YOU ARE GLASS

Spoken word piece by Greg Owen ‘performed’ at Let’s Talk About Gay Sex And Drugs on Thursday 12th May 2016

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YOU ARE GLASS

 

When first we met, I saw you but I looked right through

You were just there

Standing still

Strong

But a little wrong

I walked past you many times

Until one day

Something I could not feel – pushed me from behind

I saw you right up close. So close  – I only saw the flaws – the bubbles from the blow

I could only see as much of you

As the frame of my own view

But when I backed right off, then I began to notice

Notice the rest of you

Stepped away until I saw the all of you

We never touched

Did not connect

I dared not rest my hand upon the pane

Did not leave the mark of the moisture from the softness of my finger tips

Which were now softer – warmer – wetter than I had ever known before

Now I’m seeing you, not seeing through

The glass is suddenly brand new

I turned my back then turned it back

Now it was not you that I could see

But me

My reflection

There was a  flash

I could only see the light

My eyes began to burn

It was so bright

But I could not turn

And I would not fight

The light began to dim

Refocus my eyes on him

Now all I could see was us

Not a 2 – but a me in you

No force from behind

Shared pull from the front

I approached again

This time I put my tips upon you – so cold

Instinctively contracted back

The composition again – was new

I see the tiny printed dots – my fingers had left on you

I didn’t like the mess –  didn’t like I’d left a mark

So came to you again – to fix the messy smudge

I watched myself grow larger in your reflection until my mouth aligned with the mess

I blew – the intention – hit you

We  clouded up

Gray, steam and heat

I could not see the mess  or us

The heat cooled, retracted in

I watched it shrink and fade and disappear

It all became quite clear

There was – the mess

There was – that part of you

There was…my reflection

And in it all lay us – a possible perfection

It started to look pretty

So I put my fingers on your surface yet again

Saw them leave their mark

It was becoming art

But our creation got too brave – too fast – a little stark

One more reckless swipe

I caught a chip –

Sting

Bleed

Drip

Drip

Fuck!

Trip

Now trip

Fell through

Straight through you

You smashed – I crashed

Right down to the floor

With pieces of you embedded into my flesh

I panicked- what had I done?

Scrambled on my knees

To try to pull all those sparkling shards of you back into one place

I clawed too hard and my fingers bled –

Now part of me streams over the broken pieces of you

Everything was raw and everything was red

I had to stop

I crawled away and slumped

To where I first saw myself in you

But you were no longer there

You were lying bloody on the floor

There was an us no more

Parts of you embedded in my flesh – part of me streaming over the broken pieces of you

YOU ARE GLASS

*I wrote this piece for David Stuart. Thank you for being brilliant! x

Continue reading “YOU ARE GLASS”

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ChemSex – the film

ChemSex (from VICE and 56 Dean Street)

Watch the official trailer!

Directed by Max Gogarty and Will Fairman

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(Image by Matt Spike, who features in the film)

There is no other way to start this piece than to say I found this film incredibly necessary for our community right now. Its potential to open a much needed, shame-free dialogue on ChemSex and its educational benefits can’t be challenged. Personally, as someone who has a ChemSex past (and no doubt a ChemSex future) it was very difficult to watch at times. It is uncomfortable to observe what actually goes on in ChemSex, sober and in a nice cinema. To see this behavior in a context outside of its natural environment amplifies, some might say purifies the deep rooted suffering that so many guys who are caught up and lost in this scene are struggling with.

The film opens with a Brady Bunch style visual of a screen divided into about 16 individual blocks, each containing a guy talking about ChemSex and the party scene, direct to camera. From this group of talking heads we are eventually dragged along for the ride on a handful of the featured individuals journeys. Different as these stories were – the theme was the same – ChemSex and therefore each person’s social, emotional and personal battles were very similar. Different symptoms of the same condition.

