The accepted stigma and discrimination in the gay community:

My name is Jakeb Arturio Braden and I am a gay man living with ADHD and occasional mental health issues (Anxiety) and body dysmorphia. I am 47 years old and I have (this will hopefully put some context into what I will say) spent the majority of the past 25 serving my community in a variety of paid and voluntary roles. Challenging homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Raising awareness of HIV and AIDS, Promoting safer sex and volunteering to keep the community safe. Now if I was isolated from my community and excluded from social events, photo shoots, parties, projects, rejected for sex and relationships and not given a job or work because I was HIV+ there would be outcry and rightly so. However with in the Gay Community and this is supported by the silence from gay charities and gay men’s sexual health there is a huge amount of stigma and discrimination targeted at gay men with mental health issues.

Just last week I shared my story on Gay Star News in relation to a young man with body dysmorphia (bear In mind young gay men are SIX times more likely to use steroids and having eating disorders that straight young men) I shared how on three occasions I have wanted to take my life because I have felt so isolated and rejected by the community, that I wasn’t muscly enough and didn’t meet the standards for the various communities with the gay male community (e.g. bears, leather men and rubber men) How I have not socialised because of this, how I have spent weekend after weekend not talking to another human being. I got attacked by at least three guys as attention seeking! When I was raising awareness that this is a real issue. Now how could I be attention seeking when I kept it to myself? I wrote the notes to my two closet friends, got the tablets ready and was prepared to follow through, although something stopped me, the thought of what it would do to the perhaps two people who care for me.

There are times when I have not socialised because I feel judged and unwelcome, I have hardly  had sex in five years because of this. I can go weekend after weekend not talking to another gay man. I get no pleasure being like this at all. I would rather be out there socialising with people and having a good time.

Now this is real and the judgements and discrimination is real and accepted. Ironically there is a lot of awareness and challenges around HIV and being HIV+ which is it should be. Now don’t misunderstand (I am not making a judgement here stating, just stating a fact!) me when I say HIV is contracted through unsafe sex (is preventable) Mental health issues often aren’t and manifest for a variety of reasons and ironically stigmatising guys, isolating them and ignoring them because of this makes these issues ten times worse as it feeds into the fears and anxieties that cause the mental health issues in the first place.

Now I do all I can to manage this, I rarely drink alcohol or do drugs, I don’t visit saunas to have sex with loads of guys all in a bid to mask my insecurities or bury any issues I have I face them head on and acknowledge them and speak openly about them for this I am discriminated and stigmatised for. I am seen as weak and needy where the opposite is true as I am facing my stuff head on and not engaging in risky behaviour, alcohol consumption, using drugs or having numerous sexual encounters to mask and hide issues I have.

I understand the roots come (for me growing up in the care system, something I didn’t choose) and I have taken actions to remedy this.

There is a confident outgoing side to me, due to the ADHD though I have issues with filtering things and I am outspoken and passionate about things which means I speak my truth as I see it!

I also done all I can to manage it through a range of techniques so I have not passively sat back and allow it to control me. However a lack of support in the community and a lack of awareness makes this really hard to manage sometimes. We as a gay male community need to be able to talk about mental health issues, issues such as body dysmorphia in an open and honest manner with out fear of being judged or suddenly off the invite list because we are seen as too needy. I can tell you it takes a lot of courage to do as I am doing now and sharing my story and opening up about this! I have experienced the consequences for doing this and that is as it is however I will not be silenced on this I want above all a better community to be in one where I feel I can be myself and people will make a little extra effort to accommodate me. Not just for me but for all the other guys out there I know are going through the same.

So please be more aware of this issue and how you can support not stigmatise your brothers going through these issues.

