Being punished for being honest

punished for being honest

Funny how the world is, or should I say more specifically the gay male community or use the word community loosely.  Now I have done my fair share well a lot more than my fair share to support and help the gay male community, 25 years of either paid or voluntary work in a variety of capacities from giving out condoms on Hampstead Heath, developing or running workshops for gay men, as this in abuse services for young gay men, working in promoting sexual health and HIV awareness, challenging stigma against HIV and training  more than 700 professionals around LGBT issues and volunteering to help keep the gay village in Manchester safe.  So, I am not bragging is a really fucking hate guys who are big headed and have even bigger egos, especially if they are nowhere near get in the shit together.

I live with significant and almost constant debilitating mental health issues, leaving aside the physical health issues surrounding having a neurofibromatosis which causes me a lot of physical pain and due to the nature of having tumours on nerve endings that a visible, which elicits lots of our comments on the apps.  Anyway, these mental health issues, depression, anxiety, severe body dysmorphia and relentless suicidal thoughts and idolation.

I grew up in the Care System and recently uncovered the fact I was sadistically emotionally, physically and mentally abused between the ages of nought and five when I was eventually placed into the Care System.  I have no memory of this and it’s not rocket science to work out where my issues of self esteem come from.  I went on a quest weekend last year that helps me uncover two core limiting beliefs I have these being I am bad, and I am unlovable.  So, no shit Sherlock as to how these came about, or a wanted as a child was to be loved, cared for and nurtured.  This really didn’t happen, and the bottom line is, combining neglect and the abuse the narrative is simple little me crying out for love and attention and was punished for the which physical, emotional and mental abuse.

Anyway, I am beginning to unravel all of this in order to heal and to improve my mental health.  However, I am honest about this in my profiles because I feel was only fair to be honest as I won’t just turn up and have sex with somebody.  I still carry body dysmorphia energies around my own looks and physical appearance to the points where I often don’t feel attractive or muscly enough to have sex. Anyway it basically means I am basically ignored and guys lose patience when I say I wont just turn up and shag.

Ironically this makes almost a pariah in the gay community, I find this laughable in a way because I do believe many of my day brothers carry significant mental health issues which they mask with drinking, drug taking and sex.  I am not judging before people clutch their beads and shout slut shammer at me.  He does kind of hurt the than in the community that wants expects them more than deserves tolerance and acceptance from the straight community, that the gay community can be so judgmental and isolationary towards guys with mental health issues.  However, it won’t stop me from being honest about these because it’s all part of the healing journey.

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Be PrEPared.

So with the wider use of Prep (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) HIV transmissions amongst gay men have dropped significantly, they have decreased from 2,060 in 2014-15 to 1,700 in 2015-16, while in London there was an even steeper drop.

Where as I applaud this as a good thing, I remember the days of 1500 gay men a year in the UK dying of HIV related conditions and at the same time rampant homophobia and stigma around HIV and AIDS.

However, at the same tine there has been a rise in gay men being diagnosed with one or more STIS, now both gonorrhoea, Chlamydia and syphilis can prove to be quite nasty if un diagnosed and or untreated. All three of these can be asymptomatic in the early stages and can lead to blindness in the case of Chlamydia, not to mention if you’ve not been tested to passing it on to others. I haven’t talked about the Heps B and C neither of which is picnic.

Now the whole point of Prep is to give up condom usage, as if used correctly will stop transmission of HIV now there are some caveats here such as your partner having as lower viral load as possible and you taking the meds regularly. Now I suspect that a significant number of gay men see this as a get out of jail free card pretty much like they sae Pep. I can’t help but wonder if with that and the lack of challenging risky behaviour we are encouraging an caviar attitude to taking personal responsibility in our community after all we can take pills or inject something or snort something to make us horny (i.e. forcing sex on the mind and body) now we can take something that will prevent HIV (which is a good thing if done correctly) however if guys are repeatedly taking risks and having large no’s of sexual partners then are the various sexual health agencies and NHS services complicit in supporting men to maintain unhealthy lifestyles as the behaviour remains all we have done is reduce the risk of the behaviour and we don’t really know of the longer term issues, I am talking about 5 or 10 years usage of Prep.

Now surely, we should still be focusing on working on guys to lead healthy lives? I feel that Prep is just masking the many issues that are inherent in the gay male community that many people are afraid to address out of fear of being judgemental. Now showing concern for people engaged in risky behaviour isn’t being judgemental its being kind and caring, however a significant number of gay men are so addicted to various behaviours and so afraid of dealing with their issues that see anything short of total condolence of these behaviours is seen as homophobic and being judgemental.

Now we have in the UK and most of Europe been granted total equality with our heterosexual peers so isn’t time we stopped blaming homophobia for our communities’ shortcomings and our issues and we started to take responsibility for ourselves, beginning with sorting out our mental health.

