CHRISTANIA: Hi, I’m christania, the corpse that talks
ALEXIS: And hello from me, Alexis the sentient off-cuts of Cher’s plastic surgery, and welcome back to Qmmunity!
CHRISTANIA: As a society we are obsessed with youth, no one ever thinks about getting older and when they do, they think about it negatively. In some societies and cultures elders are respected and revered but that is definitely not the case within the LGBTQ community. Intergenerational conversations and relations are rare. That’s why today we are sharing two conversations that we had with people from the scene, Mzz Kimberley and David Stuart - both are people who have observed, learned and watched our nature over a number of years.
ALEXIS: We want to share these talks with you, and share their observations of how our queer society has changed over the years to give some emotion and personal experience to our joined history and journey. Our second interview, with David, is emotional, so you might want to have a tissue ready for that one - but now we invite you to listen to our conversation with Mzz Kimberley. Beyond a doubt, she was the most fun moment of recording this series - she came in with a riot of smiles and camp dazzlement. In the flesh, she’s one of those rare people who exude that special something that makes you want to pay attention. And when you listen, picture her with a playful smile on her face, gesticulating with brightly manicured nails & glamorous jewellery. Here she is -
MZZ KIMBERLEY: My name is Mzz Kimberley. I am a actress and cabaret singer. I'm also an activist for the Trans Community. Um, I’m the, do you realise we can go on forever? I'm the head judge for gay pride. I'm the patron of clinic q. that's about what we don't want to bore your listeners
CHRISTANIA: Clinic-Q is a trans-led holistic sexual health and well-being service provider for people of the trans experience, their partners and friends. A safe, confidential space for those who might not be comfortable accessing mainstream services. According to Stonewall, 41% of trans people reported that healthcare staff lacked understanding of specific trans needs - so you can see why there is a need for trans oriented health services & providers. Back to Mzz Kimberley as she begins to tell her story...
MZZ KIMBERLEY: I grew up in America, but I'm really not American. If you just look at me, I may sound terribly American, but I’m really not American. I can remember my first day arriving to London someone came and asked me directions, I'm like, excuse me, I'm not from here. I've never really been your typical American. So the reason why I'm saying that is because when I was young, my grandmother used to have these magazines there, Ebony magazine, which is a black publication for the black community and they had two pictures in there of. One was that Grace Jones and one was Andy Warhol and I was so turned on by these photos, don’t know what they did had no idea. But I related them as being someone that came from a different place at five years old and I didn't really know about Europe and everything. Anyway, I followed them and follow up them and I learned more about them. They're both, not European, but they were the closest thing I had to that European connection because they were so different. And growing up I, you know, and doing lots of research on Europe, everyone was so different. You know, you guys wore funny shoes and you talk different. And I was so enthralled in that sort of life, you know, when you put something so much in the uh, universe sort of cubs true. I just kinda like was growing up thinking I'm going to live there, I'm going to live in Europe. Not knowing that I was actually going to live in London, but I knew I would live somewhere in Europe.
CHRISTANIA: And she did end up living in Europe, making London her home. We asked her what LGBTQ life was like back then, what the biggest differences between 80s queer life and the modern day scene experience.
MZZ KIMBERLEY: You know, when I first there, there's one thing I always remember and the gay scene, everyone wore black, which was really funny. That was a, that was kind of the thing back in the 80s I think people were a lot more together, you know, I had a club, the powder room, and in the powder room it was everyone hanging out together. Male and female trans. We had the butch lesbians, we had twinks, we had the muscle, gay man. We had all aspects of the LGBT community, black and white, Chinese, everything. We all hung out together. And now it seems like everyone is spread out. You know, you have other clubs now that they don't like this type of person coming in, that type of person come in and it's a shame because it's so spread out and no one's together anymore, which is quite sad. Saying that it's not everybody on the LGBT scene.