Best wishes Jakeb

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Status Update – What’s your HIV Status

National HIV testing week starts on November 22nd – November 30th. This is a week of national campaigns to encourage Gay and Bisexual Men to get tested for HIV.
Well December 1st is of course World Aids Day, the day that’s set aside to remember people who are no longer with us because of HIV and AIDS, and to remember those everywhere living with HIV and AIDS.
This year has seen an alarming jump in the numbers of Gay Men testing positive for HIV, and yes as whereas more men are testing for HIV overall and this can account for the rise in some ways, somehow and somewhere men are still taking risks and contracting HIV. I know myself I have taken risks in the past and I have accepted responsibility for myself in that respect. I am lucky to have tested negative so I am aware of my current HIV status.
There has been a lot of debate in sexual health promotion circles and amongst HIV organisations about the disclosure and negotiations around sex and awareness of ones HIV status. Absolutely awareness of one’s status is important.
The other issue is around stigma and positive men feeling that they may be rejected by potential partners because of their HIV status and this happens to many HIV+ men. So this is a real barrier to men to talk openly about their HIV status! I can’t help but wonder; perhaps more can be done to support men to deal with potential rejection? You know to feel, well if you can’t accept my HIV status or you won’t have sex with me because of my status (and remember there are so many safe sexy things to do with another man) then that’s your issue not mine. This is about judging men who do this either; they in some way need support as well. Perhaps when they get reactions along the lines of I’m HIV+, if that’s an issue for you, then sort it yourself they may go on to look at changing their attitudes. While people remain silent and not talk about it, or disclose it then the issues remain as men do not get the chance to be challenged around their attitudes to HIV + men or the chance to change their attitudes towards it as well.
We all need support in this and we can all have our own attitudes or worries or concerns about HIV and AIDS, at the moment it’s not going away and men are still contracting HIV, so isn’t better that we all have a different attitude and willingness to be open about our HIV status, whatever that may be?
Remember if you want to talk about HIV and AIDS there are some great organisations out there doing awesome work. As there many places to pop along and be tested for HIV.

When did you last update your status? National HIV testing week 22nd November – 30th November.
http://www.twitter.com/authenticgayblg
http://www.theauthenticgayblog.wordpress.com
http://www.youtube.com/user/NorthernFella

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Status Update

 

Status Update.

 

 

 

Well December 1st is of course World Aids Day, the day that’s set aside to remember people who are no longer with us because of HIV and AIDS, and to remember those everywhere living with HIV and AIDS.

 

This year has seen an alarming jump in the numbers of Gay Men testing positive for HIV, and yes as whereas more men are testing for HIV overall and this can account for the rise in some ways, somehow and somewhere men are still taking risks and contracting HIV. I know myself I have taken risks in the past and I have accepted responsibility for myself in that respect. I am lucky to have tested negative so I am aware of my current HIV status.

 

There has been a lot of debate in sexual health promotion circles and amongst HIV organisations about the disclosure and negotiations around sex and awareness of ones HIV status. Absolutely awareness of one’s status is important.

 

The other issue is around stigma and positive men feeling that they may be rejected by potential partners because of their HIV status and this happens to many HIV+ men. So this is a real barrier to men to talk openly about their HIV status! I can’t help but wonder; perhaps more can be done to support men to deal with potential rejection? You know to feel, well if you can’t accept my HIV status or you won’t have sex with me because of my status (and remember there are so many safe sexy things to do with another man) then that’s your issue not mine. This is about judging men who do this either; they in some way need support as well. Perhaps when they get reactions along the lines of I’m HIV+, if that’s an issue for you, then sort it yourself they may go on to look at changing their attitudes. While people remain silent and not talk about it, or disclose it then the issues remain as men do not get the chance to be challenged around their attitudes to HIV + men or the chance to change their attitudes towards it as well.

 

We all need support in this and we can all have our own attitudes or worries or concerns about HIV and AIDS, at the moment it’s not going away and men are still contracting HIV, so isn’t better that we all have a different attitude and willingness to be open about our HIV status, whatever that may be?

 

Remember if you want to talk about HIV and AIDS there are some great organisations out there doing awesome work.

 

 

 

When did you last update your status?

