V četrtek, 17. septembra, se je premierno v Sloveniji odvila projekcija nagrajenega dokumentarnega filma »Party boi: Black daimonds in ice castles«, ki nas popelje v svet odvisnosti in uporabe metamfetamina med temnopoltimi pripadniki LGBTQ skupnosti v ZDA. Dokumentarni film se osredotoča na nujnost normalizacije in destigmatizacije pogovorov o preventivnih metodah za obvladovanje hiva/aidsa, izpostavlja pa tudi zgodovinska dejstva o pojavu »underground« kulture.
Projekciji filma je sledil spletni pogovor z režiserjem Michealom Riceom, ki nam je podrobneje osvetlil problematiko zasvojenosti z metamfetaminom v svoji skupnosti, ki ga je kot klubsko drogo sprva pripisoval bolj svetlopolti gejevski skupnosti. Raziskovanja problematike se je lotil, ker je imel njegov prijatelj težave z odvisnostjo od kemseksa, sam sicer takrat niti ni vedel kaj to sploh je. Sogovornike je sprva iskal na klubskih večerih, vendar to ni obrodilo sadov, zato je poskušal v stik z njimi priti prek različnih aplikacij za spoznavanje. Od začetnih 100 stikov je na koncu, še pred samim začetkom snemanja filma, ostalo le 6 sogovornikov, od tega so trije res želeli spregovoriti in opozoriti na dogajanje, saj niso želeli, da bi se njihova zgodba ponovila vrstnikom ali mlajšim generacijam.
Skozi strukturiran pogovor, ki ga je vodil Jernej Škof, vodja kemseks projekta pri nas, nam režiser razkrije tudi začetne negativne in poznejše pozitivne reakcije, ki jih je povzročila projekcija filma v ZDA. Za boljše razumevanje problematike, ki jo izpostavlja film, sta se v pogovoru dotaknila večplastnih vzrokov za uporabo drog, tudi v kombinaciji s spolnimi odnosi, saj se le-ti, zaradi drugačnih družbenih in kulturnih kontekstov med dvema kontinentoma, precej razlikujejo, pa vendar v svoji osnovni definiciji prekrivajo. V povezavi s kemseksom je bila izpostavljena tudi problematika dostopnosti PreP in PeP ter drugih preventivnih ukrepov in možnosti zdravljenja okužbe s hivom, izpuščen pa ni bil niti vpliv trenutno aktualne pandemije novega koronavirusa na delovanje LGBTQ skupnosti in na prakticiranje kemseksa.
Micheal je prijazno podal tudi nekaj nasvetov kako kot posamezniki lahko pomagamo svojim prijateljem, ki imajo težave z zasvojenostjo z metamfetaminom. Pravi, da se mnogi ob taki novici radi preveč vznemirimo, in da je najpomembneje tej osebi vedno prisluhniti, je nikoli zavrniti ali utišati, tudi kadar na dan privrejo določeni neprijetni dogodki, kot so različne oblike depresije. Prijateljem moramo biti dostopni, jim ponuditi spremstvo, ko in če se odločijo za zdravljenje, za obisk podporne skupine, skratka jim dati jasno vedeti, da smo jim na voljo. Večino trdega dela bodo morali opraviti sami, ki pa bo uspešno, če bodo imeli za sabo trden podporni sistem.
Medtem ko LGBT organizacijam svetuje vzpostavitev varnih prostor, kjer bi se ljudje lahko seznanili s problematiko odvisnosti od metamfetamina, se o njej odkrito pogovarjali, hkrati pa bi jim ta prostor nudil svojevrsten podporni sistem. Največji problem, s katerim se soočajo mladi, je namreč, da se s to drogo prvič srečajo oziroma jim je ponujena med pogovorom v aplikacijah za spoznavanje, niso pa seznanjeni kako zelo nevarna je. Zato sej potrebno o metamfetaminu pogovarjati, o njem opozarjati, ga prepoznati in z njim v zvezi nuditi ustrezna svetovanja.
Dogodek je del serije pogovorov o kemseksu in je potekal v okviru programa »Ustavimo HIV«, ki ga izvaja Društvo ŠKUC (sekcija ŠKUC Magnus) s podporo Ministrstva za zdravje in Mestne občine Ljubljana.
