Tweakers: How Crystal Meth Is Ravaging Gay America is a perfect example of negative propaganda being fed to a gay audience under the guise of yet another wake-up call to a community that is "destroying itself." This time the alarm is being sounded over crystal meth, also known as crank, tina, ice or chalk. It is yet another drug that is being blamed for the many terrible things that sometimes happen in our community, like crack cocaine or PCP were for earlier generations.
It is filled with anecdotal horror stories related by the poor people who have become addicted to the drug. Each of these tales follows a pattern that becomes quickly recognizable: Subject starts doing drug recreationally. Subject starts to take increasingly higher doses of drug in order to replicate that first high. Subject becomes addicted to drug, starts having unsafe sex for hours or days at a time, destroys their family/ social/professional life and hits rock bottom in some hideously dramatic fashion. Subject realizes they have a problem and tries to get off crystal, usually unsuccessfully.
Of course the details vary slightly. Some are successful businessmen, others are wild club kids, while most are just average fags like you and me. But once you've read the first narrative of a meth addict you've read them all. In fact, once you've read any story involving negative addiction, whether it's alcohol, cocaine, heroin, greasy fried foods, kinky sex or cigarettes, you've read them all and they get tiresome very fast. As most gay men will learn by the time they're 30, the only thing more boring than being involved with a drug addict is being a drug addict yourself.
The author, like many before him, draws a very direct line from crystal use to HIV seroconversion. It's a neat, tidy book and would be far less offensive if it actually was what it should have been - a pamphlet. But it's a book.
Despite these rather grandiose claims I saw nothing in this book that went even an iota beyond the expected "war on drugs" party line that America likes so much. It's the attitude that says all drugs are bad and must be wiped out, that there are no casual or recreational users of drugs, just addicts and that all of an addict's problems stem from the drug they do rather than the decisions they make.
This morally simplistic attitude doesn't work, consumes huge amounts of tax dollars to enforce in a mediocre fashion, stigmatizes the diseased addicts by making them criminals and forces mind-altering substances underground where both their purity and their quality are uncontrolled and dangerous. Better to legalize all substances and talk about the real problems, which aren't crystal or any other drug, but addiction, hypocrisy and hatred.
It seems also somewhat dangerous to suggest that crystal meth is the number one reason behind the recent rise in HIV infection. While it is true, as Tweakers states repeatedly, that men on crystal make some very bad sexual decisions brought on by the sexual frenzy the drug sometimes induces, it is also true that if it weren't for the very popular prescription erection-enhancing drugs like Viagra to offset the impotence usually brought on by any speed-based drug, the rate of HIV infection would be lessened considerably. I suspect very few people have ever been infected with HIV by someone with a limp cock.
While Tweakers is quite happy to lay the blame on crystal I still suspect that there are more gay men using alcohol rather than any other substance to give themselves permission to fuck bareback. These are all very complex problems and to suggest they're simpler than they actually are is to suggest there is an equally simple solution and that's where the danger comes in.
It's interesting to note that the last five years has seen a rise, not only in HIV infection, but other STDs, too, most notably syphilis. Many point their fingers at increased drug use, despite the fact that crystal and drugs like it have been around for decades.
No one points their finger at another force even stronger and more persuasive than drugs that has also been affecting the gay community for an equal amount of time. I'm talking about George Bush and the Republican party. That isn't meant facetiously. Ever since Bush took power, broke the rule of international law to wage his personal war in Iraq, got into bed with the Evangelicals to win a second term and gave Americans permission to break any law they don't "morally" agree with, the gay and lesbian community has been under tremendous pressure.
In fact, the last five years, in which the battle for equal rights symbolized by same-sex marriage has exposed just how much church and state-sanctioned hatred still exists throughout the world for homosexuals, have probably been the most stressful in our community's history. There's nothing like asking to take part in straight people's most flawed and malleable institution to reveal just how irrational and deeply held their hatred of homosexuality is. People talk with great alarm about the number of substance abusers in our community but, given the opposition we face every minute of every day, I'm actually surprised that there are so many gay people who don't abuse substances at all.
It's hard not to feel like you're worthless when the rest of the world keeps telling you you're worthless. And we are worthless to straight people. Take the recent death orgy surrounding that broken hand-puppet of evil, the pope. They came from far and wide to honour him. But all I know about the pope is that he condemns the use of condoms and sees homosexuality as a sin.
Who came to see Pope John Paul II off to the next world? George Bush Senior, responsible for putting Saddam Hussein and his murderous regime into power, leading to the deaths of thousands of the Iraqi people; George Bush Junior, responsible for starting a war against the man his father put into power that led to the deaths of thousands of Iraqi people because of "inaccurate information;" Bill Clinton, who, with his "oral sex isn't sex" stand, is almost single-handedly responsible for encouraging every girl in America to be an accomplished cocksucker by age 12; and Prince Charles, an admitted adulterer. These are our "good men." They allow us to be systematically oppressed because we have lifestyles their constituents aren't comfortable with.
And someone's going to try to tell me crystal meth is the problem that's ravaging gay men in America? Wouldn't things be so much easier if that were true?
Brad Fraser is a playwright who recently finished his stint as head writer of Queer As Folk.
TWEAKERS: HOW CRYSTAL METH IS RAVAGING GAY AMERICA.
$19.50. 249 pages.