news

Let's Talk About Gay Sex and Drugs - 'Fireworks'

2015-11-03
Let's Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs - 'Fireworks' Vice Chemsex Film About a month ago, a 38-year-old guy approached me wanting to tell his story. We’ll call him Mark. Mark worked in the hospitality industry and would often go out after work drinking, enjoying London. For him, trying mephedrone began with alcohol. He’d never been very good at talking to people at first sight, and people would assume he was arrogant, though it was in fact a crippling shyness. The meph broke down those barriers. “I wasn’t aware that it was becoming more and more often,” he says. “You find reasons to go to these places – "it’s the music, it’s the clubs" – but no, it’s the drugs.” He ended up at chillouts, not sex-orientated at first, where he experimented with G and crystal. It was in saunas where he began tying chems and sex together. Yet his life didn’t change massively until he finally got a smartphone. Almost instantly, Mark claims, he became addicted to Grindr. In 2012, two of Mark’s close friends left London. Having guys over from apps became more common. “I took all these people as friends, and let them into my life,” he says. One night a guy arrived from Scruff, whom Mark names The Dancer. He was in his early 40s, and had beautiful, muscular legs. Yet The Dancer was troubled, with nowhere else to go. Mark allowed him to stay for two weeks, buying the drugs, and feeding him. “Something in me wanted to help him.” Resentment about lies and sex grew between the pair and The Dancer eventually left. Not before he’d introduced Mark to needles, though. “Slamming became my main activity,” he says. “I was always looking for more guys, I’d be on Grindr, BBRT all the time.” He quickly lost his job. At one point, he relates getting £160 benefits every two weeks and spending £140 to pay back his dealer, then using the other £20 to buy a new bag of mephedrone. Before racking up a new debt. He began taking less and less care of his sexual health, and eventually was diagnosed HIV positive in May 2014 by his local GP. “I don’t advise anybody to go to their GP,” he says. “She was telling me things that were completely out of my world. She didn’t even know I was gay, talking about straight couples with children.” The effect of Mark’s HIV diagnosis was to make his drug use worse. His story becomes a winding tale of paranoia and psychosis, where several guys slip in and out like shadows, all of whom apparently wanted to abuse him. He becomes agitated as he speaks, recounting drug-induced hallucinations. I find it hard to follow him but throughout the whole of his interview, one theme has been constant: loneliness. 293bc2e5565500c29294d3d6d962074f Today, he receives help and counselling from a leading London HIV charity. He still considers himself a chems user, although hasn't used in months. He fears by making the drugs forbidden in his mind he may trigger cravings and a relapse. I ask him if he is happy now. Mark sighs. "I'm getting to happiness now. It's hard work. I was feeling bad about being gay, about my sexuality, the sex itself, and when my HIV diagnosis came, I've often said "my problems are deeper than that", but within those months I was nothing more than a sexual object and I treated people the same, projecting all that anger on to them." What would he say to a guy who might be going through a similar experience?" He thinks. "Don't pretend it's the normal thing to do because everybody does it. Only trust yourself. If you decide to use, be responsible and know what you're doing. You don't know how many 'nurses' I met over those months - "do you want to slam?" Too many people say "it's not my responsibility" and go with the flow, but the flow can take your life." In the new Vice film 'ChemSex', examining the phenomenon in London, one of the interviewees says: "taking chems is like a fireworks display in your soul." Why are we turning to chems to light fireworks in our souls? What sparks are we missing in sobriety as a gay community? If you can enjoy drugs safely, and protect your own health and that of your lovers and friends, then great. Drugs are not, in themselves, bad. Leading academics have stated that drugs can be incorporated into a healthy and safe sex life, if used responsibly. But for guys like Mark who have reasons to escape reality, who might waver with moderation and go to chillouts looking for company, the gay underground drugs culture may be a treacherous place. What can we do? Let's talk about gay sex and drugs, as a community. 'Let's Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs - Fireworks' is on Thursday 5th November at Ku Klub (30 Lisle Street, Chinatown, WC2H 7BA), from 6.30pm. Free entry. All welcome, whether to speak or listen. Our featured speakers on the night will include: Oly Innes Oly Innes Oly is 27 and grew up in Worthing but has been living in London for the past 9 years. For most of those years he worked in nightlife as a promoter, host and occasional DJ. On November 23rd Oly will be celebrating 1 year clean and sober. Oly now believes there is too much pressure on young people to take drugs while partying and it is the norm on the gay scene. He thinks there aren't enough young people talking about enjoying partying and clubbing without drugs and would like to be the voice of those that still like to go out a lot but choose to do it clean and sober. Will Fairman, Co-director of the 'ChemSex' documentary Will shall be speaking about his experiences making the new 'ChemSex' documentary for Vice, due to be released in December Jack Cole as 'Raving Robbo' Jack Cole lo-res Jack Cole will be acting out the chemsex monologue from new LGBTQ play 'Queers' at the King's Head Theatre. Jeremy Goldstein, Producer Jeremy Goldstein Jeremy Goldstein is a creative producer and writer whose work has been described as ‘an evocative theatrical wonderland’ (Guardian). He founded London Artists Projects in 2000, and in 2012 was named in Time Out as among the 100 most influential people in UK culture for ‘proving political theatre can be fun and outrageous’. He will be talking about his event 'The Rise of Chemsex' which he is organising as part of his new show with Penny Arcade at the Soho Theatre. www.londonartistsprojects.co.uk David Stuart, Substance Use Lead at 56 Dean Street David Stuart   After some recent chem-related deaths, and the news about the GBL “poisonings” that hit the media last week, David Stuart from 56 Dean Street will be speaking about the impact chems are having on our community, drug safety, and grief. 'Let's Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs - Fireworks' is on Thursday 5th November at Ku Klub (30 Lisle Street, Chinatown, WC2H 7BA), from 6.30pm. Free entry.