FS133 PDF.pdf - GMFA

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FS133 PDF.pdf - GMFA

THe fiT and sexy gay mag

issUe #133 deC/Jan 2012/13

sEXual

racIsm

“Is It coz I Is

black?”

FSMAG

FSMAGAZINEUK

WWW.FSMAG.ORG.UK


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HELLO

Editor’s letter

“OMG, you’re ginger”, was what

someone in a gay bar said to me

one night. No hello, no how are

you, just simply “OMG, you’re

ginger”. Funny, isn’t it? At the

time I didn’t think too much of it,

but when I had time to think

about it, it struck me that all this

guy saw was my ginger hair, not

the person. I was a kind of a

fetish to him. It got me thinking

@IanHowley

about how it must feel to be

fetishised, the whole idea of

preference and sexual racism in general.

Sexual racism is when guys put things like “no Blacks,

no Asians” on their Grindr profiles. It’s about people

who don’t see others for who they are but instead

judge them entirely on the way they look. Sexual

racism has somehow become an acceptable form of

communication in the gay community. We find it easy

to say “I’m not into Black/Asian/White guys or “I’m

only into Black/Asian/White guys” and then think we

aren’t doing any damage to anyone or to ourselves.

You may think “but it’s only my preference and

everyone is allowed to have a preference” and you

would be correct. Of course you are allowed to have a

preference, but when you express that preference

publicly, in a way that sends negative messages about

whole ethnic groups, then it becomes a problem.This is

why we have chosen to tackle sexual racism in this

issue. Have a read of this feature, which starts on page

10. I hope it will give you food for thought.

Also in this issue, with World AIDS Day taking

prominence, we talk about HIV testing and why it’s

important for EVERY gay man to test annually. We have

a brilliant coming out story by Lee on page 24 and

Liam Murphy shares some tips about break-ups on

page 26. Also our cover model, Junior, tells us why he

hates Grindr on page 23. Plus lots more.

So I hope you enjoy this month’s issue. We’ve had fun

putting it together. Until next time.

Ian Howley, Editor.

Brought to

you by

Funded by the Pan London

HIV Prevention Programme

Cover shot by Chris Jepson © www.chrisjepson.com


GROUPWORK

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ASSERTIVNESS


months to help you ask for what you want,

say no to things you don’t want and

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Unit 11, Angel Wharf, 58 Eagle Wharf Road, London N1 7ER.

Charity No: 1076854

GMFA projects are developed by positive and negative volunteers.

To support GMFA’s work visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/donate.

The Health Equality and Rights Organisation is a registered charity, incorporating GMFA.

part of

To support our work or to volunteer, visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/donate.


UPFRONT

Why World AIDS Day still matters

by Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes at GMFA @Matthew_Hodson

Did you know that about 1 in 11 gay men are living with HIV?

A quarter of them haven’t been diagnosed. Up to 82% of new

infections come from people who don’t know they have HIV.

So why is hardly anyone paying attention to World AIDS Day?

The reality of living with HIV today

has changed considerably since

World AIDS Day started, way back in

1988. HIV is now a manageable

condition, but if you ask pretty much

anyone living with the virus they will

tell you they’d rather not have it. In

recent years media coverage of the

day seems to have weakened, but

the need to prevent new infections,

dispel ignorance and challenge HIV

stigma is as urgent as ever. This year

let’s make World AIDS Day count by

doing the following actions.

1. KnoW your oWn StatuS

If you haven‘t tested for a year or

longer, put a date in the diary to test

now. You may think that you haven’t

taken any real risks but condoms

can fail – so can monogamous

relationships, and oral sex isn’t

entirely without risk. Even if you’re

pretty confident that the result is

going to be negative, it’s still better

to know for certain. And make a plan

to test every year from now on. You

can sign up for an annual email

reminder at

www.gmfa.org.uk/reminder.

2. talK about hiV

It used to be that HIV figured

prominently in the

conversations that gay men

had with each other. With

fewer people dying, and

fewer people showing

symptoms of HIV, those

conversations are now

less frequent. On World

AIDS Day, take the time to

discuss it with your friends:

what do they do to protect

themselves or their partners?

Do they disclose their status to

their partners before sex? What

do they do if someone tells them

that they’re HIV positive? If more

gay men talk about HIV, it’s likely

that we can think about it more

“If more gay

men talk about

HIV, it’s likely that

we can think about it

more clearly and

dispel any myths or

misconceptions.”

clearly, dispel any myths or

misconceptions, gather information

if necessary, and reaffirm the

reasons why we don’t want to be

involved in transmission of HIV

(either catching it if we are

uninfected or passing it on if we are

living with HIV).

3. Support a charity

Everyone knows that these are

tough times economically. Many HIV

and health charities are struggling,

with government cuts and lower

levels of donations. Around World

AIDS Day there will be lots of

charities giving it a big fundraising

push. All of them are worthy causes

and all of them need your support.

Even better, come up with a

fundraising idea of your own – last

year one enterprising GMFA

supporter raised over £1,000 by

promising to tweet a picture of

himself in his underpants.

4. Wear a red ribbon

But don’t just wear it to fit in.

Tell people why you’re wearing it.

Talk to them about testing and

treatment, about safer sex and

staying in control. Encourage

them to think about the sex t

hat they have, the risks that

they take and the impact of

their attitudes. Remember

the lives that have been

lost and the people

whose health will

suffer in the future if

we ignore the problem.

Think about what we can

all do to help others and

reduce HIV-related stigma.

That’s what wearing the

ribbon is all about.

Working together we can stop

the spread of HIV.

l You can donate to

GMFA online at

www.gmfa.org.uk/donate.

www.gmfa.org.uk |5


LLGS.org.uk

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in England.


Elnur/ Shutterstock.com

Last Christmas you gave me

your heart and the very next

day I puked it all over your

Christmas present. No wait,

that wasn’t your heart, that

was Sambuca.

Christmas is fast approaching (as

every advert for the next few weeks

will constantly remind you) a time of

eating, drinking, merriment and

pushing the human body beyond its

consumption capacity. Time was, at

Christmas, I could go to a pub or

club and drink until my liver cried,

sing ‘Fairytale of New York’ 50 times

over and still wake the next day with

a clear head (albeit with a few less

active brain cells occupying the

space) and a smile on my face,

ready to dive into a big fat bird on

the Christmas table. However, as I

tumble towards the terrifying end of

my twenties, the body that once

sustained me through epic binges of

Jack Daniels, VK Ice and tequila has

now betrayed me. It now refuses to

process the alcohol in any subtle

painless way and instead it seems to

redirect the drink to my head, where

it proceeds to pound away at my

skull and make coherent thought

impossible, or to my stomach,

where it churns and then attempts

to expunge the booze from my

mouth hole. Pounding headache.

Waves of nausea. The room

spinning. Bloodshot eyes. Sweaty

face and palms. Palpitations. No, it’s

not a list of the experiences you feel

when watching Gary Barlow attempt

humour on X Factor. These are the

symptoms of a hangover.

In fact, my days of handling a

hangover with any decorum have

now gone forever. Where once a

couple of paracetamol washed

down with a few glasses of water

would assuage any negative side

-effects of drinking, now my body

goes into full-blown meltdown. After

a night of particularly heavy alcohol

abuse, you can usually find me on

my knees in a toilet. And not in the

good gay way. I will be face down in

the toilet bowl regurgitating my

escapades, which normally include a

cornucopia of different beverages

that are 5.0% abv or more and

whatever fast food I happened to

have shoved down my gullet in

order to ‘soak up the alcohol’ (I use

inverted commas here as this never

works).

Once the vomiting stage has

passed, I then move on to complete

motor neurone shutdown. I languish

in bed unable to lift my head or

utilise any of my extremities. The

most activity I can muster is a slow

quiet weeping under my breath and

occasional dry heaving as my body

attempts to expel some stomach

lining. No amount of coaxing or

urgency can move me. I become

unmovable.

The sensible thing to do would be

to never drink again. I would be

healthier inside and out, and most

importantly, I would never have to

UPFRONT

The hangover by Liam Murphy @liamwaterloo

Last Christmas, you gave me a hangover...

“After a night

of particularly

heavy alcohol abuse,

you can usually find

me on my knees

in a toilet. And not

in the good

gay way.”

suffer the degradation of a torture

hangover ever again. The small flaw

in this plan is that alcohol makes me

infinitely more fun to be around,

especially at Christmas when I have

to deal with family. Without it I

would be the dour-faced

miserabilist.

