weird.

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LIFESTYLE

Photos: Chris Jepson © www.chrisjepson.com

6: FRIENDS THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA It’s not just so-called ‘sex-apps’ where internet bonds are made – the likes of Twitter and Facebook are also effective ways to make connections. Like, follow, share, poke… it’s like these sites were built for us. Dave credits Twitter for establishing his social circle: “When I first moved to London I knew no one. I started using gay dating sites, but I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend or random hook-ups, so I found it quite difficult. Then I got into Twitter, starting following some cool people, and some lads I spoke to regularly on there all arranged to meet up. We were all ‘not from London’ so we connected straight away. In a big city I think it’s hard to meet people, so things like Twitter make it that much easier.” This isn’t to say these social networks are sexless, androgynous iPuritans however, as with a myriad of hashtags like ‘#NakedSunday’, ‘#TeamTop’ and ‘#TeamBigDick’, these sites can have as many cocks as a thriving farmyard. “It can be just as bad as gay dating sites,” thinks Jon. “I’ve been happily chatting to people online and then I get a DM that starts mildly flirty, then progresses to full-on raunch! It’s hard to know who’s trying to be friendly and who’s on there to get their end away. When you throw in SnapChat and things like that, I must see about a dozen cock-shots every day. There seems to be a very fine line between wanting to make friends and wanting people to see your manhood. It’s all a bit weird.” When it comes to matters of friendship, the heart and the wang, there really are no hard rules. We all make friends in different ways; some of us meet them in pubs and clubs, some meet them online, and some of us meet them in a sauna at 4am after a hard, sweaty session. SOME OF US. Sometimes we give into powerful urges of the crotch and sleep with our mates, and if we handle it right, it doesn’t have to mean that the relationship is effectively ruined, it can make you closer. It doesn’t matter where, how or when the bonds of friendship are made, just that we all love each other. G’aww isn’t that bloody lovely? *send picture of cock to best mate*

WHEN FUCKING FRIENDS GOES WRONG! It goes without saying that we all need friends to maintain a happy and healthy life. The only problem with this is, a lot of gay men tend to make friends through sex. You meet someone, have a fumble, find that you don’t match but try being friends. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you become great friends and still have sex. Sometimes it goes horribly wrong. Just like it did for Mark. Here is his story: “I met this guy once in a club, we hit it off and went back to his place. We had sex, it was great and I really liked him. The only problem was that he didn’t like me in the same way. He wanted just to be friends and I told him I was OK with that. But I wasn’t. Every time we went out together we’d have lots of fun but he’d end up kissing the face off some guy and bringing him back. This used to rip my heart in half. I had fallen for a man who only saw me as a mate. One night we went out and had a great night. Neither of us pulled and got into a taxi and went home. Next thing I knew the mate I was in love with started feeling my leg. This made me feel so special. When we got back to my flat we kissed and made our way to the bedroom. We had sex... without condoms... and that’s where this story turns for the worse. My friend, the man I fell for, only went and gave me anal gonorrhoea.”

FS SAYS... The lesson to be learn from Mark’s story is all STI including HIV don’t care about your personal feelings. Every single one of us is susceptible to them. Most STIs can be cured but other STIs like HIV and Herpes can not. Whether you are fucking a stranger or fucking a friend, you need to treat the situation with a safer sex strategy that suits you.

CONDOMS: We know that most gay men use condoms most of the time. But it’s those times that you don’t use them that puts you at risk of catching HIV and STI. Using condoms while fucking is one of the best ways to prevent HIV and STIs. TESTING: If you don’t use condoms when having sex and believe you are both HIV-negative and STI-free, then get yourselves into a testing pattern, whether that’s every month, every three months or once a year. For more information on HIV and STIs, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/sex. To find your nearest GUM clinic to get tested for HIV, hep C and other STIs, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/clinics.

www.fsmag.org.uk

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Need a reminder? Do you want a nudge to make sure that you test regularly in future?

Post Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP, is a course of HIV medication which you can take if you have been at risk of HIV infection.

GMFA runs a service to send annual email reminders to gay men to test.

The course of 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.

To sign up to the reminder service, visit

www.gmfa.org.uk/reminder

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Tell us what month you would like to receive a reminder and we’ll do the rest.

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If you believe that you need PEP you must act fast! The sooner you start PEP, the more likely it is to be effective.

GMFA . Unit 11, Angel Wharf, 58 Eagle Wharf Road, London N1 7ER. Charity No: 1076854. Part of

GMFA . Unit 11, Angel Wharf, 58 Eagle Wharf Road, London N1 7ER. Charity No: 1076854. Part of

To support GMFA’s work visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/donate.

To support GMFA’s work visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/donate.