Naslednji pogovor bo potekal 14. oktobra, ko se bomo pogovarjali s terapevtom Davidom Stuartom.
Več informacij o kemseksu je na voljo na spletni strani www.kemseks.si
Your film goes far beyond the typical chemsex discourse, so gay man partying irresponsibly, getting hooked on drugs, it also reveals certain structural problems which the black and brown communities are facing, like homophobia, racism, poverty and so on… And I believe these structural problems, especially social inequality and homophobia that whole global gay community is facing, are crucial when it comes to understanding the chemsex phenomenon in contemporary times. So, my first question for you is why did you personally decide to open this issue.
Ok, one of the first decisions why I decided to create the film and create the theme around 2012, 2011, I had a dear friend of mine that became addicted to chemsex. And at the time I did not know what chemsex was or is at that time. I remember watching a TV show called Breaking Bad and they talked about Crystal Meth. So, it gave me insight, but for me in that particular film it only showed a white community in suburbia that was going through crystal meth addiction in major. So, I still could not understand, because historically a lot of black gay men where using crystal meth, it was more in a white gay demographic that were using crystal meth as a part of a party drug. So, I really didn’t know what it was, I thought it was crack cocaine at first, but then when I learned it was crystal meth, I started doing my research and at this time one of the apps at that time Grindr and an app called Scrub and Jackd. Those were all you know gay dating apps, hookup apps where you could meet different people. So, I started noticing in a black community the terminology and the apps started shifting from do you want to smoke weed, marihuana to do you do Tina, or PNP, which stands for party and play. Or it would have emojis of diamonds, signifying crystal meth. That’s when I knew things started to change and then soon after I realized my friend has an addiction, soon after that I have seen other people in the community have addiction and I did not know what to do. So, I thought the best thing to do is use my boys, use my arts, use my craft as a director and make a piece that would speak about what’s happening in my community.
You did it very well. Thank you for that, and also, for opening the issue of what is happening in your community, especially for us who are not so personally related to the US situation. Drug use and sex are both still taboo themes to talk about; your film exposes many people and their personal stories, drug users, sex workers, and drug dealers. Was it difficult to gain their trust and speak openly about their life stories?
Well, when I got ready to research for the film I went to a lot of bars, I went to a lot of clubs, and I didn’t get a lot of people that were interested in telling their stories, or telling me about people who they knew, that were possibly going through addiction. So, I decided to do my research on LGBTQ apps, dating apps, hookup apps, people were a little bit more liberated to inform me about what is happening to them in their personal lives, from meeting them on the apps rather than meeting them in person at first. I reached out to about over a 100 people, out of that 100 about 26 people replied back that actually wanted to possibly do it, and then out of that 26 about 6 people wanted to be engaged in that. At first as a director I never wanted to direct people for the salaciousness of seeing somebody on drugs or to gather some kind of ravings, because I got people that were really exposing themselves, I really am focused on being a director that has a dignity, a moral compass and standard when it comes to interviewing these people. Everyone signed a release forms, everyone was interviewed multiple times, prior to any filming, because I really wanted to make sure that people understood what they were actually signing off for. And once I had those conversations, we had multiple interviews for each participant in the film then it became something that was an eye opening and amazing because they opened up themselves and they opened themselves to the world, so that they could make a change themselves. And particularly in the movie TK, Andree, and Michael in the movie, they really wanted to give as much as they could because they informed me, they don’t want what happened to them, happen to someone else. And especially somebody in a younger demographic of the gay community. You know. And so, they were very open, and wanted to share that with the hopes that their story can help somebody.
How did your community react to the film? How did the wider community react to the film?
There was skepticism at first, I think because it was a new subject no one was really talking about black gay men on crystal meth, a lot of people especially a lot of people in higher social economic plateaus would inform us that, oh, black people don’t do meth, and that’s not true, they didn’t know that it was bowling underground and that it was actually happening in a community at a super rapid rate. I think because of the cell phones people are able to engage with each other quicker without having to physically go to social you know places in the city to meetup. It’s not like what it was in the late 90s or early 90s or early 2000, now everything is via app. So, you can just go from house to house to house to meet people, to participate in doing drugs. So, there was a lot of skepticism, speculation of skepticism does this really happen in our community. Once they really saw the film, once we started getting more of the facts come in from different research centers, I have a colleague of mine named dr. Perry Halkitis, he is the professor at Rutgers University, and he is, he did a research study which talks about 49% of black gay men have indulged in crystal meth. And a larger portion of that goes for bi gay men in their particular communities that also have engaged in crystal meth, so it pretty much broke the phrase that black men don’t do meth, and now we started to see proof in fact that black men are doing crystal meth and during putting this movie out, dr. Halkitis’ book started up ringing alarms especially to the health departments within our particular community, so now people are more aware.