If you were to believe Hollywood,

you’d think Christmas is a fairytale

of Santa, presents and lovable

family time. In reality, it’s like

EastEnders and you can’t wait to get

drunk and tell your sister what you

REALLY think about her new

tattooed boyfriend. However, that

might not be a good idea. So do

yourself a favour: this Christmas, be

a bit more responsible with your

drinking, save yourself a hangover

or two and don’t give the writers of

EastEnders tips for next year’s

Christmas storyline.

l If you think your drinking is

out of control or would just like

to talk to someone about alcohol

or alcoholism, visit:

www.antidote-lgbt.com/alcohol.

l Or call Alcoholics Anonymous on

0845 769 7555.

www.gmfa.org.uk |7


Does your behaviour

feel out of control?

Can’t have a good time without drugs or alcohol?

Wanting a relationship, but can’t stop having anonymous sex?

Can’t have sex without being high?

If so, we may be able to help.

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Charity no 288527 (England and Wales) and SCO39986 (Scotland).

Funded by the Pan-London HIV Prevention Programme.


Photo © Chris Jepson, www.ChrisJepson.com

kristian+LiFE

Hands up: who gets ‘pill fatigue’?

‘Pill fatigue’: it should be in the urban

dictionary for HIV-positive people,

along with ‘efavirenz space-cadet’,

‘Truvada trots’ and ‘let’s celebrate

going undetectable with cake

and/or beer’. It’s the term for

that feeling when you scrape

yourself out of bed in the

morning, throw a mug of

coffee down your neck,

schlep to wherever you

keep your Highly Annoying

Antiretroviral Therapy and

start counting out the pills

into your hand, only to look

and them and think “I don’t

WANT to take these today.”

Sound familiar? Then you

too could be suffering from pill

fatigue. And sadly I seem to have

a chronic case of it at the moment.

There’s no logic to not taking my

pills. If Logical Kristian were the one

driving here, he’d be saying: “These

pills keep you healthy. They beat down

the virus to undetectable levels in your

body so it doesn’t get the chance to

reproduce and wreak havoc on your

immune system. If you skip your pills,

the virus could mutate into a resistant

strain”. Logical Kristian is sensible.

Logical Kristian knows there’s

a big difference between

only taking his meds

when he feels like it

and having a

doctor-supervised

medication

holiday. Logical

Kristian knows

that if you stop

adhering to

regular dosing,

you’re screwing up

your regime’s

chances of working.

But there’s another

person in the car. Let’s call

him Stubborn Kristian.

Stubborn Kristian doesn’t like being

told what to do. In fact, tell him to-- do

something and you can pretty much

guarantee he’ll do the exact opposite,

or do nothing at all.

When he goes to see clients,

Stubborn Kristian wears odd socks

underneath his suit as a little act of

rebellion against the expectations of a

“I know

the logic, but I

just can’t help it.

Some days I just

don’t want to take

my pills. And so,

sometimes I

don’t.”

corporate machine. Stubborn Kristian

doesn’t ring his mum when she texts

him to ask why he hasn’t called her,

even though five minutes before this,

he was thinking how he really should

pick up the phone. Stubborn

Kristian won’t give up

smoking simply because

his boyfriend is on his

case about it.

Stubborn Kristian is

a bit of an idiot.

And sadly,

Stubborn Kristian

has a loud voice,

and it’s his voice I

hear when I pick

up those pills

lately. I’m sick of

taking them. It’s one

of those daily grinds

we’d all rather jack in.

Like going to work,

subjecting ourselves to the

gym, or even getting out of bed for

that matter. Leaving those little

coloured dictators in the bottle and

slamming the lid back on feels like

pulling a sickie - naughty, but

satisfying.

I know the logic, but I just can’t help

it. Some days I just don’t want to take

my pills. And so, sometimes I don’t.

@guy_interruptd

It’s an eye-poppingly perverted way

of looking at things, but not taking my

pills makes me feel ‘normal’ for a

day. I can forget for a short while

that I have HIV, even though the

more I muck about with them,

the closer my body gets to

throwing me a massive

reminder in the form of med

failure, a raised viral load,

and a CD4 count that’s

dropped through the floor.

And despite knowing the

dangers, ignoring those

bottles in the bathroom is a

welcome breather. I can

remember what life felt like

before hospital appointments,

before the constant worry that

I’m going to pass it on, before

lying to my in-laws because they

like me and I don’t want that to

change, before side effects, before the

daily reminder that comes with

throwing a load of meds down my

neck: I have HIV and I’m stuck with it.

And it’s tiring.

I wish I could blame it on the onset

of winter; the ‘meh’ feeling caused by

the short days, the dark evenings,

and the ball-shrivelling cold that hits

you every time you walk out the front

door. I wish I could bleat about how

awful it is that this thing happened to

me, and make you all feel sorry for

me, when in fact it was my fault and I

was an irresponsible idiot for the three

minutes it took to get myself infected

(yeah, even the sex wasn’t that good).

Stubborn Kristian needs to wake up

and realise that it’s not just his life he’s

affecting, it’s the lives of those around

him. Who’s going to pay the bills if I

get ill and can’t earn because I’m

self-employed? What happens if I

become more infectious to my

partner? At some point this rebellion

will have its consequences. I guess the

question is: when do you start

listening to the sensible voice instead

of the destructive one?

l Kristian Johns is an author and

former editor who now runs his own

copywriting agency. When he’s not

raising awareness of HIV issues, his

sole mission in life is to convince his

boyfriend to let him have a dog.

www.gmfa.org.uk |11


Sexual

raciSm

When doeS Your

preference

become raciSt?

Scott Roberts, former news presenter on

Gaydar Radio and editor of Pink News,

looks at how sexual racism affects

the gay community today.

10|

@scottjsroberts

Photography: Chris Jepson www.ChrisJepson.com

“No Blacks and no Asians please”.

Let me ask you, where have we

gone to read such an offensive

statement? Are we standing in front

of a door sign outside a bed and

breakfast or pub in a market town in

1950s Britain? Nope, it’s just a

typical comment you can see after a

quick trawl through the profiles of

guys on several of our most popular

gay dating platforms. Yes, welcome

to sexual racism in the social

-networking era.

Racism and homophobia are two

forms of prejudice that have been

around since the start of modern

civilisation, but these days they

show up online with far greater

prominence than you would expect

to find in your average street. The

large number of celebrity cases in

the news in the past year (Olympic

diver Tom Daley received

homophobic tweets during the

London 2012 Games and the former

footballer Stan Collymore

successfully took a law student to

court after he was bombarded with

racial messages) illustrate the sharp

end of malicious, online bigotry.

Many people still have not

grasped the fact that what you

publish online is the same as saying

it out loud in a street. This year’s

high-profile Twitter ‘troll’

prosecutions may have been a

wake-up call for some of the

ignorant and also to parts of the

establishment. However, sexual

racism, encapsulated by the

comments you read at the very

beginning, where the author is not

seeking to hurt a particular

individual, is a more subtle form of

stupidity. What does it tells us about

our online gay culture if most of us

instantly recognise the familiarity of

the “no Blacks, no Asians”

comment?

Of course, everyone is entitled to

their own sexual preferences. It

would make for a pretty strange

world if someone told me who I

could and could not fancy –

althought that does happen, all too

often. The main reason why I believe

sexual racism is wrong is because it

promotes the idea that ‘casual’

racism is acceptable. By writing “no

Blacks, no Asians” on a profile, a

person is basically announcing that

they believe these two racial groups

of people should be avoided

sexually. It is their personal opinion,

but when displayed in a public

setting it constitutes prejudice,

regardless of the context. Society

has taken the view that displaying

prejudice is wrong. However, the

minute we start to compromise

Discuss this:

#FSSEXUALRACISM t


CovER StoRy

www.gmfa.org.uk |11


CovER StoRy

with ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’

discrimination, the journey to a fully

equal society travels in a skewed

direction.

Rejection is always a difficult thing

to deal with, regardless of whether it

is racially based or because you are

5ft 7. As a 17-year-old, seeing the “no

Blacks, no Asians” statement

displayed on a profile would sadden

me, but that was nothing compared

with getting those remarks back as a

response after I had broken the ice

in a direct message. Rejection is

always worse when you are not

expecting it, and people can

react to sexual racism in

various different ways.

Ten years ago it

would have made

me angry and I

would have

instantly

questioned how

the rest of the

world was

viewing me, but

these days, I

really don’t give a

damn about the

thoughts of people

who are clearly

incapable of at displaying

common decency. My school

days, when I would attempt to ‘fit in’

with the majority, are long gone,

and I am not going to spend my

time worrying about the sexual

preferences of a bunch of morons!