GMFA reminder.indd 1

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26/07/2013 08:19

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LIFE

TRUE LIFE

“I got HIV after passing out in the sauna” by Gerry 23, from London A few months ago I found out that I’m HIV-positive. I guess what happened was my own fault. It was a Friday afternoon and as usual I went out with the gang from work for a few drinks. Generally we have a few pints in the local pub, grab some food and then head on to another pub. Fridays tend to be one of those days we get pissed early and usually I’m home in bed by 11pm. However this one Friday after I had said goodbye to my workmates I was on my way home when I got the urge for a few more pints. So I got off the bus in Shoreditch and headed to the gay bar. I was already fairly tanked and didn’t have much to eat. I wasn’t there long as I got the horn so I had a couple of shots for dutch courrage and made my way to the sauna. My memory is a bit hazy after this point and I don’t remember much but after wandering about the sauna for a while I decided to find a cubicle and sleep for a while. When I woke up the cubicle door was open and my towel was undone. I felt really odd and felt a soreness in my arse. I quickly got up grabbed my towel and headed for the toilet. It was in there that when I checked my ass I could feel cum and there was some blood. It took me a while to figure out that I was fucked while passed out. As soon as I realised what happened I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I instantly felt ashamed at what happened and felt stupid becuase I was so out of it that I didn’t notice that someone had sex with me without me knowing. I left the sauna there and then and went home to bed. The next day I stayed in bed all day staring at the wall thinking about what happened. How could I let something like that happen? I started to blame myself. I then thought, ‘maybe I had sex with someone and just can’t remember’. But the more I think back the more I am sure I didn’t. Eventually I just ‘got over it’ and vowed it would never happen again. But a couple of months later I knew there was something wrong with me. After feeling sick for a while I went to

get checked out and my results came back as positive. Three months passed since I got that result and I’m starting to cope with the idea of being HIVpositive. I’m sure I got it from that night in the sauna and as much as I’d love to go back in time and stop myself from

going there, I can’t. My advice to you is if you are drinking, or doing drugs please watch what you are doing. Being so drunk that I didn’t know what was happening made me HIV-positive. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

SAYS:

Is this a common story? Lots of gay men drink way too much or take too much drugs, get the horn, then head to the local sauna and end up passing out in a cubicle. We at FS have heard stories of guys waking up with someone fucking them or waking up and feeling like they have been fucked. There are a few things you need to know if this happens to you. First: If you think you’ve been fucked without condoms, PEP is available from your nearest GUM clinic. PEP is a month long course. If you start taking it within 72 hours of possible infection you have a good chance of remaining HIV-negative. PEP should not be seen as a ‘cure’. For more information, visit, www.gmfa.org.uk/pep Second: It’s way too easy for us or anyone to say mind your drinking. We know it’s easier said than done but getting yourself into a state where you don’t know if you’ve been fucked or not is something to be concerned about. If you are planning on heading to a sauna try and curb your drinking a little so as to minimise the chances that you pass out. For more info on alcohol and drugs, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/ alcohol-and-drugs Third: Just because you pass out in a sauna (or back room) does not give anyone the right to have sex with you without your consent. This is sexual assault. The person who fucked you without you knowing just raped you. If this has happened to you we suggest you get in contact with GALOP who specialise in situations like this. For more information, www.galop.org.uk or www.gmfa.org.uk/rape. Lastly: Incidents of this nature are rare but they do happen. Some people’s first reaction will be to ‘positive bash’ and put some blame on ‘wreckless HIV-positive man’ taking advantage of someone who passed out. Please remember that HIV-positive men who are on medication are less likely to pass on HIV. The majority of people who pass on HIV are men who are undiagnosed. It’s easy to judge. Education rather than finger pointing will help stop incidents like this happening in the future. www.fsmag.org.uk

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“YOU MAKE ME ASHAMED TO BE GAY”

– ARE YOU HOMOPHOBIC? @IncrediblyRich

www.shutterstock.com/CREATISTA

By Richard Patrick

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www.shutterstock.com/CREATISTA