That’s a really high percentage you speak about. So, the drugs used in chemsex usually respond to certain inhibition that we have in our personal lives, it helps us to relax, release us from being too self-conscious about our bodies, we can overcome certain personal traumas, homophobia, feelings of exclusion and so on, and this is the wider trend in global community. What are these problems in the Black and Latino communities in the US concretely? For which problems do members of your community use crystal meth
I think a lot of time, when people are using crystal meth, in particularly in the black community, the black LGBT community, I think it stems from a lot of trauma that we have here in the US, and I’m sure certain people in the continent of Europe understand maybe traumas going on between East and West European countries, and here in the US, you know, is the whole racial act to the black lives matter, so this being a black person without even adding the LGBTQ to the equation is dealing with some form of trauma and have to work through it, and at the end if you add the LGBT aspect and queer, the gay aspect on top of it than you get more trauma. And one of the traumas that I have noticed in our community, in my community that I have heard from a lot of people who were struggling with crystal meth is finding a place of belonging. Wanting to belong in a particular category, or a particular group, or wanting people to except you, and want to, are engaged in crystal meth, it lowers inhibitions, it makes you more comfortable with yourself, makes you more open, it makes you more open to groups, being in different types of groups of people, and a lot of times when you are dealing with people who are hurting, who is going through trauma and they find someone else who may be hurting or going through trauma, a lot of times using crystal meth is almost a form of escapism, from those hurts, from those traumas, so you don’t have to worry about it, you don’t have to worry as a gay men not fitting because you don’t have a ripped or muscled body, you don’t have to worry about trying to fit in a different group or wear designer clothes, you are particularly going to a group of people who are going to except you for who you are. And for some of those groups of people that are using crystal meth that’s what they are, so, they become like a home base for some people who are going through trauma. And I found that to be true with a lot of guys that are black, and a lot of west Indian black men too, they come from the islands, that end up getting addicted to crystal meth, is they just want them to have something to relieve them of the negativity and the troubles and crystal meth for them is that safe way.
Ok. Thank you. Film exposes the problem of racial relations between the black and Latino gay communities on one side and the white gay community on the other side. We all wish that whole of the gay community would focuses on emancipation, liberation of gays including all LGBT groups and be inclusive in a common struggle for equality. So, this divide comes as a surprise, as something that is hurting our community. Can you share some thoughts on this? Can you describe this divide for us, perhaps share your thoughts on how the gap between the opposing sides could be breached, if that is the need, if it is possible?
I think for the most part that I can speak for what is happening here in the US, I think for the most part it has always been a racial divide between black and white, the gay community is just a smaller microcosm of the larger community and society at hand. And even in the larger community at hand you still have divides. Now, on a general term, I mean on an optimistic term I would like to think that most of the gay communities would be loving and accepting of each other, you know, we are all queer, whatever spectrum that you are on, and we all should be together supporting each other, but, I know specifically here in the States sometimes that’s not the case, sometimes you have clubs that are predominantly white clubs, and they may not want blacks, Latin people in the club, its mostly predominantly you know cis gender type, butch white male guys, you know, you get a lot of bars, clubs and places like that and they don’t let people in based on I guess it could be race, it could be height, gender, it’s a lot of portion with that, but at the end of the day there is a divide, but for the most part I would say most people get along, but you can also see divide socially and demographically in the city, where like in the New York City we have an area called Chelsea which is predominantly white, male, gay people in that community, you know, the other aspects of the community because of socio-economic situations may have the entire community to themselves, because of socio-economic standards, and whatever it may be, I still believe we have a lot of work to do, I feel that the newer generations of like white gays and black gays and Latino gays, like really truly like mixing in, it’s kind of weird having all this happen during the age of COVID and during the age of Trump being our president over here, but I think we are making a lot of progress, I believe we are making a lot of progress, but we still have a divide at times, and you can tell in mostly by bars and sometimes by club events, the things that are majors they would have white clubs and black clubs, especially when you go to New York.