12|

Sexual racism is something that I

can look at in my rear view mirror,

but what about other guys?

Godwyns, a gay Nigerian living in

London, has blogged about the

subject and says it’s important to

remember that sexual racism isn’t

just about white guys discriminating

against Blacks – it can work the

other way too. “The opposition I

face amongst fellow gay Blacks for

going out with a white man... would

be termed racism if my [white]

partner's friends and family did the

same”.

Daniel, a young white

gay man, who prefers

to date Black and

“Rejection

is always worse

when you are not

expecting it, and

people can react to

sexual racism in

various different

ways.”

mixed race men

says: “Having

dated, fallen in

love, made

friends and had

sex with a

healthy

number of

Black and

mixed race

guys, I feel I have

reached certain

conclusions about

the position many of

them find themselves in.

I don’t think Black gay guys

get a ‘raw deal’ as such, but I

definitely think that the gay scene

encourages racial segregation,

perhaps even a little more than

society at large.”

Daniel raises an interesting point

about segregation on the gay scene.

In February 2011 the gay men’s

health charity, GMFA, launched a

campaign called Be Switched On,

with the aim of promoting increased

racial integration in the LGBT

community. A survey by the LGBT

hate crime charity Galop showed

that more than half of all Black and

minority ethnic respondents said

they had encountered racism from

white LGBT people. Daniel

continues: “In reality there is a

discomfort among the white gay

community about accepting Black or

mixed-race gays who don’t conform

to a set image and a white gay man

can be just as racist as a white

straight man. Let’s not be fooled by

the idea that when you’re in a

minority you have sympathy and

solidarity with all other minorities”.

In the same way as Godwyns,

Daniel has also received negative

reactions from his friends for dating

someone of a different race, and

says: “I’ve got a very diverse group

of acquaintances and friends, and

they all collectively poke fun at my

sexual preferences. However, only

among my white friends has it ever

taken a slightly vitriolic and

borderline racist tone, with them

saying things like ‘Oh I could never

get with a Black. I don’t know how

you do it’”. Daniel concludes by

saying: “I think we have a long way

to go as a community in terms of


integrating and embracing

diversity… If we really want to be

diverse we need to stop

pigeonholing ourselves and clinging

to an overarching identity, instead

should look at diversifying

ourselves.”

Junior, a Black gay fitness model

(who is on the front cover of this

month’s FS) says: “I don't feel gay

guys are more or less prone to

avoid dating certain racial groups,

because I know this ‘preference’

exists quite prominently amongst

heterosexual men and women too”.

When asked about the upfront

nature of sexual racism on gay

dating platforms and whether it’s

something that makes him feel

upset, Junior says: “To be fair, I

think ‘each to their own’, but I do

find it a bit off-putting personally

when I see people saying that they

only date a certain race, and that

you shouldn't even bother to

contact them if you are not of that

race. I find this too direct”.

He continues by saying: “If

you only date a certain race

because that is what you are

attracted to, fair enough, I

respect that - but it can

come across a bit

abrasive and rude,

when you write it in

CAPITAL LETTERS

on your dating

profile page,

complete with

exclamation

marks”.

Junior says he

had been on the

receiving end of

sexual racism, but

it is not something

that stops him

from being confident

as a gay man: “Sometimes it can

be a little bit soul-destroying, when

you think you are being judged

purely for the colour of your skin,

because essentially that is what it is.

But I don't let it get me down,

because at the end of the day, I think

it’s their loss. I feel like they should

envy me, because I have a wider

variety to choose from.” He adds

that there always will be ‘plenty

more fish in the sea.’

Ramesh, a 28-year-old trainee

clinical psychologist from Surrey,

who is half Sri Lankan, has

previously spoken about sexual

racism to the LGBT website So So

Gay, and says: “It’s upsetting. It’s

not just that they find you

unattractive, it’s that you’re so

unattractive that they couldn’t

even bear to receive a t

www.gmfa.org.uk |13


14|

message from you. It gives me the

feeling that I’m intrinsically

unattractive; that, somehow, ethnic

minorities are less attractive than

Caucasians”.

Racism in the LGBT community is

not just confined to online dating

platforms. I have been in

gay clubs and heard

casual racist

comments

directed at the

decision of a

DJ to play an

R&B track. Let

me be clear, I

do not think

in any way

that racism in

the LGBT

community is

somehow

substantially

different to the

racism expressed

among heterosexuals.

That said, the “no Blacks, no

Asians” tag is something that

resonates with most of us who use

gay dating platforms because it

seems quite prolific.

These days I can dismiss

sexual racism, but not everyone

can. Even today, growing up gay

can still be difficult. Identity is an

interesting issue. If you had to ask

me which was more important, my

race or sexuality, I would say my

sexuality, but for others it’s

different. I can certainly see how a

lack of role models can make it

harder to identify with your

sexuality at a young age. The

rise of gay Black and minority

ethnic (BME) stars has been a

relatively recent development.

Before the arrival of Marcus

Collins, I would not have been able

to name a single UK BME gay male

pop star. I am still not aware of any

out gay Black actors or TV

presenters or MPs. It seems that

trying to fight the dual stigma of

racism and homophobia really is a

herculean task.

I did not come out to my family

until my early twenties. Up until

that point the greatest concern for

my parents when it came to my

upbringing was the potential to

experience racism from other

students – and occasionally from

teachers. For me, and for countless

other LGBT people, life starts to

become a lot more enjoyable when

you pluck up enough courage to go

to your first gay bar and agree to

start going on dates with some of

the friendly people you have been

chatting to online.

Others may disagree, but I

“I am still not

aware of any out

gay. Black actors or

TV presenters or MPs.

It seems that trying to

fight the dual stigma

of racism and

homophobia really is

a herculean task.”


elieve the process of doing this

helps you become part of a

community – the LGBT community.

I know that ‘community’ is a

politically charged word with

different meanings to different

people but, at its simplest level, it

represents inclusion and shows that

you are not alone in this world

when it comes to traversing the

challenges of a homophobic

society. This is why I find the idea of

racism from within parts of the

LGBT community depressing,

because it means that some Black

and Asian LGBT people, may not

get to experience the same feeling

of inclusion gained from a

communal identity that others are

able to receive.

However, it is important to take

comfort in the reality of modern

Britain. We have one of the highest

rates of inter-racial relationships in

the western world. Racism and

sexual racism will always be ugly

scars in our society, but you cannot

ignore the continued trend towards

embracing racial diversity. Is the

average gay man really any

different from the rest of society? Is

the LGBT community really going

to buck the trend towards greater

racial integration? I personally

cannot see why that would be the

case.

So what would be my advice to

the 17-year-old version of me, who

is feeling glum after seeing vile

remarks on his chosen gay dating

website? Well, I believe the

comments expressed by Junior

nicely sum-up how we should

confront sexual racism – we

shouldn’t give those who feel it is

acceptable to be downright crass

the time of day. They may not be on

the same level as the Twitter trolls,

but they encapsulate everything

which I personally find an instant

turn-off in a person: rudeness,

shallowness and

narrow-mindedness.

Life is too short to be worrying

about people who you have

identified as having a major flaw in

their personality. Gay dating

platforms are not always the best

way of meeting the right person –

sometimes you just need to take a

good look in the mirror and tell

yourself, “Screw the morons, I have

things going for me; intelligent,

open-minded guys who are also

attractive are out there - and I’m

going to find them”.

Discuss this:

#FSSEXUALRACISM

Black gay men and HIV

Black gay men have higher rates of HIV infection than

any other ethnic group, almost twice as much as white

British men.

In 2009 GMFA published The Big Update, a report on the

sexual health needs of Black men who have sex with

men. The report found that Black gay men are more

likely to have lower self-esteem, which can lead to

increased risk-taking activities: “The twin challenges of

racism and homophobia can lead to many Black gay

men feeling isolated and less able to access support,

services or information from family, community or

statutory sources.”

The high levels of HIV within the Black gay community

also has an impact on levels of HIV-related stigma:

“…Stigma is experienced just as much, arguably more

so, within those communities that have particularly high

prevalence of HIV, such as the gay community and Black

communities within the UK. This means that Black gay

men with HIV are doubly affected by HIV-related stigma,

from within both their sexual and ethnic communities.”

Support for Black and minority ethnic gay men.