LIFESTYLE Actor and screenwriter Wentworth Miller recently came out by turning down an invitation to appear as guest of honour at the St Petersburg International Film Festival, citing his sexual orientation as the reason he declined. His timing was perfect and sent a clear message of support to LGBT Russians following the introduction of legislation outlawing ‘homosexual propaganda’. Despite his honourable intentions, various social media channels were awash with immediate criticism, mainly from surprisingly smug individuals claiming to have identified his sexuality well in advance of any official statement. A similar reaction arose when Ricky Martin came out in 2010, with many gay men quick to point the finger and laugh at a supposedly pointless gesture given that most of the gay community, if not the world, already knew he shook his bonbon the other way. But why choose to mock rather than offer words of support? Ricky Martin acknowledged that he had struggled for years to accept his sexuality. “I look back now and realise I would bully people who I knew were gay,” he said. “I had internalised homophobia. I used to look at gay men and think, I’m not like that, I don’t want to be like that, that’s not me. I was ashamed.” His explanation of internalised homophobia could also be applied to those who scoffed at Wentworth Miller and seemingly take regular pleasure in knocking down members of their own community. So desperate are they to be accepted by their heterosexual counterparts, they begrudge anyone who, in their eyes, makes a song and dance about their sexuality. Never was this notion more prevalent than the latter stages of last year’s X Factor when Rylan Clark descended from the rafters in a spandex onesie, his glitter-soaked screams forcing their way through a spectacular Spice Girls medley. Twitter ignited in a blaze of insults that strangely avoided any criticism of his vocal prowess (or lack thereof) and instead went straight for the jugular by condemning his brazen display of camp confidence. Sadly, many of these comments weren’t coming from ‘traditional’ homophobes but from gay men themselves, ranging from the ridiculous – “Rylan makes me ashamed to be gay!” – to the downright horrendous - “I wouldn’t normally condone homophobia, but for Rylan I would make an exception!” These hecklers were so repulsed by an openly gay man flaunting his (metaphorical) flag on prime time television that they were willing to declare themselves

are somehow inferior and of detriment to homophobic. I sincerely doubt any of gay society at large. Personally, I would these detractors would tolerate such a have no qualms with dating a guy who statement from a straight man, so why knew his way around the Bananarama were they willing to turn a blind eye to back catalogue. I firmly believe that their own internalised homophobia? wearing your rainbow badge for all to This rejection of camp culture goes see is a thousand times more hand in hand with promoting the attractive than openly ‘straight-acting gay man’ abusing others in a as the ideal embodiment thinly-veiled effort to of modern-day repress the issues homosexuality. Fans Personally, you have with your of this particular I would have no own sexuality. mindset make Many of us it clear that qualms with dating grew up in a flamboyance is a guy who knew his society where to be rejected at way around the homophobic, all costs, lest it discriminatory damage the noble Bananarama back culture was the norm cause of assimilating catalogue. and, to a certain into mainstream extent, this is heteronormative undoubtedly true of the society. One often hears landscape today. As a result, these individuals ridiculing many of us may have learned effeminate men and proclaiming deep-seated negative ideas about what loudly that they could never date it is to be gay. But it is reductive and someone with a spray tan and a 26” internally homophobic to suggest that waist. In some respects, an aversion to camp is no different to preferring one subset of gay culture is indicative of brunettes or men with rippling abdominal the whole. We should be embracing all muscles, provided this preference is aspects of gay life and celebrating our based purely on physiological attraction. differences, not condemning those we But to openly revile this aspect of gay consider to be a distasteful culture and spit the word ‘camp’ with representation of modern gay life. such venom that your eyes have to be Perhaps if those men who were so afraid peeled off the ceiling is just another of being different were more open with form of internalised homophobia. The the world, the world would be more underlying suggestion is that camp men open with them.

SAYS: HOW TO BEAT INTERNALISED HOMOPHOBIA Internalised homophobia is something that we all go through at some point in our lives, whether we realise it or not. There is a theory that gay men go through stages of coming out and that it takes a while to get to the point that we are truly comfortable with ourselves. Some gay men never get to that point where the sight of a camp lad doesn’t make them cringe. However, no matter what stage of your coming out you are in, hating other gay men because they are camp or feminine is not cool. It doesn’t take much for keyboard warriors to sit behind a computer and shout about homophobia in Russia while those same people will pull the piss out of Rylan Clark when he pops up on our TV screens. It’s bad enough that we still live in a world where gay hate is often the norm without us all hating each other. You don’t have to understand why some gay men are the way they are. You just have to respect them. Don’t make anyone feel bad for who they are. Do that and we’ll beat internalised homophobia.