By all means continue using PrEP, but agencies and service should also be being a little more provactive rather than just dishing pills out have some conditions attached like regualr sessions where guys talk about their sex lives and challenged when its clear they are leading unhealthy lifestyle.

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Older gay guys

So I am 48 an age that many of the younger guys balk at, I’ve heard the comments on canal street in Manchester where I live that us old guys should stay home etc., some of us also have the pressure to stay in top physical condition to fulfil “daddy” status that even at 55 we are expected to be ripped and muscular.

My generation of gay male community had a lot to deal with when we came out in the late 80s and early 90s where homophobia was rampant, and HIV was claiming in the UK 1500 gay male lives a year, that’s 4 gay men a day. Like the generations before us we were the ones out and proud at a time when we were beaten and LGB hate crime didn’t exist, so we couldn’t go to the police and if we did they would say we got what was coming to us.

Our venues had their windows smashed in, our Pride Marches were pelted with rocks and insults the police didn’t take part but stood their rock solid in their homophobia towards us and 4 of us were dying every day from a disease that the government were reluctant to respond to because it only really affected faggots and druggies. The media were against headlines of gay plague etc., Celebs and MPs outed and the community vilified as deviant and perverted and yet we prevailed we stayed strong and we fought back, those of us who were out and wanted changed marched and fought back many of us were rejected by our families banned from the funerals of our partners and turfed out of our homes as the relationship wasn’t recognized in eyes of the law.

Our generation has been through a lot, there is not a man over 35 who hasn’t lost a friend or partner through HIV, who wasn’t involved in the struggle for equality. I remember my first pride in 1992 the police were stood between us and the crowd watching some of whom on our side others not, they had a look of hatred on their faces and it was obvious they rather be arresting us and not watching us parade our filth through the streets, Even on 1992 when 10,000s of attended pride it barely got a mention In the media and that was to show the extremes the butch lesbians, drag queens etc.….

So younger guys rather than judging us and thinking we don’t belong in the community or on the gay scene get the fuck over yourselves. Actually many of us don’t want your skinny arses and boyish bodies, or your squawking as we are out drinking or your attitude to us, be thankful that we created this environment for you that your coming out was easier (mostly) thanks to us, that the fact you can mince down the street openly kiss and hold hands with your fella is down to us. So ease up on us, don’t expect us to be daddies and remain in tip top condition well into our 50s (unless we choose to) or expect us to bank roll you with a younger guy wants to be an older one. Love and accept us for who we are and what we did to create the more tolerant world we live in today (yes I know we still have a ways to go yet, trust being gay is more accepted today than it was 20 years ago)

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Black Dog

Black Dog as you may know is the reference to living with a mental health condition primarily depression, although you add more conditions really.

As gay men we are more prone to mental health issues than our str8 counterparts. Something like twice or three times more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide five or six times more likely to take class a drugs. I’d say there is fair bit of self-medicating going on in our community which isn’t revealing the true numbers of gay bi or Trans men who are struggling or living with mental health issues.

So why is it something that isn’t talked about or reported on in gay media?

So how many of us / you are self-medicating? Every Friday or Saturday night on the piss, a bottle of wine every evening, casual sex to boost your self-confidence or esteem all external things geared to make guys feel better about themselves. There is also huge pressure in our community to be the “good gay guy” having loads of sex, our partying, always happy, never talking about anything deeper than x factor or our latest shags.

In some respects having a MH issues such as depression can be more isolating than having HIV yes I said it. We are regularly reminded by organisations such as GMA, THT, and GHT etc. of the stigma that positive guys face and this good that we are as a community challenged on issues such as this. However there is almost a total silence on mental health issues. Even with chem sex and the use of Tina we are expected to show empathy and understanding in my experience with mental health that isn’t present.  Ironically in regards to chem sex MH issues and isolation are key drivers to engaging in the almost ultimate self-destruction in using Tina.

I know from experience how shitty it can be to have no invites out to events etc., to be at home contemplating ending my life because I felt so alone or the demons voices/black dogs’ voice. Were in legion with a whole barrage of why in an arsehole and the evidence being the silence and lack of social engagement with friends etc. The endless posts on Facebook of people out having fun on a night. Of course posting or talking about is a huge gay social faux par and you’ll find that people will unfollow you. I know I am not alone with that. Although I have taken steps forward to overcome all of that and not only look at the issues I have/had but deal with them too and this is no easy feat especially if you can go days without social contact while doing this.  I mean a like on a Facebook status hardly constitutes engagement does it?

Why should we fell pressure not to talk about how we really feel, maybe some of our friends feel the same and will breathe a sigh of relief as then they can share what’s really going on them too. And it may even take friendships to a deeper level too, after all as gay bi and trans men we are under enough pressure as it is from a variety of sources.

So talk, share, go the GP if need be if it’s something that is really getting to you there is no shame in admitting you need help. For me it was a good thing to do and helped me worry less about what people thought of me or why I wasn’t getting laid etc……


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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.

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