Watch the trailer below…

What I loved about the film was that there were no victims. Just people being honest, who may be struggling but who were trying their best to get on and get over their issues. Even Miguel (the French guy) who provided the most uncomfortable viewing moments via a slamming scene where we see him sat on a sofa emptying out a rucksack full of beautifully multi-coloured slamming syringes, rummaging through the 10 or so pins that he has tipped out of the bag, we suddenly become aware that these aren’t new pins…They aren’t as pretty as their rainbow colours might suggest. They have various amounts of previously used M and T mixed with his now cold blood. He tries to re-use one of the old needles for a hit and stabs at his left arm continuously. Over and over again trying to find the least battered vein that will enable him to get his high….I was squirming in my seat. Yet I couldn’t judge him or shame him. I was squirming so much because I recall myself being in that position and several of my friends too. And he is no different to any of us. Not at all. We find out a few frames later that he just wants a ‘normal life’ with a partner and a garden and a cat. But he says “This is a disease. I don’t have the ability to stop”. And we all know how that feels. In fact, I connected with Miguel a lot. I had the partner (fiancé), the garden and the cat. It was losing all of that, the things I loved that catapulted me on to and into the ChemSex scene. Love and the lack of love….

That is the real message and raison d’etre of ChemSex (the film).

David Stuart from 56 Dean Street who features heavily in the documentary clarified a few things…

“ChemSex is nothing more than a health syndemic experienced by a vulnerable population; not in any way, something shameful or best kept secret.

Though there may be an expected backlash from the odd Daily Mail reader (nothing surprising or unmanageable there), the only backlash so far has been from within the gay community; people who are understandably concerned, that gay equality and societal homophobia may be set back by airing our dirty linen in public. There were similar fears in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. But HIV is just a disease, not a punishment from God or an indictment of promiscuity. And ChemSex is nothing more than a public health syndemic, affecting a vulnerable and lovely population of gay men. Alarm, though understandable, is not justified. Community support, and dialogue is what is required to address this problem within our community.”

David raised another great point in the film…

“Something about our sex as gay men – is causing harm. And that needs addressing”

With that in mind, this film allows us to safely explore for ourselves why ChemSex has become ‘a thing’. We all know, no matter how much we try to style it out with a gym ripped body or sharp hair cut or a fresh pair of hi tops or a ¼ of T, 2 grams of Meph, 100 mils of G and a handful of Viagra. That we all act up and behave questionably for the same set of reasons that are pretty much applicable to us all and constantly at play in all of our gay lives.

Growing up isolated and/or bullied. Or if we weren’t bullied we were still always aware that we were ‘different’ and so always existed on the peripheral of society. Constantly just outside of the norm.

Drugs are dis-inhibitors.

“There is a definable reason these gay men are using drugs in this way”

But when we start accepting this as the standard, that’s when things start to escalate. We live in a gay culture of excess. The biggest cock, the longest fuck session, the marathon bank holiday clubbing, the endless party.

“The problem is on the inside. We are normalizing behaviour that isn’t normal”

I have actually had a lot of fun as a ChemSex-er. It was something that I threw myself into in the aftermath of the break up of a 7 year relationship. It had it’s benefits. I was emotionally unavailable but I needed some contact and interaction. ChemSex parties were ideal. I could get intimacy without investment. And that suited me (and a lot of the guys featured in this film) very well. But not as a long term set up. I don’t think you can sustain this. It’s too physically, mentally and financially draining and unfulfilling.

So what is the ‘problem’ with ChemSex?

I was at a press screening of this film which had a Q&A session afterwards and a very well known individual from the gay scene asked “How real a concern is ChemSex? I don’t know anyone who does ChemSex”. I almost fell off my seat! I thought “What the fuck! Are you for real? I don’t know anyone who DOESN’T do Chemsex”. While I seriously doubt that this guy has a group of friends that never touch drugs during sex, it did make me consider that some people participating in ChemSex perhaps don’t identify themselves as ChemSex-ers or feel comfortable or able to disclose and discuss that they have ChemSex. The potential pitfalls that come along with ChemSex are just as real of a threat to these guys as they are to an ’out’ ChemSex-er.

But I think the real problem with Chemsex is this…

It’s not a problem until you want to stop or change. Then the problem becomes very clear. What was once your pleasure becomes your prison

Which is why a lot of prolonged chemsex participants find their lives punctuated with quite dramatic and serious accidents/events such as a trip to A&E, getting arrested, being raped, losing a job, losing a partner, rehab, contracting HIV or HCV or even death. The problem isn’t ChemSex itself. Some people navigate it skillfully and exist on that scene very well. So you really only become aware that you have a problem with ChemSex when you want to break the ChemSex pattern but by then it might be too late. I hope not. I really hope it’s not too late for any of us.