www.fsmag.org.uk

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ONLY ‘ONE DIRECTION’ FOR YOUR HEALTH? Is the downward pressure to get Something quite extraordinary has happened in the evolution of the global and look fitter a negative thing? It may seem contradictory to argue so, given phenomenon that is One Direction. the much-publicised obesity crisis in Having come third on the 2010 series the UK. To put that into perspective, of X Factor, the five-piece – aside according to the government, over from conquering the world – have 60% of British adults are overweight seemingly been deliberately marketed or obese. Surely then, it can only be to appeal to a ‘gay’ audience. As well a positive thing to have music idols as symbolising a welcome shift in present an image of the body beautiful social attitudes, this has manifested itself most explicitly in certain members for us to aspire to? Many men have a certain body type in mind, often of the band sporting ‘Power Bottom’ demonstrated by a specific famous t-shirts. Whether or not Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson were aware of the person, when training, and use it meaning of the slogan (and we suspect as a benchmark of progress made. The inspiration such role models they were), it cannot be denied that provide can be a decisive factor in many a gay man’s loins quiver at the whether or not a quest for fitness is sight of at least one member of the fruitful. Tied to this is, of course, the wildly successful group. inevitable question of whether or not Most of us have at least one music idol, that one person or group of people using buff music idols as inspiration is realistic. We mere mortals sadly deigned worthy of our unswerving do not have either the spare time or loyalty and adulation. It is a widespread cash to spend on a celebrity personal assumption that most gay men favour trainer to support (or bully) female artists in this regard, us through four hours of perhaps justifiable if exercise per day. Nor our experiences are We mere do we have a record anything to judge mortals sadly do company pressuring by. Regardless of us to maintain gender, one fact not have either the impeccable is certain: in the spare time or cash to an physique in order overwhelming spend on a celebrity to preserve a majority of cases, personal trainer to commercial image. our music idols Aspiring to look have not been hit support (or bully) us like Will Young may with an ugly stick. through four hours well be motivational Unlike bygone days of exercise but it could equally when it seemed that per day be extremely futile. the onus was on female The power of celebrities to ‘look sexy’, advertising and sponsorship it now appears that pressure dictates that music idols aren’t is applied in equal measure to their necessarily always the epitome of fit male counterparts not only to be goodand healthy. This manifests itself most looking but to be buff. One Direction are a case in point: many a boyband has evidently in celebrity endorsement of questionable products. The image started life as a gang of skinny, boyish of a physically in-shape Kanye West pre-pubescents, presumably to appeal slurping merrily from a can of fullto a teenage girl demographic, only to sugar Pepsi in a TV advert seems evolve into demigods with the kind of disingenuous. Whether or not West bodies many of us can only dream of.

does indeed consume copious amounts of carbonated drinks is, to a certain degree, neither here nor there. The more crucial issue is the impact this has on those who look up to West as an ‘idol’. By its very nature, advertising affects viewers’ behaviour, meaning that, if the unfathomable payment undoubtedly made to West for endorsing Pepsi were worthwhile, a whole lot of ‘normal’ people will consume more cola – to the detriment of their teeth and waistline. Separating the behaviour worthy of our emulation from that we would be wise to ignore is easier said than done. However, the subliminal power of advertising is not necessarily always exploited to negative effect. As tacky as it may have seemed to some, JLS’s decision to endorse Durex condoms as part of their ‘Just Love Safe’ collaboration is surely testament to the fact that our music idols can, indeed, put their status to good use with a long-term positive effect on men’s health. So, what happens when the body beautiful we aspire to fails to materialise, despite our best efforts? Research shows that an increasing number of teenage boys, for example, are suffering from low levels of selfesteem due to the ever-changing lofty portrayals of ‘male’ physical perfection thrust upon them. In the most extreme cases, this increases the risk of body dysmorphia and the associated consequences that brings, eating disorders included. We gay guys are equally as likely to want to be IN our music idols as be LIKE them. For the sake of our health, ask yourself this: are we still better off aspiring to the latter? After all, that’s infinitely more realistic, however challenging it may seem.

What do you think? Let us know @FSmagazineUK on Twitter.

www.shutterstock.com/Mr Pics

Lee Williscroft-Ferris asks how positive an influence our music idols have on our health and wellbeing @Epidexipteryx

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HEALTH

N’

Gay men’s struggle with body image Last year, Stonewall published the results of its Gay Men’s Health survey, which revealed some surprising stats: Over half of gay and bisexual men have a normal body mass index (BMI) compared with under a third of men in general, while only 44% of gay and bisexual men are overweight or obese compared with 70% of men in general. However, the report also found that just 25% of gay and bisexual men meet the recommendation of 30 minutes or more of exercise, five times or more per week, compared with 39 per cent of men in general. 13% admitted to having had a problem with their weight and around 45% worried about the way they look. Body image can be one of the biggest influences over a gay man’s life. It can affect the type of clothes you wear, the food you eat, the friends you make and the relationships you form. The way you see yourself can even affect the sexual partners that you choose and the type of sex you have. If you would like to talk to someone or feel you need support the following services can help:

www.shutterstock.com/Mr Pics

Friend or Foe – a weekend workshop from PACE on self-esteem for people living in London. To book a place, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/gwk. London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard – Support 24 hours a day about love, life and safer sex. Call 0300 330 0630. For more info on sex, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/sex.

www.gmfa.org.uk

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SEVEN WAYS

TO MEET GUYS* *that don’t involve Grindr or gay bars By Gareth Johnson

@GTVlondon

Whatever age you are, meeting guys can be a bit of a challenge. Well, actually meeting guys is relatively easy if all you’re looking for is a quick hook up – your local sauna or any location-based dating app will give you plenty of options to get your rocks off. But what if you want more than a quick, anonymous encounter? What if you want to connect with someone? Get to know their name, how they drink their coffee, or which side of the bed they sleep on? Here are seven options you could try.