PACE:

l Black Connection meets on the third Sunday of the

month and provides socialising and networking

opportunities for gay and bisexual Black men.

l MASTI is an opportunity for Asian gay/bi men to talk

with other Asian gay/bi men. To discuss their

experiences of sex, relationships and life, and explore

their culture, identity, religion and sexuality.

For more information visit, www.gmfa.org.uk/gwk or call

PACE on 020 7700 1323.

Naz Project London creates an open space where

men can come to for help, information and advice or

simply to meet other men from their backgrounds.

Services provided include:

- Condom distribution.

- Peer support group.

- Social activities.

- 1 on 1 advice and information.

- Referrals to GUM clinics for Sexual Health screenings.

- HIV/AIDS and sexual health information.

For more information, call Daniel on 020 8834 0234 or

email daniel@naz.org.uk.

l To order a copy of the Big Update email gmfa@gmfa.org.uk.

www.gmfa.org.uk |15


BEST To

TEST

words by Stuart Haggas

Figures show that although more and

more of us have an HIV test each year,

the vast majority of us don’t.

The Health Protection Agency estimates

that 59,000 men who have sex

with men got tested in 2010, but this is

thought to be just 15 to 25% of us –

meaning that at least 75% of us did

not test at all.

Why should we test annually? And

why aren’t we?

Discuss this:

#FSHIV

16|


1 BECAUSE

IMPROVED HIV

TREATMENT

SAVES LIVES

“It's crucial that all gay men test

regularly,” explains GMFA’s

Matthew Hodson. “HIV treatment

has improved considerably over

the last decade, and someone who

is diagnosed with HIV at an early

stage, and who gets treated, can

expect to have a near normal life

-expectancy.

But if you don't test, then you

may not find out that you have HIV

until you get ill, which means that it

will be much harder to treat, and

may still result in death. A late

diagnosis increases the risk of

death ten times. If you test regularly

you can be sure that if you do

have HIV it will be picked up

before you get ill.”

Mark Santos, director of Positive

East, agrees, saying: “Knowing your

HIV status can quite literally save

your life. It can also protect the lives

of your sexual partners. Three quick

facts to back up my point: 66% of

people who died from AIDS related

conditions in 2009 tested at a later

stage of HIV infection; you are ten to

thirteen times more likely to die

within a year of starting treatment if

you tested late; you can live a near

normal life-span if you test early and

access care.”

Improved HIV treatment is

improving lives, but you won’t

begin any sort of treatment if your

condition remains undiagnosed.

Knowledge is everything. “The

choice to me is as simple as it is

dramatic,” Mark adds. “Bluntly, if

you are HIV-positive and you know

it, you’ll probably live. If you are

HIV-positive and you don’t know it,

it will affect your life soon enough.

Testing and knowing your HIV status

is absolutely key.”

2 BECAUSE

CONDOMS

AREN’T FAIL-SAFE

Men who always use condoms may

believe they’re not taking any risks,

so it’s a waste of time for them to

test. Unfortunately this isn’t true.

“Condoms are great at preventing

the transmission of HIV,” explains

Matthew, “but they can fail.” In fact,

6% of condoms fail. So even if you

use them every time you fuck,

there’s a small chance that a

condom could be faulty or break or

accidentally come off during sex. If

you notice it’s broken or has come

off, you can speak to a health

adviser about PEP, but what if you

didn’t notice? Because situations

like this do happen, it’s important to

always use condoms and to test at

least once a year – one shouldn’t be

a substitute for the other.

3 BECAUSE

SEX IS NOT

100% SAFE

Similarly, the fact that you don’t

fuck doesn’t mean there is no

likelihood of HIV infection.

“Transmission of HIV through oral

sex is rare,” says Matthew, “but it

can happen.” Indeed, it is estimated

that 2-3% of HIV infections are from

oral sex.

4 BECAUSE HE

MAY NOT KNOW

HIS STATUS

EITHER

With the Health Protection Agency

estimating that at least 75% of men

HealtH anD aDVIce

In GMFA’s sex survey, nearly everyone agreed that gay men should test annually – but

didn’t think it applied to them personally because they believed they weren’t taking any

risks. If your sex life puts you at risk, you should of course be testing more regularly. But HIV

testing is not only for those of us who knowingly take risks. Not having an annual HIV test

is a risk in itself. To be safe, it’s important to practise safer sex AND test at least once a year.

Why get tested?

who have sex with men don’t take

an annual HIV test, this means that

the majority of us don’t truly know

our status. So when a sexual

partner says that he tested recently,

you have to wonder what exactly

does ‘recently’ mean? Was it this

month, two months ago, or is he

one of the 75% who hasn’t tested in

over a year? And even if he hasn’t

fucked or has always used condoms

since he last tested negative, there’s

a risk of infection whenever he had

sex.

“That guy who swore that he was

HIV-negative may not have known

that he'd just recently been infected,”

Matthew elaborates. It’s not that he’s

necessarily trying to dupe you, he

may genuinely believe that he hasn’t

taken any risks since he tested – but

with models of infection indicating

that between 60 and 80% of

infections come from men with

undiagnosed HIV, too many grey

areas and question marks mean we

can never be 100% sure.

“It’s also irrelevant whether it’s a

stranger you met online, or whether

it’s someone you know who isn’t the

type and who’d tell you anyway.

Most infections are passed on from

people who don’t know their status

– and they cannot tell you what they

don’t know themselves.”

5 BECAUSE

I ONLY FUCK BB

WITH THOSE

I KNOW

Some men do choose to have

unprotected sex with their partner,

with a likeminded group of

fuck-buddies, or with guys they

know and trust. But you can’t guess

or make assumptions or base your

knowledge on what someone else

has told you. You can only know for

sure if you test together, and keep

on regularly testing together.

www.gmfa.org.uk |17


HealtH anD aDVIce

6 BECAUSE

KNOWING

BRINGS PEACE

OF MIND

Early diagnosis means you can

begin treatment and continue to

enjoy a near-normal day-to-day life –

and of course if you’re diagnosed

negative, you’ll have even less to

worry about. Whether or not you’ve

always played safe in the past,

being told that you’re negative can

give you a new determination to

stay negative. “An annual test can

give peace of mind and bolster safer

sex practices,” says Mark Santos of

Positive East. “I think discussions

regarding risk for gay men should

be part of the testing process. It can

be a useful way of encouraging and

helping you with the skills and

knowledge to stay safe. It’s always

good to have a reminder and

refresher even about the basic

information from time to time.”

“Getting tested and knowing their

status can help gay men get the

appropriate care, in case there is a

positive result,” adds Sona Barbosa,

Counselling Team Leader at the GMI

Partnership. “Or, if it’s negative, to

help them stay negative by

protecting themselves and others.”

7 BECAUSE

MONOGAMY

DOESN’T

ALWAYS MEAN

MONOGAMOUS

We’re all different, and so are our

relationships. Some couples have

open relationships, while others

don’t see the point of this and prefer

monogamy. Some men are faithful,

while others cheat. “Sometimes men

in supposedly monogamous

relationships cheat on each other,”

says GMFA’s Matthew Hodson.

Indeed, you might argue that only

men in monogamous relationships

can cheat – because if you’re in an

open relationship, how can you?

“I totally understand how difficult this

can be for people who believe that

they are in monogamous

18|

“6%

of condoms

fail. So even if

you use them every

time you fuck,

there’s a small

chance that a

condom could be

faulty.”


elationships,” Matthew continues.

“Although lots of relationships are

truly monogamous, I know of one

study which found that 13% of gay

men who had been in a supposedly

monogamous relationship for five

years or more had picked up an STI in

that time. And, working at GMFA, all

too often I hear people telling me that

they only realised their partner wasn't

being faithful when they got

diagnosed with something. The truth

is that relationships can change over

time. If you acknowledge this, and

choose to test every year, then it

doesn't matter in quite the same way

if your relationship does cease to be

monogamous.”

“Monogamous relationships can

be misinterpreted,” says Sona, “and

often lack of communication within

relationships lead to false

assumptions about the nature of

the relationship.”

If you’re in a monogamous

relationship and decide to take a HIV

test, this doesn’t necessarily mean

that you’re questioning the loyalty

and fidelity of your partner. After all, a

negative result doesn’t prove that

your relationship truly is

monogamous – it might simply be

that your partner is careful to have

safer sex with other guys. A strong

relationship shouldn’t be undermined

by a desire to know your status.

Knowing what you have together, for

better or for worse, is what makes

strong and lasting relationships.