We need our friends. We need the help of support services such as ChemSex run by the Wellbeing Programme from 56 Dean Street. Other agencies like Antidote can help. Through these avenues we have options and if we have options then we have a choice. It’s up to you and me and each of us to make our own choice. Make it a good one. Keep healthy and keep happy guys! x

ChemSex is released in cinemas from December 4th 2015 and will be available on DVD early 2016. This film is about our scene and what is happening on it now. Regardless if you do ChemSex or not – you need to watch this film. We all do.

Continue reading “ChemSex – the film”

It’s cheaper to stay HIV neg. HIV+ is expensive

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I’m writing out of pure frustration today. The more involved I become in the HIV/PrEP arena the more it seems that the solutions we are desperately searching for are already here! We just aren’t joining up the dots.

I’m going to kick off trying to defuse my frustrations by starting with PrEP. Particularly in light of last Friday’s News headlines.

The Guardian, Fri 9th October 2015

“NHS hospitals’ £930m overspend prompts calls for urgent funding”

“Fears grow that hospitals will run out of money and care standards will deteriorate unless chancellor injects more cash”

BBC News, Fri 9th October 2015

“NHS deficits hit ‘massive’ £930m”

“NHS trusts in England have racked up a £930m deficit in the first three months of the financial year – that is more than the entire overspend last year.”

“Regulators said the problems were the “worst for a generation” and demanded immediate action be taken.”

So the NHS have over spent! Big surprise… Well wake the fuck up people! If you haven’t been given enough funds to start with – and you only spend what you need to – YOU WILL TECHNICALLY OVERSPEND! I’m not exactly sure why this was worthy of such sensationalist headline attention on Friday. Although £930m is a substantial figure – we need to put it into context. They overspent by £930m in the first quarter. So if we multiply that by 4 to get a projection of what their total overspend for the year would be (at current performance) that would be an annual deficit of £3.72 billion. The NHS has a total annual budget of £95.6 billion. So that equates to an overspend of 3.6%. In any budget I have ever compiled in my previous career in accounts for staffing and marketing – we always had a contingency of 5%-10% of the overall budget to allow for the unknown or to cover things that might go wrong. However…

 “The NHS are projected to overspend on their annual budget by 3.6 percent” – isn’t such a punchy headline.

Semantics aside. £930m is still a lot of money. It’s clear that the NHS needs to save money. And this is where I keep getting frustrated. Especially in regards to HIV treatment and PrEP HIV prevention. Time for some more figures (please stick with me on this)

Every single day, here in the UK, 10 ‘men who have sex with men’ – that’s gay or bi men (cis or trans) catch HIV.

10 gay/bi guys a day get HIV.

Let that figure settle in for a moment.

HIV treatment for a positive guy (drugs + health care ie seeing Nurses and Consultants + any counselling that might be needed) costs approx. £20,000 per person, per year

So if we say 10 guys per day get HIV…there are 365 days per year…

10 x 365 = 3650 guys per year

3650 guys x £20,000 = £73,000,000 (per year)

So with our little series of calculations we can all agree that new HIV cases will cost the NHS £73m per year.

With that £73m figure in mind. Let’s work out the cost of giving 3650 guys PrEP for a year.

I’m using the price from Dean Street’s PrEP clinic website…

1 month of PrEP costs £400

 So 1 year’s PrEP costs 12 months x £400 = £4,800 per person

3,650 guys x £4,800 = £17,520,000 (per year) to keep these guys negative. Negative guys generally won’t need to be in clinics regularly or require on going health care and support for HIV – if they haven’t got it.

Now we can work out how much the NHS would SAVE if none of these 3,650 guys ever got HIV because they were all on (free NHS supplied) PrEP

£73m – £17.5m = £55.5m

STOP THE FUCKING PRESS!

We could actually (in theory) save the NHS £55.5 million per year just by getting our mates on PrEP and keeping them HIV NEGATIVE…..

Doesn’t take a genius to work it out…..

MAKE PrEP AVAILABLE FOR FREE NOW….

JOIN THE FUCKING DOTS…….

Continue reading “It’s cheaper to stay HIV neg. HIV+ is expensive”