1. Talk to strangers It’s great to hang out with your friends, but (as a general rule) your friends are not going to have sex with you. To meet guys who you might want to date, you are going to have to talk to people that you don’t know. I was workshopping this recently with young marketing professional David Hermann who is of the view that most people are fairly receptive to starting a conversation: “I learned a while back that every gay man has a scared insecure 17 year-old-girl trapped inside him. With that knowledge I can talk to just about anybody. Lots of times the hotties don’t even realise that they are a catch!” You don’t need corny chat-up lines, just be relaxed and be yourself. A great way to initiate a discussion is to ask a question – smile, laugh, be interested in what people are saying.

2. Work Making the decision to be open about your sexuality at work can seem a bit daunting, but it’s actually a pretty safe thing to do. In the UK you’re not only protected by solid anti-discrimination legislation, but most companies are falling over themselves to create diverse workforces and support their LGBT employees. If you’re working in any kind of largish organisation, chances are that there will be an LGBT-employee network in your

workplace. Paul Skovron, chairperson of the LGBT employee network of a Scottish bank, reports that: “Joining the bank’s LGBT-employee network was a real eye-opener for me. Not only did I get to meet people from across the business and make some great friends, it raised my profile within the organisation and gave me exposure to senior management.”

3. Play sport Across the UK there are lots of LGBT sports clubs, teams and associations that are a great way to keep active and improve your health and fitness, and also provide a range of social events and opportunities to meet people in your area with similar interests. LGBT sport is surprisingly well organised, and there are heaps of competitions around the world that sports teams travel to on a regular basis. The great thing about LGBT sports clubs is that they generally welcome people of all levels and abilities, so even if you’re not the most confident or accomplished sportsperson there are bound to be beginners sessions or lessons that you can tap into.

services for people who are having a tough time, community organisations rely on volunteers to keep operating on limited budgets. Sign up to donate some of your time and energy with a local community organisation that matters to you. Not only will you feel good about doing something that helps others, but you’ll meet new people and expand your social networks. Monty Moncrieff, Chief Executive of UK charity London Friend confirms that this is a strategy worth exploring: “Volunteering can be a great way of meeting new friends without the pressure or sexual subtext that can come through meeting people on the scene or online. When the focus is on giving your time to support others you find you engage differently, with people you might otherwise never meet, and get to know more about other people’s interests whilst giving something back to your community. Plus it’s a great way to gain new skills and contacts. I was a volunteer with an LGBT organisation for ten years and the experience has definitely been helpful for the job I now do, and I’ve still got really good friends from it.”

4. Volunteer

5. Network

The work of gay community organisations is incredibly inspiring. Whether they’re providing information and outreach, running safe-sex campaigns, or providing support

Most cities will have some sort of gay networking opportunities. It could be a business network, a networking event over drinks, or outings to the movies or the theatre. Try a few different

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* options and test which groups you best connect with. Leave no stone unturned.

www.shutterstock.com/holbox

6. Go to the gym Getting to the gym and working out on a regular basis has lots of benefits. At a minimum it will improve your fitness, plus research shows that regular exercise helps you to feel like you have more energy and will improve your confidence. Most gyms are also fairly social places – you get to know the people who work out at similar times to you. If you seem friendly and approachable it’s inevitable that you’ll find an opportunity to strike up a conversation at some point. Gym-bunny Shih-Ming Yao advises: “The best way to start chatting with someone at the gym is to ask whether they are still using a particular piece of equipment or ask whether you can work in with them. I also tend to tease guys with little jokes such as ‘you’re not going to get bigger legs lifting that!’ or ‘I know you’re stronger than that!’ A bit of banter gets you a long way.”

7. Take risks Meeting guys involves putting yourself

Most gyms are also fairly social places – you get to know the people who work out at similar times to you. out there, feeling vulnerable, making mistakes, and suffering the occasional rejection. Recent graduate Jose Correa-Rollano advises that if you like someone you should always take the chance and ask them to go on a date with you: “Your inner gaydar is usually going to be pretty reliable – just by the way the guy stares at you, you know if there’s something there, so I would say just ask! The worse thing that can happen is that the guy says say no.” Dating can be hard work, exhausting, and a bit frustrating. But dating can also be exciting and fun. It’s inevitable that you are going to have to kiss a few frogs before you find your Prince Charming, but why not give it a go? Put your smart-phone away and get in the game – your potential new boyfriend could be just around the corner!  

To find a group or social club near you, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/theguide.

Are you bored of going down the pub or of staying home all the time? Do you want to get out and meet new people with shared interests? GMFA’s parent organisation HERO, the Health Equality and Rights Organisation, is running the following social groups, open to all LGBT Londoners.

