Saturday, September 11, 2010

Brody's Scribbles... AIDS: Truth And Denial In The Gay Community

Joseph Couture is a Canadian based Author and Freelance Journalist. Joseph's blogsite can be found here: [ Link ]
By Joseph Couture (London, Ontario) SEPT 11 | It is difficult to understand what is happening in our community. On the one hand it is easy to dismiss sensational headlines from the conservative mainstream media about gays having all this crazy unprotected sex as hate mongering, but on the other there is some truth to their claims. There are those who wish to use this reality to fan the flames of hatred against gay people.
While it is true that there are problems in the gay community, I would suggest to those who would use these problems to promote animosity towards us that they examine their own behaviour.  If ALL straight people were using condoms there wouldn’t be more than a million abortions in the United States every year and countless other unwanted births.
But is not my intention to cast stones in any direction. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite.  I am trying very hard to simply comprehend the behaviour of many in our community so that I can make a positive contribution towards solving the problem.
The fact of the matter is that there are many individuals in the gay scene who are having unsafe sex.  It is the minority, for sure.  But this fact is neither to be minimized nor exaggerated, and denying the truth of the situation won’t make it go away.  For the most part these men know better. They know how to protect themselves, but they have made a choice not to.
I hear the stories from my friends and I see it for myself.  Many of the gay cruising web sites ask for your “preference” about safe sex in the user profile.  When did it become acceptable to say you don’t care for your safety or the safety of others?
I’ve seen many men list “usually” “sometimes”  “rather not say” or even “when appropriate” when asked about condom use.  I find that last one most interesting.  When you are advertising looking for casual sex with anonymous partners, exactly when is inappropriate to practise safe sex?
In the sex clubs of North America, it is not hard to find men of all ages and races openly engaging in dangerous unprotected activity.  They do it right in front of you and they may even ask you to participate without knowing a thing about you.
This type of activity is not location specific; they are doing in homes, back rooms, bathhouses, washrooms, porn shops, you name it.  It is everywhere.
I’ve heard it said over and over again that education is the key.  But at this point I find that hard to believe.  You pretty much would have to have been living on another planet to have not heard about AIDS and condoms at this point.
So what is going on?
Personally, my view is that we are still facing an on-going collective crisis of self-worth and self-esteem.  This is true despite all the progress we have made towards gaining equality.  Here in Canada we have full equality; gays in the military and gay marriage- everything the community said they needed to be happy, they got.
But if you talk to some of these men- I mean really talk to them- they will tell you how they feel deep down.  Equality on paper does not mean equality in their own hearts.  They still believe that they are somehow less worthy and valuable than their heterosexual counterparts.  They often don’t want to tell their families or friends about their sexual orientation, and still insist on being “discreet” about it.
It is this feeling of shame that I believe is the root of our problem.  Before we can learn to take care of ourselves we must learn to actually care for ourselves.
It is not something that can be legislated.  It is not something that can be ordered by a court.  It is not something an AIDS committee can hand out in a pamphlet.  It is something that only we can give to ourselves.    I think only when we feel the strength of our own dignity that the shameful practice of risky, self-destructive sex will end