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What Is ‘Let’s Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs’?

Patrick Cash September 30, 2016

Patrick Cash writes candidly for PinkNews about bringing gay men together to talk about the real issues facing their community.

Can you remember when you first hit puberty? I was ten-years-old and the other side of the world.

Some of my Mum’s family had emigrated to Australia and, after my grandfather died, she’d taken us to visit. It was the end of their summer, and still very hot.

We were advised to nap through the strong afternoon sun, and so I was put in a room with closed shutters, lying in a bed beneath mosquito nets.

I couldn’t sleep. Whether it was the libido-enhancing sunshine, or if it was being thousands of miles away from home, a box inside my mind had been unlocked and a deluge of men had begun.

Tanned, muscular, and all with that 90s ‘curtains’ haircut the Backstreet Boys popularised. I didn’t know how to wank, but rubbing against the mattress felt great, as I guiltily imagined the unzipping of blue jeans.

To give credit to my rigidly Catholic upbringing, I valiantly tried to transform the men into beautiful women. Only then the rubbing didn’t feel as good.

Over the next couple of years puberty would hit in with a cock-filled vengeance. It was a difficult mental health plateau to navigate for a child who had no concept of ‘gay’, other than the subject of laughter in the playground, and who had been brought up to fear God.

I remember making a deal with my own mind that if I allowed myself to temporarily indulge these thoughts about David Beckham, then I would grow up to marry a woman.

The idea of telling anybody was terrifying. Throughout the manic masturbation of my teens, and into the ‘wicked’ beginnings of my sex with men, I publicly performed an accepted lust for girls. Gay sex was intertwined with being ‘wrong’.

I became extremely depressed. I’d walk into school with my head hanging down. At age fifteen I’d indulge in vivid, non-sexual fantasies about somebody turning up, maybe sitting down next to me on a park bench, and I’d be able to speak to them my truth.

Because homophobia was absolute, widespread and socially normalised: for friends, gay was ‘disgusting’, at school it was invisible, and in family it was a sin.

This ‘hiding away’ of the self during our most formative years is not uncommon for gay men.

Sadly, even for gay children hitting puberty now, I fear it’s the normalised reaction against a societal expectation to be straight.

It means growing up with vast amounts of trauma, from which mental health issues may arise: commonly, low self-worth, internalised homophobia, substance abuse, and an over-emphasis on the physical body.

I am not trying to cast aspersions on all gay men. But I know I’ve been through a number of these issues myself in my twenties. I’ve felt bad about myself and so put other gay men down, in order to give myself an illusory boost of self-esteem.

For years, I hated everything camp about gay culture. I’m still working out my alcohol intake. And when I was using substances for sex, they made what was ‘wrong’, right.

Matthew Todd writes eloquently about these issues in his recent book Straight Jacket, and chemsex expert David Stuart has a number of enlightening clips on Youtube.

If there are lingering issues with self-esteem from growing up feeling ‘wrong’, then it’s far easier to go to the gym, or buy the latest clothes, or fake tan, and make the outside beautiful, rather than try and untangle the web inside.

Here lies the Peter Pan complex too.

I went through my period of making the gym my church. It paid off and I’d go into clubs, whip off my top, and know that I’d pull. Yet I rarely saw those guys again, and I began to realise that my whole value to them was based in my body. My thoughts and fears and dreams were not necessary.

And I feel that may be true across swathes of the gay scene, from chillouts to Heaven; that we often weigh each other’s worth upon how we look.

That’s why we’ve set up a night devoted to simply speaking and listening within the gay community. It’s called Let’s Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs. It’s an open-mic where everyone who wants to speak gets five minutes, but nobody gets more than five minutes. And anybody is welcome to just listen.

Ultimately it’s an opportunity to speak what’s inside, to celebrate our true worth, and connect over what we’ve shared.

Let’sTalk About Gay Sex & Drugs – Arts’ is on Thursday 6th October from 6.30pm at Ku Klub, 30 Lisle Street, WC2H 7BA, just above Leicester Square tube. Free entry, all welcome.  

More: chemsex, Gay, Health, let's talk about sex and drugs, LGBT, Patrick Cash

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