What we have known about Chemfun is wrong!!
Before I left my job moving to Canada in 2008, I worked with DimSum on a campaign, called “Flying High, Landing Safe.” It disseminated information about effects and possible harms associated with different drugs, such as Ketamine and Ecstasy. It also introduced means to reduce the harms if using drugs.
Later, I received news from Hong Kong ex-colleagues that a politician convened a press conference complaining the campaign was “promoting” drug use. The campaign website then got taken down – R.I.P.
It now has been almost ten years from that campaign, and drug use among gay men is even more visible. The occasion for drug use has also changed. Gay men no longer take drugs for dance, but mainly for sex. Meth has replaced Ecstasy and Ketamine to become the most popular drug.
I recalled a discussion with my supervisor about ten years ago that if meth became popular one day, the HIV infection among gay men would get worse- Meth is highly associated with effects on sex, and is more likely to be addicting.
Learning from frontline workers’ sharing, a significant number of gay men who have recently been infected with HIV these days had experienced using meth.
With respect to the cause of addiction, studies show that the chemical nature of the drugs itself definitely plays a part. Nonetheless, the relationship is not necessarily that simplistic. Some scholars examined this topic from different perspectives, and asserted that there were myths around addiction. What we have known about the reasons of addiction is actually wrong.
A few experiments and real life experiences indicate the existence of some “human/environmental” factors related to addiction:
- When a mouse was kept in an empty cage with only two bottles of water respectively containing heroine and none, the mouse eventually became addicted to the former water. However, when a mouse was kept in a cage with games like those in an amusement park besides the two same kinds of water, the mouse was not addicted to the heroine water anymore.
- During the Vietnam War, 20% of the dispatched U.S. soldiers regularly used heroine during their mission. However, upon their return to home after the war, many of them could easily quit the use without assistance from any rehabilitation services.
- For those people who had been injected with morphine painkillers, such as during your mother’s giving birth to you, they did not turn out to be a drug addict (or mommy) after their discharge.
The “human/environmental” factor is about whether people can establish “bonding(intimacy)” with the environment or people around them. That is, when the mouse was highly occupied by games, those U.S. soldiers were back to their normal lives and relationships, or your mother found you such a lovely and cute baby, the drug excitement was no longer that attractive to any of them. They therefore did not become an addict or could quit easily.
With this regard, to gay men who have become addicted to drugs, we cannot simply blame them being “hedonistic/adventurous,” “ignorant,” and “weak to resist.”Instead, we need to learn about these gay men’s bonding with others and things happening in their lives.
After years of fighting, LGBT populations in Hong Kong still have not secured legal protection of their equal rights, which are continuously attacked by those self-righteous organizations and politicians (like haunted ghosts!!). Meanwhile, those “exclusion” values and mindsets from the mainstream are further amplified in the gay culture. Gay men judge and alienate each other based on attributes like age, body type, and masculinity/sissiness (check out “No fat, No old”).
Some gay men like joining home parties for the reason that people that are high would get more sociable and friendlier. They can have more personal conversations, which is the intimacy with other gay men they enjoy!!
These days, gay men’s access to drugs is very handy (literally only need a phone in hands). It is not like the time when party drugs were popular. Gay men needed to stay awake all night to those dance parties, and prepare a killing look beforehand (regardless it all would turn messy while dancing high!!). Gay men nowadays can stay home and get connected to chemfun 24/7, and even home delivery of drugs, men or both.
This trend shows that Hong Kong gay men these days are even more in need of an open and honest platform where information and discussions about chemfun will be delivered (I have heard cases when gay men mistook meth as shisha, and got initiated into it).
People spend time and effort concerning that knowledge about harm reduction would “promote” drug use. Why don’t we, as a member of the general public or the gay community, instead reflect on what kind of environment or human relationships have been established for gay men, which would “encourage” them to rely on drugs to fulfill their bonding needs in life? This should be where the key concern lies in.
*“Chemsex”- a documentary about gay men using drugs for sex is to be screened in the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival on 21 Sep and 24 Sep (there will be an after-screening discussion)