ALEXIS: Mzz Kimberley isn’t alone in this sentiment - a lot of older LGBTQ people express a sadness at the way that nightlife and wider queer culture has spread out and stopped coming together as one - citing that with it, has been a loss of cohesion and solidarity. One thing that’s important to say though...this problem feels particularly bad in big cities. Some things that I love about Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh are the way that the LGBTQ scene and community feels a lot more cohesive and less segregated and exclusive. She continues to talk about about nightlife, and why the change in the way queer people collect and congregate worries her and makes her feel sad…
MZZ KIMBERLEY: Because people are not learning to live with each other, not learning to respect each other, not supporting each other like they used to in the past and in the world is so much going on in the world with Donald trump and him separating the world and separating what's going on in America and then you have BREXIT here is like, you know, the gay scene wasn't really all about that really. The gay scene was always about us coming together and fighting for social justice together and you know, there's lots of transphobia on the gay scene, which is really quite sad. You know, you have some gay men who just hate drag queens and just hate the trans community. You have some lesbians who who are called TERFS and they really hate the trans community and it's just like, where is all this coming from? That was never the gay scene and I find it sad. I find it really sad and I love the younger community, especially the younger queer community. They're so creative and they're just so much fun to be with, but I also find some of them quite disrespectful to the older queens as well. I've had a few incidents where they think they could talk to me in a in a certain manner. I'm like, wait a minute, honey, do you know who you're talking to? I have been here on this scene for years and years and years. I've helped pave the way so you could be here doing what you're doing now and it's a shame we've just lost respect for each other, but it's not everybody, but there is a great portion of the LGBT community that are just lost. They don't know their history and I guess it's up to us older people to try to educate the younger ones.
CHRISTANIA: I found this point really interesting because, what has changed so much in the scene over the last 30 years to make it more fragmented? Personally, I think that people have recently been more vocal about things like racism, femme-phobia and transphobia so they’ve created their own spaces in order to feel safer. But I know for a fact that black only LGBTQ spaces and publications existed in London before. I can’t simply accept that the LGBTQ scene was a utopia but I suppose they were fighting a different fight back then.
She goes on to describe the role & responsibility of LGBTQ culture & media to educate on our collective history and identity
MZZ KIMBERLEY: I just finished this musical called Closets and I was so happy to do this musical because it was a SciFi and I traveled through time with these two characters. One character was set and the eighties and it talked about issues that the gay community went through in the eighties and it aids was the biggest subject in the eighties. Then it came to 2017. It was his focus was basically being bullied at school and then they get back into the closet and they traveled to 1969 and then they learned about what I was going through and I traveled with them and there was a funny moment where we go to gay pride and because I'm in 1969, I have no idea what a gay pride is, you know. So the reason why I'm telling you about this because it's a piece of history that I wish all of the LGBT community could see that they don't have their history. A lot of these people, and I think if they did maybe have their history, even some of the older ones as well, even, you know, some of them maybe don't appreciate what we've gone through. Maybe, I don't know. I don't know, but I think if we looked at our history a bit more, how far we've come and what's going on in the rest of the world, like in Africa and Russia and all these other places. My God, you went to see those people in the LGBTQ community fighting with each other, but I think here in the West we're spoiled. We're spoiled and it's a shame.
I have noticed with a lot of young people is what I do love them. They really. Some of them do drive me crazy sometimes. Um, you know, I had a song that I used to sing, I'm a tranny and they had these young people say, you shouldn't sing that song. Whoa, wait a minute. Do you actually know the history about the word tranny? You know, so, so you have a lot of people who think they know more about what's going on and they don't really know.
CHRISTANIA: Mzz Kimberley isn’t alone in this experience - the argument over language use within the community, has been raging for years. In 2014, legendary SanFranciscan drag club Tranny-Shack changed its name to T-Shack, citing public pressure over the changing meaning of the word. famously, RuPaul, one of the world’s most famous drag super-star, who has expressed some very problematic views on trans people, also hit back at the politicisation & policing of language and words by younger LGBTQ people. We asked Mzz Kimberley to explain some of the history of the controversial t-word, a label she uses for herself, and about the growing policing of language
MZZ KIMBERLEY: I am not the best person. You've caught me off guard there. Okay. Back in the day, a lot of heterosexual people use the word tranny towards the transgender community to cause offence basically Now, the way I see it, the word tranny for me is like the n word in the black community. A lot of the Trans community have taken that word back and they're like, you're not going to hurt us with that word. However, before going back way, way, way back before I was even born, the Trans community used that word tranny, it was just a normal word, but the heterosexual community took that word and made it offensive. There's your history, There's a lot of judgment going on at the moment. A lot. I've been on a few panels, which I've actually stopped going on now where they want it to, to discuss Paris Is Burning and I notice you have these young scholars, very educated given their views and I'm like, Oh my God, I'm just like horrified. Well, they should have did this and they should have did that and they should have did this and blah blah, blah. I'm like, well Gosh. Were you actually living back there in the 80s? Do you know how hard things were for these people?
