Vancouver
4 min

Still unsafe in a safe-sex world

Still unsafe in a safe-sex world

I fucked a guy who killed himself three days later. Hardly reassuring.

A working man gets murdered in Surrey apparently for wandering into a gang-related execution. More men would be killed in the following weeks.

A newcomer to Canada gets tasered to death at YVR. A female bus driver allegedly gets beaten up by young women on the Drive on Halloween night; later the bus is set on fire.

One of my dearest friends seroconverts into HIV in his mid-40s. His reaction: withdrawing into fear and anger. My response to this and many of these incidents: dismay and submission to the commonplace. These mishaps are related in my head: if a city gets too poor or too affluent, it becomes violent.

Vancouver, at the beginning of fall, seems fragmented, apraxic, and caught in an undertow of anxiety. I try some shop shock therapy at Mintage, to no avail. Chocolates at The Dutch Girl. Nothing. I try some cheap chic at Wonderbucks. Nothing.

I march into Calabria to get my coffee fix. I must.

It is fall; the Drive goes from fab to drab and my heart slumps. The season is kicked off appropriately by the Parade of Lost Souls where it’s hard to know whether the bedraggled garments are costume, high fashion or local garb (in Vancouver, some pay lots to look like street people). The colours wither away into a dowdy grey and a disquieting shade envelopes the street.

Vancity on 1st Ave hires more security guards after several hold-ups. The guards who patrol Commercial Dr —paid by the business association —seem orphaned and aimless, low-paid sitting ducks in silly uniforms.

Who is really protecting whom? Who buys the illusion that security, like airport security, works? If the climate is hostile to those who have less, who will protect you from their frustration, disenfranchisement, and idleness?

This preoccupation with safety is seeping all the way to the Drive, where we always sort of knew that such a thing as the full certainty of safety never really existed. Now, we’re buying into this North American nightmare.

One more cappuccino, please. Make it a double!

speaking of safety, the nearing of one more World AIDS Day brings a seemingly different issue under a similar spotlight. The occasion seems far-flung in our neighbourhood, something that happens in Africa (something that happens to Oprah’s children).

It must be difficult to raise awareness and change behaviours related to one single infection when a large portion of the public seems brimming with affluence, a higher dollar to spend, health, beauty and lust while one small portion is stewing, aggravated, impoverished, infected and craving.

Safety —not necessarily protection of each other —has been a common North American response to HIV and other anxious infiltrations.

Who the fuck believes in safe sex anymore? It seems quaint, something that repentant queers designed under duress to harness gay male promiscuous sex (by “promiscuous” I mean good on you with time and energy to get as much as you say you do, bud!).

I hear scientists say that gay men weren’t doing it safely all along anyway, and it is pills that make us un-infectious.

the global —the wars, the droughts, the hurricanes, the firestorms, the superbugs, the oil spills (lube waste, unacceptable!), and the epidemics —all scale down into the local, the everyday misguided ideas of what is public safety. “Don’t do anything, don’t smell it or touch it, certainly do not put that in your mouth, hear me!”

Our idea of disease often seems attached to repression, individualism and stigma. Violence and epidemics are the result of group neglect and fear. I say we make terrorism happen everyday, in the violent growing disparity between the rich and poor, in the arrogance of the (temporarily) healthy and the acquiescent (self)victimization of the diseased and disabled.

No one can protect you from the petty violence of the everyday.

I never imagined I’d be hurrying on home in the dark evening with uneasiness. I, who grew up in a huge “unsafe” third world city and slutted it out in NYC and London. Or is it that old liberated queers get this way with age anyway when the novelty of liberation fades?

Never thought I’d be scared of touching a gay man or of being touched. The terrorism of HIV makes us do that.

I need an upper; I’ll take a two-shot cappuccino now.

Prohibition makes the body crave it harder, and bigger.

We tell each other the repressive tale that sex must be restrained, romantic, and sober against a backdrop of banal scandal, medical porn, video gaming, and potent street drugs.

I’ve been lectured about sucking with condoms (yuck!), smoking, eating too much and too spiced (resulting in a knee-jerk addiction to gruff smelly bears), and using street drugs.

They compliment me on adherence and compliance, while having made me into a bona fide drug user since the 1996 Canadian dispensation of anti-HIV drugs.

See the contradiction?

I’m so past the panic attack, having a caffeine delirium tremens.

This fall and winter, I will reduce my carbon print by negotiating openly unsafe sex.

I will interrupt some phony SM scene by getting naked and slapping the fetish bitch pretending to be daddy thus fucking up real good his finicky separation of top/bottom roles.

I’ll love the working men in my ‘hood. If given half a chance, I’ll eat alive one of those geeky white boys selling memberships into global causes at the corner (not without a good scrubbing under the drizzle first).

I will fist a turkey or two. I’ll perform fellatio on toys imported from China. Most importantly, I will hug an infected queer on World AIDS Day until he oozes fluids and then I’ll lick it all with my raw tongue.

I sip the coffee dregs and begin my Eastside Culture Crawl; surely it will make my spirits soar into the new season.