Current groups The board games group The book group Theatre-going group Cinema-going group Art gallery group Positive 21 – a weekly support group for gay and bisexual men living with HIV

If you are interested in finding out more and want to be put on the email lists for any of these groups, please email michael.flaherty@gmfa.org.uk or call GMFA on 020 7738 6872  and state which group email list you’d like to sign up for. www.gmfa.org.uk

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Search ‘FS magazine’ in iTunes/Google play No: 1076854. Wharf,58 58Eagle Eagle Wharf Road, London N1 7ER. GMFA - GMFA - Charity . Charity No: 1076854 Unit - Unit11, 11,Angel Angel Wharf, Wharf Road, London N1 7ER.

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24/07/2013 23:32 16:30 26/09/2013 26/07/2013 08:19


OFF YOUR FACE WITH DAVID STUART

HEALTH

@DavidaStuart

Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

Sex with Gina G-ing? the dangers of this drug: the deaths “Ooh aah; just a Little Bit. Ooh aah; a in saunas/bedrooms, the ambulances Little Bit More!” That’s Gina G, circa being called to Vauxhall venues each 1996, and though I’m (kind of?) sure weekend with overdoses. We’ve all she wasn’t singing an anthem of harm seen that friend-of-a-friend collapsing reduction tips for her ecstasy-popping on a dancefloor in a sweaty, limp mess gay fans on the dancefloor, I wouldn’t (all the while glad it’s not our friend, object to this as a safety message for ecstasy use. Not too many people ever that we’d have to look after). The thing that makes harmsuffered the harms of ‘just a little bit’ of ecstasy; nor would that ‘little bit more”’ reduction messages so difficult for drug services is this: that guy collapsing on really be that dangerous. the dancefloor, whether he wakes up But that song was released in in A&E, or in the medic room, will, most 1996. It’s now 2013, and ecstasy has likely, wake up. Wake up feeling just been replaced by some considerably fine, and ready to continue partying. more harmful drugs, one of the most So how are we to believe that it’s so common being GBL (‘G’ or ‘Gina’), dangerous? What’s the harm? and yes, in this case, just a little bit When we as gay men start seeing can be very harmful, depending on the ‘collapsing’ as a normal part of a night user’s knowledge, and the ‘little bit out, that’s worrying in my opinion. more’ can be very dangerous indeed. Dancing or shagging, on a drug Or is it? Despite these high to some awesome messages, plenty of gay music is something that men use G every gay communities have weekend without too When owned and enjoyed, much harm. So how we as gay be it right or wrong, are we to believe all for decades now. the ‘danger’ hype men start seeing But when waking we read, when so ‘collapsing’ as a up in a medic many are having room or A&E a great, safe time normal part of a (with no memory on this drug? night out, that’s of how we got Let’s start worrying in my there) becomes with the dealers’ nothing more than a sales pitch. GBL is opinion. ‘recreational hazard’, a liquid solvent that then Vauxhall, we have a can be drunk in small problem. amounts (approximately “But my friends take G every 1ml) in order to achieve a weekend; sometimes they pass out, high. The high is euphoric, sensual, but they wind up just fine. Why should I disinhibiting, dance’y, sexy, confident; believe it’s so dangerous?” it’s quite cheap, available online, It’s hard to argue with this. It is only wears off in a couple of hours without a small percentage of people who die a hangover; plus it’s one of the few from this kind of overdose. It’s only drugs that doesn’t stop you getting an a small percentage of men who find erection. Cool. they’ve been sexually compromised So it’s easy to see why it’s so while under the influence of too much popular. It doesn’t take a genius to G. It’s only a small number of G users figure out why this drug has become one of the most popular on our London who show up at sexual health clinics on Monday mornings for PEP, because scene in the last decade. they’re not sure if that guy they Yet we’ve all heard the hype about

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shagged bareback was HIV-positive or not. And it’s not everyone that becomes physically addicted to the drug. The tricky and dangerous thing about GBL is that there’s no exact science for playing safely. The ‘right amount’ for a good, safe high, is different each time you use it, depending on how much you’ve eaten that day, how much sleep you’ve had recently, what other drugs you’ve taken, the amount of physical activity you’ve expended… What might have been the right dose last week, might be the dose that has your mates calling an ambulance for you this week. In this sense, it really is Russian Roulette. And too many of our gay brothers are losing this game each week. So if you’re finding the scare stories about overdoses and deaths too far from your realm of experience, simply ask yourself these questions: Can you dance without G? Can you shag without G? Have you passed out from the wrong dose of G? Can you still enjoy clubbing and socialising without G? Have you missed any days off work because of G? And do you feel you simply can’t be your best self without G? Don’t let anyone else tell you you have a problem with drugs. Be your own judge. And explore these questions with a professional if you’re concerned. Seeking some advice from an Antidote worker does not make you a junkie or a loser – it makes you sexy, assertive and informed.