8 BECAUSE

IT’S NOT ALL

ABOUT YOU

“Getting tested doesn't just help

you to be healthy, it can also

prevent you transmitting HIV,”

explains Matthew. “It's estimated

that up to 82% of new infections are

from people who haven't been

tested and who don't know that they

are living with HIV. If you know you

have HIV you may take extra care

not to pass your infection on to

partners. Also, HIV treatment

reduces the amount of HIV in your

blood and cum, which will make you

a lot less likely to pass your

infection on. If every gay man tested

for HIV at least once a year it is

likely that we would soon see a

dramatic drop in the number of men

who become infected.”

Why are you not testing?

1 DOUBT

“I think the biggest reason that

people don't test is because they

think they haven't taken a risk, or

that any risks they have taken are

unimportant,” says GMFA’s Matthew

Hodson. Statistics prove that safer

sex is not 100% safe: 6% of

condoms fail and 2-3% of

infections are through

oral sex.There’s

always a degree of

risk. Matthew

clarifies: “If you

“You're

likely to be

much healthier,

and live much longer,

if you're tested early,

so sticking your head in

the sand and hoping it

will go away is a

are sexually

active, even if

you always

use condoms,

you should

test every

year.”

“There are a

lot of factors

associated with low

testing,” adds Sona

Barbosa of the GMI

Partnership. “I believe some

people don’t recognise the risk

when they are taking it, and some

people don’t prioritise their health

unless some crisis occurs.”

“There’s also the question of

‘invulnerable youth,’” says Mark

Santos of Positive East. “When we

are young, there’s a sense of living

forever and being invulnerable. ‘It

won’t happen to me, so I’ve no need

to test.’”

really bad

strategy.”

2 FEAR

“Some people don't test because

they're afraid of a positive result,”

explains Matthew. “It's

understandable, but the truth is,

you're likely to be much healthier,

and live much longer, if you're tested

early, so sticking your head in the

sand and hoping it will go away is a

really bad strategy. If fear drives your

behaviour you should be more afraid

of not knowing your HIV status than

knowing you have HIV.”

“Some people are scared to find

out and deal with a positive result,”

adds Sona. “Some people actually

feel sure they are positive but are

unable to face and deal with the

situation. There’s still a great deal of

stigma around HIV, and associated

with it comes feelings of guilt and

shame as well as denial.”

“HIV testing can be a stressful

experience for gay men,” Sona

continues. “Counselling both before

and after the HIV test should be

available from trained professionals

and I always recommend my clients

speak to a counsellor, sexual health

adviser or a health trainer if they are

feeling uneasey. It's understandable

why many gay men either don't get

tested or never pick up their results.

The anxiety can be

overwhelming. Speaking

to someone before

testing can highlight

risky sexual

behaviour that

they were not

aware of. Being

in the waiting

room and in the

exam room can

also add anxiety.

Still, regardless of

the emotional

difficulty, it is

important for people

to understand that

having the test is a step

towards taking control and

charge of their lives.”

3 IGNORANCE

“We are not aware enough as gay

men about the continued risk of HIV

in our community,” Mark says. “For

example 1 in 11 gay Londoners are

living with HIV. 1 in 7 gay men on

the scene have HIV. This clearly

means that HIV remains a real issue

for our community and we need to

keep sharing this message with our

community.”

4 CONFUSED?

“Some men don’t know where to

test,” thinks Mark. “Perhaps we as

HIV professionals need to keep

sharing with people that HIV testing

is free and totally confidential.”

“Having an HIV test couldn’t be

easier in a big city,” Mark continues.

“There are increasing numbers of

places that do the test in the

community. You can also go to any

sexual health clinic. Here at Positive

East we run six community-based

clinics every week. We use a point of

care test, which means that we do not

take a blood sample. We use a finger

prick test. You will have your result

within five minutes. The total process

www.gmfa.org.uk |19


HealtH anD aDVIce

takes 30 minutes if you include the

pre- and post-test discussion. Given

the number of testing projects that

are now active in the community, it’s

much easier to get an HIV test at a

convenient time. I recognise that

smaller towns and rural areas have

access issues – however, there will

still be a sexual health clinic, and

people have also come to our

community testing project from

outside London.”

5 CURE?

Some people think that because of

improved HIV treatment, it’s not as

important as before to test.

Of course if you remain undiagnosed,

the odds against you remain as bad

as ever – the reason it’s a manageable

condition today is because those who

are being diagnosed have access to

better treatments.

Any exceptions?

“Almost all gay men should test at

least once a year,” believes GMFA’s

Matthew Hodson. “Of course if

you've already tested positive there's

no need to keep on testing, or if

you've had no sex since your last

negative test result, then there's no

need. Or if you only have sex which

isn't penetrative, such as wanking

each other off, or frottage.”

20|

“I would say that only men who

are not having sex don’t need to

test. Even those who are only having

oral sex would be advised to test,”

adds Sona Barbosa of the GMI

Partnership.

Matthew Hodson of GMFA adds: “If

you’ve stopped having sex, take a

test and then you will never have to

worry about HIV again.”

HOME HIV TESTING KIT

Order a home HIV testing kit from

GMFA. For more information,

visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/hometest.

CLINICS

We know it can be hard to find

time to test. Here are some

clincs that are opend on

Saturdays for appointments:

- 56 Dean Street, Soho,

- The Pitstop Plus (for men who

have sex with men), The Metro

Centre.

- West London Centre for

Sexual Health, Charing

Cross Hospital.

You can find out where to test

by visiting:

www.gmfa.org.uk/clinics.

YOU’VE GOT MAIL

Get an annual email reminder to test for HIV

It’s recommended that all sexually active gay men tested for HIV at least

once a year, even if you always use condoms or are in a monogamous relationship.

GMFA’s recent surveys found that many gay men didn’t test for HIV because they didn’t

think about it and would like a reminder service, so they set one up.

Here’s how it works:

1 Visit, www.gmfa.org.uk/reminder.

2 Insert your contact details and the month you want GMFA to send you a

reminder.

That’s it! Then in the month you specify, GMFA will send you an email. You can

unsubscribe at any time. It’s as simple as that. You can also use the system to get

reminded to have a general STI check-up. GMFA won’t keep records on whether you

have been for an HIV test or what your HIV status is.


Free Stop Smoking Courses

for LGB&T people in London.

TEST FOR

HIV AT

HOME

No appointment

No waiting room

Easy to use

Order a free HIV home testing kit online at,

www.gmfa.org.uk/thinkHIV.

GMFA - for gay men’s sexual health. Part of

The Health Equality and Rights Organisation is a registered charity, incorporating GMFA. in partnership with

Unit 11, Angel Wharf, 58 Eagle Wharf Road, London N1 7ER. Charity No: 1076854.

GMFA projects are developed To support by positive our work and or negative to volunteer, volunteers. visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/donate.

To support GMFA’s work visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/donate.


Grindr

I hate Grindr! Why? I think it has

killed romance. I think it’s also

making people very anti-social.

Many of my friends just sit on it

all day, rather than engage in a

proper, real, tangible

conversation with me. I really

cannot stand it. It’s superficial,

and just makes society even more

sexualised than it already is. It

keeps sex on the brain, so you

don’t really get much out of it,

other than a quick lay. I guess this

is great for people who are

looking for just that. If only it was

that simple, but I really don’t

think it is. For a start, the majority

of people that use it seem to have

a screw loose. I am sure they are

not mentally sound.

They say that you shouldn’t

judge something until you have

tried it, so I did try it and it was

terrible. You get such heartfelt

messages from people (excuse

my sarcasm), which usually

consist of two to three words

such as “wanna fuck tonite?”.

Which is often spelt wrongly, or in

text talk. I found that people were

really rude and abusive. For

example, when you don’t reply to

people they get angry and start

sending you offensive messages.

I had one person making racial

remarks because I never replied to

any of his messages. The worst

thing about him was that he put on

his profile that he is (and this was

capitalised) “only interested in Black

men”, but then he called me very

racist names. I just could not believe

the audacity of the man to make

racial remarks about me being

Black, yet date exclusively the very

same people that he was slagging

off. What an ignorant pig!

Other weird stuff started to

happen after I downloaded the app –

I also had three separate people

contacting me who were complete

FAKES. Yes, they had just created

fake profiles, using fake pictures.

The first person was clearly using

the picture of a model, and not him,

and when he rang me I had a gut

feeling that he just sounded

absolutely nothing like the person

he sent me a picture of. You might

OpiniOn

“I hate Grindr”

by Junior @Junior_Kehinde

“I really

cannot stand it.

