In the inaugural issue of the Los Angeles newspaper The Pride, award-winning journalist Charles Kaiser takes on the troubling rise of meth among gay men along with the the abandonment of the condom code in “Will the GreaTesT MomenT in LGBT HisTory Go Down in a Blaze of Meth?”
We live in an extraordinary era, the product of fifty years of astonishing progress. None of us who were sentient in 1970 ever imagined that we could get this far so fast. Now we are Congressmen and Senators, doctors and lawyers, movie directors and psychiatrists, pediatricians, a Secretary of the Army (designate) and a thousand other things that no openly gay person could realistically aspire to back then. As recently as 2001, homosexual acts were still criminal in most American states. In 1989, at the height of the AIDS crisis, Time magazine ran a story wondering if there would be any gay community left in the United States by the time the epidemic was over…
And yet, despite all this progress, a remarkable self destructiveness still afflicts hundreds of thousands of the best and the brightest among us. Once upon a time, we could plausibly blame this kind of behavior on the oppression of the rest of society. Now, not so much. How is it possible that meth is the one thing in the world that straight people are so much smarter about than gay men? How did it become a symbol of glamor and youth for some of us, and a badge of stupidity and poverty for all of them, which is exactly what it should be. How did a scourge that’s already flattened whole stretches of rural Appalachia and countless small towns in working class America, become so desirable for such supposedly sophisticated gay men in smart urban neighborhoods across the country?
Unsurprisingly, the reaction to the article was explosive. So we asked Kaiser, the author of The Gay Metropolis among many books, to come up with a list of what he learned from reader comments and social media, both from ordinary gay people and experts from the HIV-prevention and drug-treatment community.
Here are eight things he learned:
1. Disagreeing with any part of the prevailing dogma produces the same reaction you used to be able to get by ruffling a Trotskyite cell.
2. One must never tell a gay brother that what he is doing to himself can, or probably will, kill him. You will only increase his sense of isolation by doing so. No young gay man wants any advice, so it’s a mortal sin to offer any. All young gay men feel this way, without exception. Everybody knows this! (NOT!)
3. I have a “straight corporate hang up” because I think that some forms of sex — those that include the use of condoms and do not include the use of meth, for example — are actually better than the ones that put one or both partners at risk of permanent addiction, or a very grave disease. Anyone making such a distinction must be “sex negative,” even if he bows to no one in his affection for a culture of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
5. Anyone who thinks it’s more sensible to use a condom rather than spending $30,000 a year on a pill to prevent HIV infection is hopelessly out of step — not only with the Zeitgeist of the gay community, but with a fundamental American value: taking a pill is always the best solution for every problem. Anyone who prefers a condom to a pill is stigmatizing those who do not — and going way off the script provided by Big Pharma.
6. There is no important distinction to be made between smoking meth and drinking beer.
7. No one living in this bubble ever imagines that anyone could reasonably disagree with anything they believe, mostly because they’ve shouted down their opponents so long ago.
8. If you are among the legions who are certain that a naked penis during anal intercourse is more important than everything else you can do during the act of love, I have a news flash for you: you are a dull and unimaginative lover.
9. My motto remains, as ever:
“What does it matter to be laughed at? The big public, in any case, usually doesn’t see the joke, and if you state your principles clearly and stick to them, it’s wonderful how people come around to you in the end.” — George Orwell