New initiative to provide safer partying education and awareness for guys who are into guys…
Let’s be real: Sex and drugs often go hand in hand. Chemsex, or party and play, is just one of the ways in which guys who are interested in guys connect and facilitate sexual encounters with other men. Swipe through profiles on any gay hookup or dating app and you’ll come across party and play (PnP) in bios or listed as an interest.
A 2017 Squirt.org survey of over 20,000 men who have sex with men (MSM) found that 30 per cent of respondents had used drugs before or during sex.
In an effort to provide safer partying education and awareness, MAX Ottawa and ViiV Healthcare Canada have joined forces to launch Spill the Tea, a new health and wellness initiative for gay, bisexual, two-spirit, queer and other guys who are into guys, both cis and trans (GBT2Q), in the Ottawa region.
“The goal of Spill the Tea is to open conversations and decrease stigma around the use of drugs while partying and highlight the importance of STI testing and peer support for guys into guys,” said Roberto Ortiz, Executive Director of MAX Ottawa, a community-based organization that focuses on maximizing the health and wellness of GBT2Q men by educating, addressing disparities in health outcomes, and delivering activities to support overall health and wellbeing.
Partying and playing is not a new phenomenon, but it’s something very few people in the GBT2Q communities are willing to speak openly about. As a result, those searching for information about how to stay safe and practice harm reduction frequently find themselves feeling isolated, stigmatized and dismayed by the lack of available resources and support.
A recent survey completed by members of MAX’s Safer Partying Advisory Committee found that “traditional support systems aren’t there to help people who use recreational drugs for sex. Many in the gay community will shun drugs in public despite their widespread use behind closed doors. This is a new form of closet that people are in and those in that closet aren’t getting the information they need to help them stay safe and make good decisions.”
MAX, the first stand-alone GBT2Q men’s health organization in Ontario, launched the Spill the Tea campaign by packing over 1,000 condom kits during an event with local VIPs, Capital Pride representatives, ViiV staff and volunteers. The initiative is supported through ViiV Healthcare’s Positive Partnership grant program, and will feature four events throughout the year with Ottawa-based and international drag queens providing an entertaining backdrop for effective outreach. The first Spill the Tea event will be hosted by Shea Coulee, a top four contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race on August 23 at The 27 Club, Ottawa. Tickets for the kickoff event can be purchased at maxottawa.ca/spillthetea.
The message is being sent loud and clear: accessing resources around safer partying can be both functional and fun.
Working with MAX Ottawa to Spill the Tea will mean accessible and accurate information is available for guys into guys in the Ottawa area, whether they are living with HIV or not. This initiative will create stigma-free spaces where conversations about safer partying can take place,” said Sara Leclerc, General Manager of ViiV Healthcare Canada.
It’s time to take shame out of the equation when it comes to party and play and shift the focus to providing support and staying safe.
And that’s tea worth serving.
JUMOL ROYES is a Toronto-based writer/PR & communications strategist with a keen interest in personal development and transformation. Follow him on Twitter @Jumol.