It’s superficial, and

just makes society

even more

sexualised than

it already is.”

ask how on earth you can tell what

someone sounds like based on a

picture? Well obviously you cannot,

but taking into account the age of

the person in the picture, and the

age of the person’s voice, the

discrepancy was alarming to the

highest degree possible, coupled

with my gut instincts telling me that

there was no way that I was

speaking to the person that I had

seen a picture of. I then wanted to

prove that I was right, so I asked

him to take a picture of himself, and

he kept making excuses. In the end I

just said that I had no choice but to

sever all ties because I felt he was

being dishonest. Hours later he sent

me text messages that were pages

and pages long. I have never in all

my life received text messages that

were this epic in length! It was

insane. Nonetheless, I read them all,

and he basically admitted that he

was a fake, and that he was pathetic,

and sorry. I thought that I would be

angry at him, but I wasn’t. The first

emotion that I felt was sympathy. I

thought he must be in quite a sad

place to do something like that. He

also attached pictures of the real

him, which I am sorry to say, was

very creepy looking. I think he was a

little insane, as he wanted to still go

on a date with me. Yeah right.

I just feel that life is stressful

enough, without adding to the

stress in your life with something

you don’t need. I did meet a very

special guy that I was seeing for

about a month (he was not from

Grindr), but even though it never

worked out the way I had hoped, he

is a good person, and I am so glad I

met him, because he showed me

that there are good guys out there.

You can just relax, and be with

someone without everything having

to be about sex. It’s always nice to

meet someone that makes an

imprint on your soul.

Let’s break the restrictions and

control that technology tries to put

on us. Enjoy life, and get out there

and meet people.

l Do you agree with

@Junior_Kehinde? Let us know,

tweet us @FSmagazineUK.

l Think you could write an opinion

piece for FS or just want to have a

rant about something? Email us at

fsmag@gmfa.org.uk.

www.gmfa.org.uk |23


true life

My coming out story by Lee, 28, Kent

@hotdesigner

I have always known deep down that I wasn’t straight, but I always thought I could just

suppress the feelings I was experiencing. As a child I didn’t really understand the feelings

and I didn’t know why I was the way I was. Being a kid though it’s easy to hide, as boys think

girls are disgusting - that is until puberty hits and then it’s all about girls.

My teen years were awkward. I was

overweight, I had a bowl cut and I

was subjected to braces... WITH

HEADGEAR at night time. In no way

shape or form was I a looker. My

confidence was non-existent and I

was bullied. I grew up in four

different pubs so my teen years

were a very public affair. Customers

would mock me for being shy or

tubby but as I got older, they would

make little snide comments that

alluded to my sexuality. I tried dating

girls once or twice but nothing really

came of it. It didn’t feel right and I

was getting frustrated as I began to

think there was something seriously

wrong with me.

At the age of 15 I was fed up of

being fat so I decided to do

something about it. However, instead

of dieting (it never worked for me) I

decided to just starve myself. It was

effective; I dropped from 15 stone to

10 in a matter of months.

Now I don’t condone

what I did and I would

totally go about it

differently if I had

to go through it

again, but it

worked for me. It

gave me a new

lease of

confidence. I

started working

behind the bar at

16 (collecting

glasses) and that

lifted my spirits. I

became more talkative and

open with people. I would flirt a

little with the men and women as it

does come with the job. There were

still people who made fun of me and I

tried to ignore it. They would make

homophobic comments near me. It

hurt. They didn’t truly know me and

they had known me since I was 12.

Why were they being this way? They

were old enough to know better as

they were all in their 40s. The more

comments I heard, the more scared I

became.

At the age of 18, I lost my virginity

to one of our barmaids. It was fun but

24|

“I wanted to

go to a gay bar but

my problem was I

didn’t know any gay

people and there was

no way I would ever go

on my own. I had no

one to talk to. I was

trapped, or so I

thought.”


it didn’t feel right. The girl later told

me she always knew I was gay but

she wanted to “pop my cherry” to

give me a confidence boost. We are

still good friends now and we laugh

about it.

By the age of 20, I was having

serious conflicting feelings which

bugged me on a daily basis. I needed

to explore this side of me that I had

hidden for so long. It felt like I was

constantly fighting my true self. I

began looking on the internet at

explicit videos of men as I was having

urges. As crude as it may sound but I

was a young lad; who doesn’t have

those feelings? I wanted to go to a gay

bar but my problem was I didn’t know

any gay people and there was no way

I would ever go on my own. I had no

one to talk to. I was trapped, or so I

thought. I stumbled upon a website

called Gaydar. It didn’t take long to

sign up and soon I was getting

messages. This new world was

fascinating to me. I was getting

attention from men and I liked it.

One guy from Essex called Ray

began to chat to me one day. He was

33 and he seemed nice. I was still

really nervous about what I was doing

and I made it clear that I was just

looking for friends as I was still trying

to get my head around everything.

Days, weeks passed and Ray started

to make innuendo about what he

wanted to do. It was a bit much for me

so I politely told him that I was not

ready for that. He seemed to be quite

understanding of the whole thing,

although every now and then he

would get a bit carried away with his

comments which would make me

uncomfortable.

In my eyes he was too old for me.

I’ve always been attracted to people

my own age. He was a very clever guy

when I think back on the situation. I

was young and naïve and he

managed to get small details out of

me like the area where I lived. He

knew I lived in a pub as we would talk

about all manner of things. I was

aware of the dangers of chatting

online but at 20 I didn’t think it really

applied to me. He became quite

intense. No one knew we were

chatting so the last thing I wanted was

someone I had never physically met

ringing up the pub. This was when

alarm bells first started to ring. He

knew my number! What if he actually

came to the pub?

He started to ring the pub when I

didn’t respond to his messages

straight away. Things felt like they

were unravelling. He made it clear that

he wanted more from me and he

wanted to meet. I would say yes but

never give a date or just give an

excuse as to why I couldn’t.

It all came to a head one day when I

was overwhelmed by everything. I

didn’t want to chat any more as he

was making me feel uncomfortable. I

snapped. I told him I couldn’t chat any

more, that he never gave me five

minutes peace, that I wasn’t interested

in anything more than chat. He got

very angry and started to threaten me.

He said that I had humiliated him, that

I had ruined his life. He told me that he

was going to ruin my life.

One day whilst I was restocking the

shelves in the bar before the pub

opened, my mum came over

to me and asked to have

a word with me in the

kitchen. She

proceeded to open a

letter and show it

to me. It was my

Gaydar profile!

Ray had posted it

to my parents,

effectively outing

me. Inside I was

mortified, scared

and very upset but I

kept myself together in

front of my mum. She

asked what Gaydar was. I

tried to shrug it off and say it was

a prank but she clearly wasn’t buying

it. The back of the letter had a message

from Ray, proclaiming that I was a

dirty little boy who was putting

himself all over the internet looking

for sex. He hoped that my parents

were proud of having such a vile son.

It hurt to know that someone could be

so cruel. I had never met the guy, yet

he felt that it was his right to do what

he did. I went upstairs with my mum

where we both cried to each other

about what had happened. She was

disappointed that I couldn’t say

anything to her but she was also

angry that someone would do such a

thing to me. The next thing she said

terrified me.

“You’re going to have to tell your

father.” I really didn’t want to tell him

as I was scared what his reaction

would be. But I heard him coming up

the stairs as he had been out running

errands. Mum shouted out for him to

come into their bedroom and told me

to tell Dad the news. This would

probably be the most awkward and

mortifying moment in my life. All his

response though was “Oh.”

The months went by and my

parents became more welcoming to

the idea of my sexuality. Occasionally I

would get emails from Ray

apologising then threatening me. I

replied once or twice but just pointed

out that he was welcome to come to

the pub but to be prepared for a

confrontation with my parents.

Despite what this person did to me,

“My mum

came over to me

and asked to have

a word with me in the

kitchen. She proceeded

to open a letter and

show it to me. It

was my Gaydar

profile!”

in a way he did me a favour. I would

have eventually come out on my own

but at least I know that my parents

love me no matter what. My mum is

very protective of me. She hates

homophobia and will say exactly what

she thinks if she hears a bad word

said about gay people. My mum has

told me how proud she is for how

strong I have been and how I am my

own person. She still hates Ray for

what he did but she told me I am her

son and that she loves me more than

anything in this world. I would still

have liked the option to come

out on my own and I feel

like I was robbed, but

once people knew, it

gave me a new

strength in myself. I

began to stand up

for myself against

the homophobes

in the pub. My

mum even

threatened to have

them removed

permanently if she

ever heard another

word against me.