ALEXIS: As a whole, I don’t think we younger LGBTQ people really take this into consideration enough. It is easy for us, in our modern day relative comfort, safety and security and look back and comment on LGBTQ campaigns before our time, or to dismiss older people. There’s a reason for the famous phrase “the arrogance of youth” - and we’ve all fallen for it at some point. But the reality is...we have no place to judge. People were literally fighting for their lives. We can read and research on the internet, we can form very nuanced and intellectual views, argue on twitter and criticise those who don’t agree...but we can only do that because of the trailblazers that went before us. How we find a balance between respecting our elders, keeping consideration and gratitude for their hard work and bravery, while also moving conversations and thinking forward is a difficult one...I don’t have the answers, but as Mzz Kimberley touched upon...I think it’s got a lot to do with how we engage and whether we give the benefit of the doubt or not. There is one thing that we should keep in mind -
MZZ KIMBERLEY: that a lot of the, uh, older people fought hard. I would never disrespect anyone older than me. Never because they have more life experience. They've seen things and they should be respected. They should be.
CHRISTANIA: We asked about how the younger & older ends of LGBT life should come together, and what happens when we don’t…
MZZ KIMBERLEY: You have this ageism thing, you know, going on, you know, um, I don't know. It's like a, you have some. Well, some younger people are scared to talk to older people. You have some older people's care to talk to younger people as well, you know, I think like on the cabaret scene as well, I mean it should be a mixed of older and younger in a nightclub, so she'll be older. Younger should be everyone. For me, I'm like everyone coming together. That's what I'm all about. You know, everyone coming together, black, white, Chinese, Muslim, Christian, whatever. Atheists. I'm about everyone coming together. My thing is if you're a nice person, we're going to hang out. Whether you're like the king of England or a Dustman.
We need to come together because the fight, we still have a fight. We still have a fight. We're so spoiled here and we have so much opportunity, but there's still a fight and it could be taken away just like that. They have no clue. I mean, could you imagine if like certain people got into power here and they were fighting in America, Donald Trump, look what he's done. He's trying to stop the trans community in the military from having their, their medication. I mean you just don't know things. Anything can be taken away from you at the spare of the moment, so it's always good to to keep together because if we're together we're stronger and that's not just only the gay community but different minorities as well coming together as well. God, I sound like I'm preaching.
You know, when I was coming up I was very happy to be and the LGBT community. I'm not so happy about it right now. Not at the moment that is going to change. I just think there's a lot of issues we have to sort out with within our community. We have to have lots of racism, transphobia, right in our community that we're not supposed...we’re better than that. We're better than that. You know?
CHRISTANIA: I asked whether she thought these issues were new problems, or whether they had been around for a long time...
MZZ KIMBERLEY: You know, someone said to me, Oh, it was always there. Maybe it was, but it was more controlled. It was definitely more controlled. You didn't have people fighting against each other, each other like they do these days. I do know here in this country that you have this class system as well that's going on, that's just like you have loads of scenarios, you know, you have the well educated only and when I hang out with the well educated, you have the say, the druggies only want to hang out with the druggies, the, you know, you have all these people who just want to hang out with each other and it's, it's of sad that we can’t come together.
CHRISTANIA: perhaps we younger people can take it all a bit for granted, so we asked what finding a place in queer life meant for her when she first found her place.
MZZ KIMBERLEY: you were in heaven basically, you know being able to be who you are. You know a lot of people take for granted um breathing. When you can breathe, you become so happy. There's something that lifts this out of your body a little bit. I'm trying to find the words, but breathing is. Yeah, everyone takes breathing for granted. When you can breathe, it's the most wonderful experience. Not being able to hide. Just be who you are. So important. I think that's the reason why there's so much anger. I think society are angry. So many angry people out there because they're not allowed to be who they are. Even in the heterosexual community, you know, you must marry this type of woman. You must do this. You must do that. No one's allowed to be who they are.
