Toronto
3 min

Fucking fucked up

How to deal with men who don't deal

Giorgio seems lucid and alert as we chat in his room at a local bathhouse. That is, until his eyes roll into the back of his head. He doesn’t respond as I call his name with mounting urgency.



This is scary. I try to get him to stand up, drink some water, to no avail.



Oh dear. What’s going on? Is he overdosing? He is breathing, but passed out. Should I get help? The manager? An ambulance?



If I’m overreacting, he’ll be awfully embarrassed, and he might be banned from what I know to be his home away from home. But if he dies of an overdose… I decide to run to the front desk and have someone call 911.



Just then, Giorgio breaks into a loud snore. I interpret this as a good sign. Maybe he just needs to sleep it off – whatever it is.



Eventually, I leave him be. But I stroll by his room every few minutes and wait to hear him snoring.



When I speak with Giorgio later, he suggests two different drugs he took had mixed badly. But he is all right.



I have other stories about gay men on drugs in sexual situations. Lots of them. Party drugs have become increasingly visible in gay sex environments.



My most disturbing stories involve young men of all shapes and sizes offering up their behinds, oblivious to where they are and what’s being done to them.



Some things the religious right says about gay men are true. About some gay men, at least. Men who live fast. And die young.



I’m certainly no virgin when it comes to drugs or sex, and I know some people can use party drugs responsibly and have a gay old time. But the scene is littered with those who can’t. Barebacking has become commonplace, and lots of those fucking raw are high – particularly on crystal meth and K.



In the last issue of Xtra, we reported on the AIDS Committee Of Toronto’s participation in a study about the safer sex practices of gay men who use party drugs. Given some of my history with ACT, I was pleased to read of this development.



Three years ago, Xtra ran a story by Bob Tivey, who suggested that ACT had strayed from its focus on HIV prevention. It was a provocative story, and ACT was provoked. But not in a good way. I was told there was no evidence of any increase in unsafe sex amongst Toronto’s gay men. Studies were flawed. Data was manipulated. As for my own anecdotal evidence, well, I was from Xtra, and we simply had it in for ACT.



Thinking back on my last meetings with ACT’s then-executive director, the late Charles Roy, I am reminded of journalist Christie Blatchford covering the Walkerton inquiry for the National Post. “The Tories didn’t believe the people shrieking the warnings,” she wrote. Mike Harris and his gang “considered their warnings expressions of philosophical opposition and thus not real….” It seems to me that ACT’s leadership was in a similar state of denial.



With that experience in mind, I was overjoyed to read ACT research coordinator Ishwar Persad’s comments to our reporter. “We have been hearing anecdotal information from the community about increasing drug use and also about men engaging in sexual activity while high.” Without jumping to conclusions, Persad wants to know if there’s a connection between drug use and unsafe sex.



ACT is showing that it’s in touch with what’s going on in the gay scene. This kind of responsiveness is crucial to the success of any future prevention efforts.



ACT also initiated a series of seminars about sexual exploration for gay and bisexual men. The approach again suggests that ACT is eager to listen to and interact with its constituencies. See the next item for Shaun Proulx’s take on one of these workshops.



ACT has a long and noble history in Toronto’s gay communities. In the early days of AIDS, ACT distinguished itself with prevention campaigns that were pro-sex and direct – and effective. But it would be dangerous for ACT to rely on received wisdom from the olden days, or to assume it has all the answers.



Kudos to ACT for listening to men who have sex with men. Like the sound of Giorgio snoring, I interpret this as a good sign. I hope what they hear will ultimately help save lives.



* David Walberg is Xtra’s publisher. Giorgio is a pseudonym.