David Stuart is responsible for managing and developing London Friend’s education, training and outreach services. For more information about the Antidote drug service, visit www.antidote-lgbt.com. www.gmfa.org.uk

| 27 26/09/2013 23:33


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 a fat pig and I’ve lost my way” – Ferguson

Your say... Facebook responses DEAR FERGUSON Do NOT lay in bed when you wake up. Get up right away! Do stuff, small stuff at first! See the small advances and your confidence grow. It’s all cumulative, and needs to be built up like baby steps. Do NOT watch television or spend hours on social networking. Advertisers spend millions using these routes to tell you that you are unworthy unless you buy their product. Shift your focus away from

harsh demands or strict selfaccusations and painful thoughts of the past or worries about the future and live in the moment. If you begin to feel down (again) SHIFT YOUR FOCUS and do a small productive thing. A few dishes to wash or the bathroom floor to clean? Avoid white flour foods, pasta, bread, pizza, and make small healthy changes to your diet rather than dramatic changes that might be less easy to maintain. Oh, and eat nuts... unless you’re allergic to nuts. Tom Lusk Little steps at a time are needed to help. Relationships and sex are part of life, but health and self-esteem are more important to work on first. The

rest will follow. Think about what it is that is affecting you the most – is it the weight or depression. Seeking medical advice for the depression would be my first call. I suffered for eight years with it and gained weight just the same, but I found I would turn to fast food and junk like sweets and crisps as my comfort instead of facing what it was that was making me feel low and not having the get up and go. The more time went on the harder it became, but only I could answer what triggered it and hit it head on. Friends can make you feel worse as they might not want to say what is needed so as not to upset you, so seek that support from your GP. Losing weight isn’t easy, but you have to start somewhere even if that’s walking

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around your estate or village twice a day instead of sitting in front of the TV with a bag of crisps. Join a beginners group in your area that are suffering with the same issues, like a weight watchers class. You will meet new friends who might be just like you. Determination is the key to success. I was 16 stone which might not sound a lot to some, but from 11.5 stone gaining 4.5 stone made me feel like I was no good for anyone. I got over the depression in time, and you have to remember it won’t happen overnight. I lost the weight and fell in love and been with my partner for 14 years now. Just because I asked my GP to help me, and was honest with myself. Everyone can do it. It’s a case of getting the right mindset and seeking support that is on your doorstep. Dean Lanick

A counsellor’s opinion... Andre Smith of the GMI Partnership says… DEAR FERGUSON It sounds like you’ve had a tough couple of years since losing your job. You didn’t mention in your letter whether or not you were on any medication to help manage the depression? If not, I would recommend a visit to your GP who may be able to prescribe a treatment that can lessen the impact of ‘severe depression’, which often pulls sufferers into what can feel like an unbreakable cycle of negative thoughts and feelings about themselves. Describing your reflection as a fat pig sounds to me like you are already caught in that trap where your confidence and sense of self-worth are taking a battering. Weight gain and depression are by no means strangers, and food is very often used as a self-soothing or numbing mechanism by people who are depressed as a way of avoiding unwanted stress or emotion – and losing a job is a major contributor to stress, both emotionally and psychologically. It must be hard having to listen to what I’m sure is well intentioned, but never-the-less irritating advice about eating less and exercising more – especially when you already know that. As you say, you hardly have the energy to get up in the mornings. However, when so much energy is being used to numb emotions with food and even more engaging in habitual

negative self-talk, it’s little wonder that you have nothing left to give your life, yourself or those close to you. You say that dating has come to a standstill and that sex only happens now in the darkroom at your local sauna. Nothing wrong with that if you are being as safe as the situation allows, but it sounds to me like you are the kind of guy who liked to go dating and who now has to hide away in darkrooms for fear of being rejected. The positive here is that you are aware that you’ve lost your way and that you need help – and that you do indeed want to help yourself. Deciding to do something to help yourself is the most important step you can take. I’d thoroughly recommend talking to an experienced counsellor. Talking over your thoughts and feelings in a safe and confidential environment can bring immense relief and may very well lessen the need to turn to food. There are some really great organisations out there like PACE and Stonewall who do great work with gay men suffering from depression. Equally, have a look at the GMFA website which also offers a wealth of information for gay men. In the meantime pay attention to your self-talk and maybe start to think about some volunteering activities which can really help in restoring focus and rebuilding confidence. 

The GMI Partnership provides counselling for gay men living in London. Visit www.gmipartnership. org.uk.

Next month’s problem... I went to my very first sex party last week and now I think I’ve got myself into trouble. I was having some drinks at home while talking to guys on Grindr. I got a message asking me if I wanted to come over for group sex. I’d had a lot of drink and I thought why not. There were eight men there. I had fun with them, which was mainly oral. I fucked bareback with one guy but he told me he was clean. But since that night I talked to my mate who said that these sex parties are for ‘dirty positive men’ and I need to get checked out. Is he telling the truth or is he overreacting? John, 21 from Stoke

If you have a problem that needs sorting, email: fsmag@gmfa.org.uk.