CHRISTANIA: As we continued our conversation, we then began talking about the changes in LGBTQ visibility, and whether greater public acceptance posed a threat to the integrity of our own subculture
MZZ KIMBERLEY: Do you know that's quite a difficult one because you know, the drag scene transgender people have always been you know as good a transgender woman I'll tell you from my experience as a transgender woman, there's always been transgender people performing. It goes back to the thirties, forties and fifties. It's always been there. It's just now that people are becoming a little bit more open about it now. And you have people coming out of the woodwork saying, well actually I'm transgendered is there's a few Hollywood stars, like even on Broadway, like Alexander Billing, she's been on Broadway for years. No one really questioned it really, but now because it's become more acceptable to be out and trans...I personally don't think so. You know, there's a movie that's doing well. It's not a movie. It's a television series or is I think it's Netflix or something called POSE yeah, I haven't seen it yet. You know, it's becoming mainstream, but it's about our history, you know? So I, I really hope that can...I hope a lot of people can see that, you know, here in the UK and that's becoming mainstream. So I know we're not going to lose it, lose it. I don't think so. People are more interested these days. You know, going back to the musical, I was doing people, you know, I've never done a performance where I, uh, we had a standing ovation every performance, that's the first time ever in my career because people are interested. They want to know about history.
ALEXIS: For Mzz Kimberley, the strength and the positives of the gay scene are definitely not lost. A few years ago, her community rallied around her and helped to fund raise money for her transition.
MZZ KIMBERLEY: My lovely, lovely, lovely friend, Johnny Woo, who runs the glory, basically did a Boob-A-Thon for me. Boob-a-thon is basically, it's a whole day of shows. We had a whole day of all my friends performing and Johnny Woo and um, Ma Butcher, they did a gay Bingo and it just went on all day. It was so funny. By the end of it I was so tired. But um, yeah, people came in and uh, we had auctions and yeah, it was just, it was just a fun day, which is our friends all coming to my friends coming together, my, my friends and new friends who I met as well, especially being, you know, I'm from America, you know, having, you know, um, the English community coming together to. They cared about me so much. They want me to help me fulfil my dream. And there was the most wonderful experience was in tears by the end of it because it was so beautiful that people took out their time of the day to say, hey, we're going to come and perform for you. It was wonderful and I actually want to do it for someone else actually. So I'm, I'm looking for, uh, either trans or a trans man or trans woman. So that's what I'm hoping to do more, you know, to help other people fulfil their dreams
CHRISTANIA: as we wrapped up the interview, we asked her two simple questions...what being LGBTQ meant to her, and what was one thing she wanted us all to start doing more of, so we could build a better future
MZZ KIMBERLEY: Just free to be me...who I am. Not Afraid. You know? I'm not going to go into anywhere and hide the fact that I'm a trans woman, being able to walk the streets and just be me, be free.
ALEXIS: what do you take away from our conversation with Mzz Kimberley?
CHRISTANIA: I am so glad that we got the opportunity to meet with Mzz Kimberley, she has a brilliant personality and a very good aurora around her. it was incredible to hear more about the scene back in the day and her perspective on how things have changed. A recurring theme during this entire process has been that, we need to know where we’re from to know where we’re going and I genuinely believe that we need to engage with our elders to get a greater understanding and respect for the trailblazers that came before us. I’m not even talking about activists, I just mean people that decided to live loudly in their truth. She spoke a lot about unity and although that has not been my experience thus far, I hope that perhaps it can be, one day.
ALEXIS: I loved our conversation with her - not just because she was so fun to be around. I’ve thought for a long time that we’re all moving away from each other, becoming more cut off and society is slipping...so hearing that she believes there was once a time when we were more integrated, collective and supportive made me feel like I wasn’t a naive day dreamer, just wishing I could bake everyone a cake made out of rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy. While it obviously wasn’t perfect in the past...we might have lost something with progress.
CHRISTANIA: Next, we speak to David Stuart, an international advocate and activist for sexual health and sexual enjoyment.
ALEXIS: I was lucky enough to sit with David, who is just a very generous and positive soul. The conversation went to a very deep, and beautiful place incredibly quickly, there were times where I had to try so hard to not cry-sniffle and ruin the audio! I think what David says, is so special, and very raw in its honesty...but enough from us...here he is.
DAVID: I'm David Stewart, I have got a proper job, but I've got lots of lots of jobs. I think I'm an advocate for gay men, particularly sexual wellbeing, sexual health, HIV community engagement, and I'm a big campaigner for better gay lives, better gay sex, better gay community.