In the seven years since I

first came out I have gradually

grown confident within my own skin. I

have a loving family that surrounds

me, who accept every aspect of my

life. Knowing that I can be myself is a

huge weight off my shoulders. I have

learnt to never give someone the

power to make me feel insignificant or

small. Those who seek to destroy us

are only doing so because of their

own insecurities. There was a long

period of time when I hated Ray for

what he had done but now I just look

back at it as one of life's valuable

lessons.

Your sexuality shouldn't define who

you are; it is merely a part of you.

Sadly for many of us, taking the step

to come out either forcibly or by

choice is not an easy one. It should be

easy though. It doesn't change who

we are. Thinking about it, I wish I had

more control over the situation and I

had realised sooner that my family

loved me no matter what my sexual

preference.

l Read Lee’s story in full at

www.rucomingout.com/lee2.

l The rucomingout project hopes to

become a valuable

resource for those

who are living their

lives, either

completely or

partially, in the

closet. For more

information or to

read more stories visit,

www.rucomingout.com.

www.gmfa.org.uk |25


LIFESTYLE

!

THE ISSUE

The break-up

I'm sure anyone who has experienced a break-up can attest to the fact that they aren't exactly fun.

Whether it's a devastating, soap-like dramatic split or a mutual parting of ways, every break-up

leads to a certain amount of fractured heart and emotional trauma. Obviously, there's

no instruction manual for dealing with it but in my experience (my experience being a fresh,

newly-opened wound – just in case you were wondering) there are a few things to watch out for.

The degrees of friendship

Your friends fall into various

categories during a break-up,

running the gamut between

emotional bandage to utter bastard.

Here are a few variations you

should expect:

l Emotional support:This friend

is a rock. They’re there for you

constantly to pour your devastated

soul out to, whether that's via teary

telephone calls, talking you down

off a social media ledge or a

damp-eyed conversation at your

local coffee shop. Even when you

get to the inevitable overly-needy,

repetitive, deranged lunatic stage,

they’re still there to dab your eye

26|

“Bumming

away the pain

may work for you;

however there is an

equal chance that

you’ll walk away from

a one night stand

feeling a lot

worse.”

water and help you bury any dead

bodies.

l Tough love:This friend takes no

prisoners and simply won't stand

for your ‘self-indulgent’ whining.

by Liam Murphy @liamwaterloo

The moment your crest falls, they

won’t offer you a nice soft landing

with hugs and puppies; you’ll

instead be yanked up by your hair

and slapped across your chops for

being so weepy. Let’s face it, that’s

often needed.

l Self-involvement:You think your

break-up is about you, don’t you?

Well, it’s not. It’s about your friends.

At least that’s what these types of

buddies would have you believe.

Their version of support consists of

them dismissing the story of your

heartbreak for tales of their own.

Their narcissistic tales don’t even

help, as you remember what a

terrible mess they made of the

situation.

ArrowStudio, LLCl / Shutterstock.com


l Misinterpreted feelings:

Remember, it's a time when you’re

emotionally vulnerable, so

attachments are easily formed. Do

you know that friend who has been

kind to you during your break-up?

When he smiles it makes you feel a

bit warmer and everything seems

OK again. You feel drawn to him,

don't you? You're starting to think

that he might be the only one to

make you feel right inside. Well, you

know that guy? BACK AWAY. WALK

AWAY AT A VERY BRISK PACE. This

is a friend, not a rebound and the

feelings you have for him probably

stem from friendship, not a place of

romance. Don't mistake his

kindness for love, otherwise that's a

bloody good friend you've gone and

flushed down the toilet. Idiot.

The perils of ex

communicaTion

You soon learn that there’s no such

thing as a clean split. Even if you

aren’t forced to still live together

because the property rental prices

in London are extortionately high

(some of ‘my stuff’ coming through

there), there are still dozens of ways

that can keep you in contact.

Facebook and similar social

media are the guiltiest of these

culprits, offering up daily reminders

of the love you once had, whether

that’s through a shared photo

gallery or mutual friends sharing

posts on your ‘wall’. A short

sabbatical from these sites is

advised and it also removes the

temptation to ‘stalk’ your ex-partner

and indulge in the petty game of

‘Who’s Doing Better Than Who’.

Switch off your laptop.

There’s also that moment when

you are out with friends, you’ve

necked your fourth double vodka

and lemonade and you reach for

your mobile. Step away from it.

Hand it to a friend or throw it across

the room. Your mobile is NOT your

friend. The little web-enabled

bastard is out to sabotage the good

grace you've managed to maintain

throughout the break-up. Unless

you are a 100% certified,

level-headed, pure grown-up, it’s

easy to succumb to the ‘drunken

text’ and send your former lover a

barrage of abuse/pitiful cries for

reconciliation. Save yourself the

trouble and leave your phone at

home.

geTTing back on The horse

There’s no rush to head back to the

stables. Many people will tell you

that the easiest way to get over

We asked: What’s the best way

to get over a break-up?

@Nero I like to go hunting or shooting after periods of

romantic turmoil.

@TophHooperton Move hemispheres until your heart

stops ouching.

@chris_mandle Er, the best advice I have is spoil

yourself a little bit; buy some new clothes, have an

expensive slap-up meal, etc, etc.

@chiefbrody1984 Re-watch War of the Roses. Take

notes.

@Philip_Ellis I tend to throw myself into my work to

avoid that feeling of utter failure. I also throw myself into

Haribo.

@IncrediblyRich Don't stay friends. Don't contact them

again. Close the door. Move on. Simples.

@thisislucio Shag their mates

@flandangos Be polite, pretend to be friends, gradually

distance yourself. DON’T HAVE SEX WITH THEM AGAIN.

@Baxfail Best way to deal with a break-up is calm,

chilled, and normal. Worst way is to ring them 4+ times a

week calling them a cunt, then begging to get back

together with them.

@DannyBlahBlah An ex of mine took me clubbing

with his mates on the pull so I could get used to being

around him 'moving on'. He snogged some guy and went

home with him leaving me to spend the rest of the

awkward eveing with his friends.

@JonBradfield Don't go dating for a while after. You

depress yourself, and mess them about. Sex is fine, friends

forcing you out is better.

@khanikickit Stay being single for a while, learn who

you are again having grown / learnt about yourself in the

relationship. Go on holiday.

lTell us your break-up tips by tweeting us @FSmagazineUK.

someone is to get under someone

else. Bumming away the pain may

work for you; however there is

equal chance that you’ll walk away

from a one night stand feeling a lot

worse, especially if you started

crying on his shoulder blades

mid-coitus. As clichéd as it sounds,

there is a grieving period after

relationships end, so there really is

no pressure to replace him straight

away.

It may also seem that there isn’t

much on offer out there, especially

after a quick browse on some

popular ‘gay dating’ apps. Don’t be

too disheartened, as for every ten

‘Chem session wanted’ and ‘Fun

now in local park’ offers there is at

least one decent human male who’s

willing to have a drink and a chat.

Although, if you do find him, he’s

mine.

If any readers have other tips to

offer about handling break-ups,

please get in touch. I’ll try and read

them through the tears.

www.gmfa.org.uk |27


advice

Sort it readers and a trained counsellor give their out!FS advice on how to tackle one of life’s problems.

This month’s problem...

“My boyfriend’s cock is too big and it hurts.” – Anonymous

Your say...

Dear anonymous

There are a few things to

A address here. Firstly with a

new boyfriend you need to

be careful about the use of

protection. It sounds like you use it

sometimes. Unless you have both

been tested, had a conversation and

are in a monogamous relationship

you need to be very careful about

what you might be exposing each

other to. There is a further increased

risk due to your bleeding from the

28|

rough sex you are having. Have you

told your boyfriend how painful and

uncomfortable sex is? I know it’s a

new relationship (and you probably

want to please him) but sex should

be pleasurable for you both, and

you should only be engaging in

activities that you are both happy

with and enjoy. If you have not told

him, have a conversation with him

and let him know how you feel. You

can suggest taking your time. Does

it have to be rough sex every time?

The additional problem you face

here is that you are now nervous

about this which will mean you will

naturally not be relaxed when

having sex and this will exacerbate

the situation. There are plenty of

different products out there you

could buy, but honestly, my

suggestions would be to work on

the foreplay (which will relax you),

use plenty of lube and take it slowly

(at least until you are more relaxed

taking his 8 inches). After you are

both enjoying sex then maybe you

can look at spicing it up a bit

more. Lastly, if you do continue with

this path of rough sex then you are

likely to encounter problems later in

life (fecal incontinence, rectal

prolapse, haemorrhoids, anal

fissures, for example). This is further


increased if you are not resting in

between sex and allowing yourself

to heal properly. The anus is very

sensitive and needs to be looked

after! Sit down and talk to your

boyfriend. If he is a keeper then he

will work on the bum love!