 

www.twitter.com/authenticgayblg

 

www.theauthenticgayblog.wordpress.com

 

http://www.youtube.com/user/NorthernFella

 

 

 

 

 

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Gay men and body Image issues

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Death of a Porn Star.

Over the last few weeks, there have been the suicides of two well know gay porn stars. This caused a fairly heated debate about the porn industry especially as both do regular blogs. There was a sense that the suicides were linked to being involved in the industry and that the two go hand in hand in some ways. There were a couple of hateful responses around the morality of porn and this in some ways is to be expected , if you put yourself out there so to speak you will get feedback, both positive, negative and in different. If you’re involved in that line of work, you can’t expect your “ego” to be constantly fed accolades and be worshiped as a hero. Anyway enough of the content around the responses. For me what was interesting was the level of reaction about this and I couldn’t wonder what if it had been say two average looking gay rights activists that had taken their lives rather than two guys adorned as sex gods and physically perfect. Would the reaction have been the same? Would their have been all the posts about how tragic this was, what a loss this was etc? About what this may say about the gay male community, is it over sexualised and is someone’s looks, body and dick size more important than their heart, what they do and the contribution to the world that they make?

Suicide, self harm, mental health issues, drug and alcohol usage is far higher in gay and bisexual men then it is in any other group of people, so its not uncommon in fact gay men are something like ten times more likely to attempt suicide then their straight counterparts.

Personally I feel any suicide is tragic, as someone who has had suicidal thoughts (due to feeling alone and isolated) it’s not nice to go through that and either acting or not acting on the thoughts is no easy thing trust me. That darkness can be consuming, so when someone has taken that action and succeeded the question for me is how can this be prevented in the future, what was going on with them and where was the support around them? I can see how being involved in an industry that is driven by sex, being sexy, having a big cock, having an amazing physique and great looks that being a human and having feelings comes pretty low down the list and that having needs and mental health issues is not seen as very “horny” so there would be pressure to keep issues to yourself. The same can be said in the wider gay community, being seen as having baggage, a past, needing love and support aren’t really welcomed.  Aren’t we supposed to be outgoing, partying, funny, bouncy and always happy? In some ways many gay men face these issues, I could quote more mental health stats and the routes of these issues are reasonably clear to me. When you grow up in a heterosexist society and yes things are getting better but there are still people out there saying how “wrong” we are, how we don’t deserve equality etc? This has affects that’s not rocket science. However when it comes down to my gay and bisexual brothers taking their lives , whether they are a porn star, a teen or gay rights activist they all deserve acknowledging , their stories shared and everyone working to reducing the number of gay men who attempt suicide or who sadly succeed. 

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The Drugs don’t work

Well, In the gay media recently has been the reported deaths of gay men due to drug overdoses (GHB). This is more common than many people may realise or want to face. Over a weekend Hospitals in the area of Vauxhall in London regularly see gay men end up in Accident and Emergency due to either drug overdoses or mixing drugs and or alcohol that doesn’t mix. Why is this important you may ask?

Well research from The Lesbian and Gay Foundation in Manchester has found that gay men are something like TEN TIMES more likely, than heterosexual men to have taken a class A substance in the last six months now this is shocking statistic and if like usage or crack and or heroin which is linked to crime, we saw similar increase in gay men committing crime then maybe we would see more action from Government and Drug and Alcohol services (yes there are some e.g. Antidote in London) that are doing good work! Also some indications are now coming through that more gay men are developing physical dependency to some recreational drugs ( GBL) this means that there needs to be a prescribed medical solution as well as a counseling intervention, so like with heroin where (methadone). However there is no real strategy like there is with heroin to tackle this! And as I have said numbers are increasing, leave aside Meow, Mcat, MDMA, E, Coke, Ketamine and Crystal Meth. The usual drug of choice for gay men.