CHRISTANIA: The first question to him, was asking about the biggest issues facing LGBTQ people today
DAVID: Ourselves tearing each other apart. That's what I see as the greatest threat…
Unkindness, a best friend died only less than, less than a week ago, and I just know that grief and bereavement is a time of change. High emotions and relationships that you had of all kinds were in flux and you can't really trust the stability of anything at the time, so I kind of see what gay men have gone through. I could say the last 500 years, but I could focus it down to 50, 60 years and we're talking about stonewall. We're talking about being gay, being illegal. We're talking about Oscar Wilde being blackmailed and put in prison, and we're talking about Alan Turing being castrated and imprisoned. We're talking about cottaging and being arrested in toilets when you actually couldn't find sex or dates or love or gay men anywhere else. We're talking about the legacy of those arrests. People of my generation. I'm 52 who still have criminal records for meeting someone in a toilet which makes them criminals for looking for love. Then there's the aids epidemic and then there's the fact that it seemed to my generation, every cisgendered white, heterosexual male hated everything about me and I and my generation created this mask culture to survive, to not be rejected, to be loved by our dads, to not be hated by another, to not be rejected by our families, to not be bullied in school, and that's unraveling. now, thankfully, and I mentioned the AIDS epidemic, I can't emphasise how that turned gay sex from something joyful into something deadly and dangerous and risky. That's a huge thing, and then there's changing societal attitudes. There's yes, we have great gay prides now where heterosexual. Cisgendered white men wave rainbow flags at us as long as we don't talk to them about the sex we're having, but we are having gay sex and it's normal and it's nice and it's lovely and it's fun and it's gorgeous and so just because we can have pride marches and work in the army and get jobs in the air force doesn't mean that all those people that hate the sex we're having aren't still in our heads and in up bedrooms and in our saunas and in our love lives.
That our 60 years. Oh my gosh. This stuff that's packed into that you've got a community of gay men that's grieving because a whole generation was lost to aids. You've got a generation of people who were unraveling concepts of masculinity and femininity, which are born and created out of fear and survival and coping. It's like grief for me, it's like a time of flux. I don't know how any population can come through that unscathed, hating each other on Grindr, rejecting each other cruelly, at war over what mask for mask equals versus queer culture versus racial norms and rejections of racial and body image issues and body fascism on Grindr that would be outrageously inappropriate in the real world in Inverted commas. Of course we're at war with each other. We're grieving and trying to come to terms with the difficult few decades, so because I'm in a good place long may it last. I will allow my community to grieve and be kind with it rather than hate everyone that disagrees with me. Bitch them on facebook, blocked them on Grindr, yell at them at panel events and discussions...such as yours. I will try to encourage kind dialogue at all times. I don't know we're not all capable of that, but if I can set an example of that and if I can just aim to do that myself. I'm a big fan of your podcast because you're aiming to do the same thing. That's the point of today. It can save us.
ALEXIS: David caught me off guard and asked me a personal question, whether I’d ever grieved. At first, I didn’t understand, but as he asked me about the loss in my life, I began to connect the dots in what he was saying - when I lost someone close to me, in very sad circumstances, it un-bottled other deep wells of anger and hurt in me, and set me off on a negative path that took quite a while to burn out, and the times when I’ve been the most hurt in my life...shamefully, have also been the times when I’ve been the most hurtful. Are we experiencing that collectively? Are we, or have we, singularly or collectively grieved for the many countless wrongs that were done to us, the shame and homophobia we endured, as well as the people we lost?
DAVID: All change brings new eras and we've had so many new eras in the last few decades. We've had quite a number of new eras. Yes. Is the answer. The great advantage of awful times, If these are awful times, it sounds a bit bleak, I know, but there is a lot of fractures within the community and we're trying to figure a lot of stuff out, including what does gay sexual liberation mean? What does safer sex mean in in an age of prep when we spent so many decades relying on condoms to save our lives and now there's another method which deprioritises condoms at least in regard to HIV and we're at war over that, but wherever there is war and flux and change, there's opportunity to steer things in a nice direction.
There's a brilliant activism movement happening around Soho at the moment, which is kind of that gentrification is kind of about, you know, Starbucks popping up in places where they used to be some awesome sex club and stuff like that and there's a lot of activism around, a lot of anger around gentrification, around globalisation as if the world is falling apart and I've kind of lived in Soho for Gosh, 30 something years and I've seen lots of things changed and I actually remember that the sex on premise culture that Soho had wasn't a lovely romantic sexually liberated place. It was a place where women were exploited...awfully by men in regard to sex and sex working and dancing and things like that. It is a time of change. It doesn't have to be all a bad thing. You can see that change if steered in the right direction can bring about something good as long as there's plenty of dialogue. So in regard to our community, there's so much change which looks to a lot of us like it could self destruct at any minute and when I say it looks like it can self destruct, I'm talking about a phenomenal rising addiction problems. We've got chemsex, which is my area of expertise.