Philip via email

Facebook responses

I'd say be honest with him and

tell him it hurts. Slower could

be better for you. Josh

Josh is right, slower at first is

better, once you’re relaxed and

into it rougher can be fun. And lots

and lots of lube. Dustin

Matey, you are doing it wrong.

Hard/rough isn't the same as

passion. Take it slow. Take your time

to get to know your body and his.

Lots of lube and use a bloody

condom!! Spend all night trying it

different ways. Andy

I don’t see the rush. Let him get

used to you and then you take

your time with all the obvious

protection. If he doesn’t play ball

find someone who appreciates you

better. Good luck. Paul

A counsellor’s

opinion...

Sona Barbosa of the GMI

Partnership says:

Dear anonymous

Anal sex can and should be a

A pleasurable experience, but

there are a few things you

may want to consider. First of all,

and in answer to your first question,

yes you can be doing harm to your

arse by letting your boyfriend fuck

you this hard. The most important

muscles when engaging in anal sex

are the sphincter muscles, which

control the opening and closing of

the anus. It is a sensitive membrane.

Pressure and/or friction against

these muscles can cause a good

amount of pain. Each person reacts

differently to anal penetration and

what can be pleasurable for some

may be painful for others. It is

important that you are familiar with

your body and how it reacts. Take

some time exploring your anal

sensitivity and how it relates to

whether you are feeling relaxed or

tense. This is something that both

you and your partner should openly

explore before penetration.

Communication is crucial in a

relationship and it includes

discussing both of your sexual

needs in order to meet each other in

the middle. Tell your partner how

you feel. You say he likes rough sex.

Do you? Do you feel relaxed? Or

tense? If you feel uncomfortable and

you are experiencing pain and

bleeding you should stop.

In answer to your second

question, there are some things you

can do. Using a good lubricant (do

not use oil-based lube as this

damages condoms) can minimise

the amount of pain you feel as well

as possible damage (abrasions or

tears, causing bleeding) in the anus.

Practising relaxation techniques,

such as breathing, can be useful and

can help you feel more comfortable.

Also practising with sex toys,

starting with small ones at first and

gradually increasing the size can

help your body adjust.

Last, but in no way least

important is condom use. The anus,

as stated before, is a sensitive and

thin membrane, making it a

potential host for STIs and HIV. The

risk increases even more when there

are abrasions and/or tears in it. Not

using protection, i.e. a condom,

between this thin membrane (yours)

and your partner’s fluids is putting

yourself at a greater risk of HIV and

STIs. Again, communication with

your partner is essential and it is

important for both of you to discuss

the sex you want and enjoy, safer

sex and regular testing. I hope this

has been helpful.

Next month’s

problem...

I have just started a

relationship with a really

Q nice guy but I’m afraid to

tell him something. Last

month, I was diagnosed with HIV. I

didn’t cheat on him, I got it from a

stupid drunk one-nighter at the

back of a club several months

before I met him. Thing is, he has a

very high sex drive and likes sex

about twice a day. I’m terrified to

tell him I’ve got HIV in case he loses

interest in me and dumps me. I also

don’t want to pass it on to him. I

really like this guy. What should I

do? – Jake, 24 from Kent.

l If you have some advice

to give, or you have a problem

that needs sorting, email:

fsmag@gmfa.org.uk.

Sort it out

EXTRA

GMFA answers your other

questions and worries.

“I’ve a small problem!”

My penis size is only

Q

3.5 inches when fully

erect. Is there any way

to increase the length?

Although you will

encounter many remedies

and treatments that are

supposed to increase your

penis size, we are not aware of

any that are effective. There is

an expensive surgical

procedure which will make

your unerect penis appear

longer, however this will have

no impact on the size of your

erection. However, please be

assured that penis size is no

indicator of your ability to give

sexual pleasure. Deep

penetration is not necessary to

stimulate the prostate if you

have sex with men.

“Did I wank my way to HIV?”

About a few months

Q

ago I wanked in a

public place. The head

of my cock touched a surface

which was wet. If the wet

surface was contaminated

with HIV, am I at any risk of

getting HIV.

It's important to

remember that HIV is a

fragile virus and dies off

quickly when exposed to the

air, so even if HIV was in any

fluid on the wet surface you

mention it would be dead or

too weak to be transmitted.

Also the 'route' of possible

infection that you talk about

(resting your penis against

possible HIV-infected fluid) is

very, very unlikely to result in

HIV being transmitted.

l For more info on sex,

sexual health, STIs or to ask a

question, visit:

www.gmfa.org.uk/sex.

www.gmfa.org.uk |29


HeaLtH & advice

i

Clinics

lFor a list of GUM services in

London visit www.gmfa.org.uk/

clinics.

Condoms

lFreedoms provides free

condoms and lube on the

scene. They also sell low-cost,

high quality condoms and

lube via their online shop. Visit:

www.freedoms-shop.nhs.uk.

30|

Listings

Make your sexual debut

with PACE

Counselling/mentoring

lThe GMI Partnership offers free

sexual health counselling and

mentoring to gay men in London.

For more information visit

www.gmfa.org.uk/counselling or

ring 020 7160 0941. You can also

visit: www.gmipartnership.org.uk.

Helplines

lCALM - A helpline for men

feeling out of control or suicidal.

Call 0808 802 58 58. Lines are

open 4 days a week, Saturday to

Tuesday, 5pm to midnight.

lThe London Lesbian and Gay

Switchboard: 0300 330 0630.

Available daily 10am-11pm.

lTHT Direct 0808 802 1221.

Available Monday to Friday

Are you new to the scene or just coming out? Sexual Debut is an

eight-week programme which will give you an opportunity to explore

with other gay/bi men what coming out really means for you. Coming

out, for most men, is an ongoing process rather than a one-off event.

You will gain skills on how to negotiate on the gay scene and build

your confidence around sex and relationships in a safe and supportive

environment.You’ll also develop your communication and

assertiveness skills to help you make the right decisions.

Participants are asked to commit to all the days of the

workshop to get the most for themselves. This workshop

runs from Thursday 24 January untill 14 March 2013.

lFor more information visit www.gmfa.org.uk/gwk

or call PACE on 020 7700 1323.

Get your Gaydar on

with THT

Share your experiences of life with HIV, get support

online and get answers to your questions. Login to

www.gaydar.co.uk, click on chatrooms and search for the

Community Room called ‘THT – HIV+ Groupwork’

chatroom. This workshop takes place Tuesdays to Thursdays

from 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

lFor more information visit www.gmfa.org.uk/gwk or call THT

on 020 7812 1773.

Published by GMFA

Unit 11 Angel Wharf,

58 Eagle Wharf Road,

London, N1 7ER

Tel: 020 7738 6872

Email: gmfa@gmfa.org.uk

Website: www.gmfa.org.uk

Charity number 1076854

ISSN 1750-7162

10am-10pm and weekends

12noon-6pm.

Websites

lFor information about sex,

sexual health and what’s on offer

in London, visit www.gmfa.org.uk.

Workshops and courses

lTHT and PACE offer free

courses and workshops to gay

men in London. To find out more

about what’s on offer, visit:

www.gmfa.org.uk/gwk.

lAlternatively, for PACE

workshops phone: 020 7700 1323

or visit: www.pacehealth.org.uk.

lFor THT courses and groups

phone: 020 7812 1773, or visit:

www.tht.org.uk.

FS team for issue 133 was Ian Howley (Editor), Stuart Haggas, Matthew Hodson,

Liam Murphy, Scott Roberts and Gavin Smith. Design and layout by

www.christiantate.co.uk .

FS is part of the Pan London HIV Prevention Programme.

Appearance in FS is not an indication of an individual’s sexual orientation

or HIV status. The views of our writers are not necessarily the views of FS,

of the organisations mentioned, GMFA, or of the editor.

You can view the current issue and past issues of FS online at:

www.gmfa.org.uk/fs.

Volunteers contribute to the planning, writing, editing and production of FS.

To volunteer or donate, contact GMFA using the details to the left.

Shutterstock.com


GMFA - for gay men’s sexual health.

Unit 11, Angel Wharf, 58 Eagle Wharf Road, London N1 7ER. Charity No: 1076854

GMFA projects are developed by positive and negative volunteers.

To support GMFA’s work visit: www.gmfa.org.uk/donate. part of

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