Now I would like to switch a little bit back to drugs. In Slovenia we don’t have much experience with Tina, and thankfully we only have a few enthusiasts who were using it until now, but we have noticed that it is becoming more and more available. I would like to ask you about your community experiences in helping friends with stopping Tina. So, what can we do as friends, are there any good practices that we as friends can do to help our friend?
I think one of the things you can do, a lot of people get frustrated when they find friends or family or love ones that are taking too some kind of a drug or narcotic, one of the most important things to do is always listen to that individual, never turn them off and never shut them down, even if they are going through episodes, even if they are going through aspects of depression, always listen, have an opened ear, have an opened phone line, so that person will be able to talk to you, and also to sit with that person and see that they want to get help, you know, will they be willing, you know if you go with them, will they be willing, those are things, I think support methods are the best aspects of helping a friend or someone you know fighting the addiction. At the end of the day they are going to have to really take hold and fight it themselves but you can do it so much better if you have a really good support system, I would say, never turn a friend deft ear, and always keep your phone line open, and always be willing to talk to them, and also to let them know if they wanna go get help, or seek a help, whether is a meeting, or whether is going to a facility, that you will be there for them, that you can assist them, that you can attend meetings with them, that you can, you know, maybe go with them to check themselves in to a rehab center, or just the main key aspect is show support, and keep an ear open.
How did the LGBT organizations respond to the problems of drug use in the LGBT community? Are there any good practices? What could we do, as a gay, LGBT organization, to help our community?
I think one of the things is creating safe spaces. One of the things to help you build onto your community within your organization dealing with crystal meth is to have safe haven, save spaces, where people can sit and talk and have a communal aspect where they have a support system. Take in mind a lot of these, especially a lot of younger gay ones, their first experience sometimes with Tina is from meeting people online and not having thing within the community to go to, or for people to inform them. So, not only what I have, my organization create something like the young gays and lesbians, young trans people to come in and talk about, you know, what is crystal meth, what does it look like, how would you engage with somebody if they try to pressure you to do crystal meth to involve you in sex. A lot of times people would do crystal meth just so they can participate in the act of sex, so a lot of times and not knowing the detriment what it can do. So, I feel like having organizations that can create pamphlets, that can have maybe like little gatherings where they can talk to youth, gay youth, about crystal meth, maybe having social gatherings where they can bring awareness in safe spaces about what is crystal meth, how it can harm you, what it does to your body in the long run, and how to have fun without using certain particular kind of drugs. Which is hard because a lot of times in the gay community, a lot of our social events are around the bar, around you know things that are like partying at a discotheque, somewhere where things are like, a lot of things are going on but I believe that organizations can really strategize and find cooler ways to have people fun.
Thank you. It seems to me that is the phenomenon of chemsex along with the drugs that are coming in with it, and retreating back into private spaces, away from the community, having parties away from the community, is undoing a lot of progress achieved by Aids and HIV activism, which has succeeded limiting one of the biggest disaster of the LGBT community in history. Do black and Latino gay men have access to prevention methods like especially PreP, which is the most useful to be used in chemsex settings? How is it with access to PreP in your communities?
Well, one of the things, we do have a lot of the organizations in the US that help with maintaining HIV negative status, undetectable, for certain people to get to HIV medication and when it comes to crystal meth and HIV it has played a role in really serial converting some people into becoming positive, because once you take crystal meth you lose an ambitions, you lose the aspect that you know you have to take your medication, to either stay HIV negative or to take your medication to stay undetectable. And a lot of times when you are on crystal meth what it does is that it eliminates your medication and is destroying your immune system, because you are now not only fighting the disease, but you also are now fighting addiction, which both of that combination is kind of like a perfect storm for something negative to happen to your body. When it comes to black and Latino men in their access in getting help care, when it comes to PreP and PeP, even though it is mainly all over here in the US a lot of times because of stigma a lot of people especially in smaller towns. So, if you are in a larger community or in a larger city like New York City you have access to PreP, you have access to PeP, you have access to a multitude of different doctors, also too, because we have what is called Obamacare which is our health system that will allow you to get medication for your HIV. Now, if you are in a small town, where there is maybe 10.000 people or 5.000 people and then maybe one doctor that sees patients that are HIV positive, a lot of times people within that community know who that doctor is and they are in fear of going to seek help because of the stigma of HIV. So, because of the stigma of HIV, a lot of times in smaller towns here in the US people would refuse to get, to seek medical help, because people in their church or their community also work in that hospital and word can get around town and you do have a pools of people within our country that refuse to get treatment for HIV, they refuse to take PreP or PeP, because they feel like it has a stigma to it from for being LGBTQ or for being queer.