ALEXIS: David just used the term chemsex - for those who are unaware of what that term means, chemsex refers to an increasing modern phenomena where gay men inject or smoke drugs communally and engage in group sex acts while high. Potential theories as to why this trend grew so rapidly among many gay men around the world, although obviously not all, was that the drugs people do have the joint effects of not just increasing libido, but also lowering inhibitions - allowing people to feel a connection that they felt unable or afraid to make while sober…
We've got kind of people who are engaging in a hookup culture and a very self destructive way, almost using sex, like a weapon or as a tool to fix things that it's not going to be fixed that way. They lead to harms and infections were trying to manage all of this with kindness, but at a time of change it's easy to be scared by how things can go wrong and it was easy to be angry and it can seem like everything's falling apart, but they're actually brilliant opportunities for change to steer things in the direction which can be better for all of us.
I'm kind of lovey and fluffy about this...charity starts at home. I know what I'm capable of. I'm lucky I have a great job and certain skills and I've been supported in those and I know what I'm good at and I'm capable of affecting great change, but even if I wasn't, it starts here with me and I'm clutching my heart here. I've been an awful gay men in my time. I have been unkind. I've had condom-less sex as an infectious person. I've had...there’ve been consequences to that. I've been a drug dealer. I've taken prolific amounts of drugs. I've given drugs to people who couldn't handle them. I've been arrested for drug dealing. I've moved That was a long time ago. I do need to justify this everyday I do and what I'm going to do, but I just to look after myself, look after my mental health, try to think of a bigger picture. Now I'm going to look after me. I'm going to look, be aware of my mental health and when I need nurturing, I'm going to talk to my friends about it. When I'm in a good place, I can be kind and I can be kinder to others who are self destructing, so it always starts. How do we fix the fractures within our community? It starts with us. Be Kinder to yourself first, look after yourself and your mental health when you're in a good place. Then you can be kinder in bed. You can be kinder on twitter, you can be kinder in the bar, and you can be kinder everywhere and that's how you fix it. It sounds so simple and fluffy, but when I say self destructing with being kinder in beard, I mean a lot of us can go to bed with someone that we might find in hookup culture because we're lonely because we're horny. We might be aware, hyper-vigilantly aware that this could go wrong. I could make a fool of myself, I could be awfully rejected. I could make me feel ugly. Uh, this could not work out and rejections like that, unless you’re quite robust, they can be really devastating. So we developed these brilliant tools to avoid that rejection. We knew how to do these great performance sex, we know how to please the other person to be attentive to the other person needs. And it somewhere along the way we can forget about what we want or communicating how we're feeling to the other person. There's nothing worse than being a bed with someone to perform something and not even telling them how you feel because that's what leads to a callus forming over our emotions. it does step by step, lead to unkindness and defensiveness and these sexual experiences which seem connected but actually aren't.
We’ve talked about a lot of change and a lot of self harm within our community. One of the new ones we're seeing, which is a little harder to recognise, is the self destruction with sex. It's also difficult to talk about it because we gay men fought so hard for gay sex to be different, to have different kinds of relationships and it's interesting that one of the in 19 early AIDS epidemic. So we're talking 82, 83, maybe 84. Some guys got together in New York. One was a sex worker, he's a pal of mine. One was a great doctor, also a pal of mine, and another person who did die of aids many years ago, unfortunately, I didn't know him, so, were learning what aids is and I say, well, learning what HIV is and how it's transmitted, they got together to write the first safest six guide. It was a book of essentially like at the very cutting edge of nobody knows, can you catch it from a glass of water? Can you catch it from kissing? As we were just learning this, had no one ever said, this is how you do it safely. No one knew and it was panic moment. These three guys got together and created a book called How to Have Sex in an Epidemic.
CHRISTANIA: How to Have Sex in an Epidemic was a 1983 book by Richard Berkowitz, Michael Callen and Joseph Sonnabend which was published to educate men who have sex with men about how to avoid catching HIV. Published at the start of the AIDS crisis, it was one of the first publications on the advent of modern day safe sex.