Now I am no prude and I have myself dabbled in partying and using Class A’s however I always knew when enough was enough and only ever experienced two times when I had bad experiences of paranoia, panic attacks or basically losing control of my physical and mental senses. I have however seen many men who have and ask the A&E folk, or people who have done outreach in the clubs in Vauxhall how many they see over a course of a weekend.

Now  I came out in the 1990s when Gay Clubbing really took off and when you could party from Friday night to Monday morning with out stopping. When E’s cost £15 (THEY NOW COST £5 at most!) When we started to see things change politically, legally and socially for gay men, we were more visible and the gay media really started to take off and also more people were flirting with the Pink Pound and realized we, well some of us had money to spend! Also at the time treatment for HIV really started to improve and gay men with HIV were starting to live longer and healthier. Why I am mentioning this, well all of this in my mind has sown the seeds of where we are today!

I would say that most people would agree that high degree of class A drug use amongst gay men is an indicator that something is amiss somewhere, also the link with risky sexual behaviour and drug use as well, I have known guys who have spent 36 hours in a sauna off their faces and have no idea of who they had sex with and what they have done. I am not saying that everyone who uses class A’s has issues or needs some kind of help. However there is clearly an issue here, why when we are now almost treated completely equal are so many men engaging in self harming behaviour as in some regards what this is, is self harm? The UK has the LGB&T equality rating in Europe! Yet this issue remains along with rates of HIV that aren’t going down!

So how has this come about! Well for me I see this has having several roots. As a community we’re still healing from effects of growing up in a heterosexist and to some degree homophobic society, The demon of HIV doesn’t seem so bad now to many gay men. We have a gay media that perpetuates a stereotype of a gay lifestyle revolving around looking muscle, having loads of sex and being out all the time on the gay scene, we have saunas open 24 hours a day, Mobile phone apps that allow us to hook up with any random bloke any time of the day, we have services that are still not aware of the needs of gay and bisexual men. I know now there is an issue with gay men feeling comfortable with telling a sexual health nurse that at the weekend they fucked by 10 men and had two fists up their arse!

The issue of the gay media and the stereotypes of what sexy gay men look like and how the currency gay men can use to judge their worth being sex can be quite damaging to oneself esteem especially if the one place you go to, to feel safe is the gay scene. And on that gay scene drug use Is prolific and a lot of that drug use is during sex. So you can perhaps see we have a nice little cycle their!

Then on to Social media apps and the ability to hook up, which increases the chances of getting sex. Just the other day I was chatting to a guy to was so complimentary to me, About how sexy I was, How interesting I seemed, until he asked me if I did Tina when I replied No, he stopped messaging me, so again here is the push for men to feel pressurized to try and experiment with drugs in order to feel accepted and part of something or to feel that they will be loved, found sexy by another man!

With issue of HIV of many men feeling it’s not as bigger deal as it was say in the late 80s and early 90s, when at that time 100s of gay men were dying every year from HIV related condition and today that total! So the more risk taking and feeling that it’s not an issue. Again I must be asked by perhaps one in ten of the guys who message me if I bareback and they usually ask if I do Chems as well!

If all of this isn’t challenging enough the people who provide drug services are mostly unaware of all of this. I do do training courses in awareness and have done so with drug and alcohol workers who most of them don’t know that for example gay men are TEN TIMES more likely to have taken a class A in the last six months!

Of course the responsibility lies in a few places, with gay men to seek support, support each other and perhaps think about our behaviour and the messages we have just accepted and bought into. Into gay media for being so focused on specific types of gay men and gay lifestyles, On services not being as aware as they could be of our needs and issues. There may be not be a correlation between drug use and gay men committing crimes however evidence is indicating higher levels of dependency and addiction. So something has to be done

This is a huge issue and as I started to write this it become more obvious that I had a lot to say on this! At the end of day I just want to feel that life is happier and healthier for me and for my gay and bisexual brotherhood. We are all in this together so to speak so we have some responsibility to make things better and reduce or eliminate the numbers of gay men who end up in causality or worse dead!

Jakeb

 

 

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