That is very similar to Slovenia to a certain degree. People migrate to urban city centers where there is anonymity and access to services. So, it’s quite similar. Tell me, your film is set in 2017 if I understood correctly?
Yes. Well, it extents 3 years. So, the first part of the film was created 10 minutes long, that was in 2017, and then 2018 I made it another 20, and then towards the end of 2018 I finished the whole project. So, it kind of like spends in two years, so, from 2017 to the end of 2018.
Ok, ok, yeah, because I was confused with the videos inside, there was 2019 footage.
Oh yeah, 2019 as well. It was extent almost 3 years, to make it.
Not a lot has changed since the end of the film, but I wanted to ask the almost last question, how did this epidemic of COVID-19, how did it affect your community, especially the chemsex community?
I think, I don’t have a lot of information how it affected the chemsex community at his time, because we are still kind of dealing with it. I can tell you within US Covid-19 has affected a great deal, a great portion of the black American community, dealing with hope disparities of the black community and as the straight, that is the heterosexual and queer community both. When it comes to gay community, I think the most pressing thing is making sure that people that are HIV positive or possibly are undetectable, that those individuals are getting tested for COVID and making sure they stay protected with wearing face masks in this major stall. I have seen certain, we have a place called Gay men’s health crises in New York City, it’s called GMHC, and they also made it advocations for queer people, black and white, to really focus on especially those who may have compromised immune system, to really focus on social distancing, wearing your mask, washing your hands, and also making sure that you stay on your HIV medication. And so those kinds of things went out to the community. So, that’s what I can tell you. When it comes to the chemsex community, you know, from what I know from some people it caused a lot of depression, I know a lot of people really went in to heavy usage during this time, because of isolation, for what I have been told from people here and there, but nothing has been there technically strategized or being turned in to percentile, that’s kind of from word of mouth from people in the community about how COVID has affected them.
Michael, thank you for helping us understand the social and cultural context of your film and your community. So, what are next issues you are about to tackle with your films, what is your next project?
Ok. I actually just finished, I started my new project during COVID, because I had so much time to work, but the next film is called Transpose and it is dealing with not being able to switch your gayness for your color, so, I can’t put down my blackness to be gay and I can’t put down my gayness to be black, they come together. And it’s called Transpose and it’s gonna be a really interesting documentary and I can’t wait for you guys to check it out. It should be coming out this late spring 2021.
Wonderful. Now I would like to ask the audience if there are any questions? Oh, there actually was one question in the middle of the film, what happened to that democrat guy?
Ok, so, as of now, it is so weird we are having this Q&A today because in The New York Times there are multiple articles that came out this morning about Ed Buck and about him wanting to be released from prison. So, as of now he is still in jail. So, when you saw the end of the clip, when he was being put in there, he is actually still in jail. And now, starting today, he requested to be out, and the judge is possibly considering it. So, I think that was an interesting tip in.
The question from the audience is: Is chemsex also happening in the lesbian community or only guys are so nuts about sex and drugs?
I have to be honest with you as far as it comes to the black community and the white lesbian community in New York I haven’t heard anything about too many lesbians really being addicted to it, it is mostly falling in the spectrum of gay men and trans women, that are really using crystal meth, and also to certain people in both those demographics, black and white, who are also engaging in sex work, some of them are also using it to be able to cope with the fact of having to deal with large amounts of clienteles that they have to engage with on a daily basis.
Thank you. Micheal, thank you very much for joining us today. It is always a pleasure to speak with you. I hope we see each other soon in person.
Thank you all so much again for coming out to support the film, coming to watch the film, I really appreciate it. Hopefully soon we can start traveling back to Europe and the US, you know with no problem.
Thank you for everything and be well.
All right, be well, thank you guys. Bye.
Objavo in prepis pripravil: Miha Bizjak