DAVID: It was brilliant. It's history. It's brilliant now, but. And part of our history, but interestingly they got 40 pages or so in after many, many months work and realised they hadn't mentioned the word love once, so they...right back to the drawing board. Our sex lives have been changed by technology and hookup culture. It's been changed by the kind of fast food clickbait energy that technology delivers. It's been affected by our attention spans, which is affected by technology. It's been affected by the AIDS epidemic and it's been affected by the PR that we do on our profiles. We’re PRing our sex lives too, so there is a new epidemic happening that is not so much about chemsex or drugs although it's connected.
It's not so much about HIV although it's connected. It's not so much about STIs, although it's connected to. It's about having a look again at what gay sexual liberation means and the role that sex plays in our lives without ruining the sex positivity that we've been fighting for and for different gay sex and bum six and shit on dick sex, apologies, but all of that stuff to be completely as revalled and enjoyed by heterosexuals. For them to be happy that we're doing that, but at the same time looking at you can use sex as a self destruction tool and the number of gay men that are doing that is growing and you see guys get on this treadmill at age 15 or 16 and they see your instagram account. It looks awesome. They see other people's instagrams account. They see Grindr and they see everything and they learned this lesson that if I'm sexy everything will be okay. If I'm sexy I'll be popular. If I'm sexy, I will be loved. If I'm sexy, everything will be okay of the dance floor. If I'm sexyI won't be alone. If I'm sexy, I can walk into that bar and be okay. If I'm sexy the right clothes suit me. If I'm sexy, everything will work out. If I'm sexy, I will be loved and not alone, essentially, and it's not a real sexiness and they go on and they'll look for it and they'll look for it and they perform it and they learn it and they grew image and they practice it and they display it and they peacock it and 10 years later they’re falling off this treadmill. Sometimes it was a drug problem or sometimes with an HIV diagnosis and really struggling to work out I thought that would fix everything and it hasn't and I'm 33 and I don't know what's happening in the world...it’s awful.
CHRISTANIA: David goes on to talk about the the need for authenticity, and for deep, meaningful conversations to be had between gay men...but I think that everyone in the LGBTQ spectrum needs to follow and have similar conversations.
DAVID: We were able to perform that. We were able to develop popularity and if we didn't have, I'm not talking about less attractive, I'm talking about we knew how to pr things and we got by it and even we struggled. We have to talk to each other authentically. There aren't enough real conversations happening between gay men. I think I mentioned in my introduction, I traveled the world a lot and I've talked to him in and I hear people sit down with me and they'd tell me David I get nervous taking my clothes off with a stranger shhh, don't tell, but it's real or I’m performing sectors sometimes and not really feeling it or fearing rejection and I'm very honoured and privileged that they're telling me this and I'd tell them that I'm grateful, but I asked them, why are you telling me tell the person you're in bed with? And they go, oh, I couldn't do that. I really hope you're talking to your friends about it. Oh, we don't really talk about those things. Gosh, I hope you're talking to your mum or your sister about or we don't talk about that. I didn't even ask about his dad. Cause sometimes I might be the only person they're telling that to and I'm talking in the tens of thousands of guys around the world, but I have not having these authentic conversations. So it's my..while I am well while my mental health is good, while I have an opportunity to meet with people like you who are changing things with your podcasts and your panel events and putting the dialogue and an authenticity back into these conversations.
You asked me what we can do - this is what I will do. I will be kinder in bed, I will make sure that the person in bed with me is being authentic, I will create a space for him to tell me that he’s not in the mood, or that he doesn’t want to perform sex right now or that he’s nervous. If I sit down for coffee with you, I will make damn sure that an authentic conversation about my vulnerability so that you know you can tell me yours and so that we can be real. And that, as lovey and fluffy as it sounds, is how we mend things. It starts very much at home and in our hearts
ALEXIS: And that was our conversation with David Stuart, we had to end there as by this point the tears in my eyes had welled over. It’s so raw, and so deep, because how many of us have not had these kindnesses extended to us and been pushed into moments where we have had to perform or disconnect just because we thought that’s what we had to do, and how many of us have also unwittingly created environments that have been detrimental to the spirits of the people we’re with. I can’t say it any better than David, so I’m going to stop now and just...compose myself and let his words be.
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