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

I have a smelly penis Every time I pull my foreskin back I get a strong smell from it. I wash it every day but it still happens. Is it an STI? It sounds like smegma is accumulating under your foreskin. Smegma is produced naturally by the penis in uncircumcised men to keep the glands moist and facilitate intercourse by acting as a lubricant. If you are wearing tight or thick underwear it may cause your penis to sweat which would add to the unpleasant smell. If the liquid is discharge-like and yellowish in colour, you should see your doctor to make sure that it isn’t a urinary tract infection or to get an STI screening.

We’re sharing the same dildo Myself and my partner use the same dildo. We are in a monogamous relationship and don’t have any STIs. How risky is sharing the same sex toys? If you are both STI-free and you are sure that you are in a monogamous relationship, then you won’t pick up an STI by sharing a sex toy (exclusively) with your partner. One thing to keep in mind though is that there are many bacteria in our anal passages. If one of you has a stomach bug, that can easily be passed on to the other person by sharing the dildo. All of our bodies are different and although one type of bacteria may have no effect on one person, it may cause an upset stomach when passed on to another person. Putting a condom on the dildo each time you swap won’t affect the sensation you get when using it. It’s therefore advisable to do this.

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

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HEALTH & ADVICE

THE LAST WORD

Don’t hold your breath waiting for a cure

www.shutterstock.com/ Sebastian Kaulitzki

by Matthew Hodson

@Matthew_Hodson

Is there going to be a cure for HIV any time soon? To be honest, I don’t know. In recent months there have been a few stories of people who have been ‘cured’, babies mostly but some adults too. In most cases the circumstances of the cure do not apply to those of us who have been living with a diagnosis for many years, or the risks involved are too great. At the least, the theory of a cure has been established so it’s understandable that people are starting to get hopeful that a cure isn’t too far behind. So let me put it on the line: I’m writing this in October 2013; if there’s a cure in the next five years I will gladly eat my hat. Hell, I’ll probably tuck in if a cure comes along in the next ten years. Some provisos: by cure I don’t

Gambling that a cure is going to come along before you feel any ill-effects of HIV infection is a pretty risky gamble to take. necessarily even mean complete eradication of the virus from my body (although that would be nice). I mean a one-off treatment which will permanently prevent the virus from turning my immune system on itself, leaving me vulnerable to a wide range

of diseases which are otherwise rare. Also I want it to mean I’m no longer potentially infectious to my sexual partner (or, in the unlikely event that I start slamming and sharing works, my drug buddies). And I want it be safe and available to me, preferably on the NHS, if we still have one by then. Surely that’s not too much to ask for from a ‘cure’? So why am I so pessimistic? Well maybe it’s as a result of working in HIV prevention for so long. Ever since I was diagnosed 15 years ago there have been whispers of a cure or (less useful to me, but desirable nonetheless) a vaccine, usually described as about five years down the line. What we’ve got instead are treatments that are pretty effective for most people and which make positive men less infectious, and can even make negative men less likely to acquire infection. But the cure remains tantalisingly out of reach. Maybe it’s just around the corner but maybe it will remain a retreating target for years, possibly even decades to come. So for those people who are relaxed about sexual safety because they believe that a cure is imminent, I would suggest that you don’t get too complacent. Drug trials are long and laborious and all too often they fail. Gambling that a cure is going to come along before you feel any ill-effects of HIV infection is a pretty risky gamble to take. And don’t be fooled that an HIV diagnosis is a small or petty thing. While the treatment of HIV has improved enormously over the last few years, for most people getting a diagnosis is still a huge and traumatic event. Even 15 years since my own diagnosis, I really want a cure. My life isn’t terrible but I reckon I’d be much happier if I could magically or medically regain my negative HIV status. Like many people I feel that I’ve learned valuable lessons about life and about myself from the experience of living with HIV but, having learned those, can I go back now please? One more proviso: if this happens, I’d like the opportunity to choose which hat I eat. I’m thinking maybe a straw boater would be best, after all it would be a bit of a waste of medical advances if I were cured of HIV only to die from hat poisoning.

Matthew is the Chief Executive of GMFA. This article is Matthew’s own opinion and not necessarily the view of GMFA as an organisation.

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26/09/2013 23:34


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. part To support GMFA’s work visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/donate.

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16/7/12 15:52:27


HIV POSITIVE NEGATIVE MEN HAVE A

RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT THEIR PARTNERS

THEMSELVES

Your sexual partners may not always insist on using condoms. Stopping transmission of HIV is your responsibility. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk. GMFA - the gay men’s health charity 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 Responsibility September 2013.indd 1

17/09/2013 15:29

FS issue 138  

Horny boys - ready for it? Sex is a big part of growing up. Exploring your sexuality should be a fun and exciting time for young people. In...

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