June 9, 2005


The Crystal Conundrum: Meth is the drug of the moment for gay men who thought they’d die young. So who can get them to stop? (TONY VALENZUELA, LA Weekly)

If I were to ask a psychologist why crystal methamphetamine has a stranglehold on scores of gay men, she might say that we battle a prevalence of depression 17 percent higher than the national average. A physician will tell me meth is the most addictive drug ever to hit the gay party tableau, and because it releases a flood of dopamine, the brain’s pleasure chemical, its allure to our bacchanal tendencies is especially strong. A sociologist will say that gay men, being men, are conditioned by society to be sexual aggressors and that the introduction of a powerful “sex drug” has, not surprisingly, ejaculated through our neighborhoods like a hormonal teen. And a civil rights activist might shake his head, dismayed, worried that the bigoted Right will use the much touted link between meth use and the rise in HIV infections as fodder against us to take away AIDS funding and undo pro-gay legislation unpopular with Republican theocrats.

I, an HIV-positive gay man who has experienced both the bliss and the peril of crystal meth, am here to report that while each of those critiques is valid, none gets it exactly right. Our crystal problem is much larger than a drug, even one that measures the gay Zeitgeist as cynically as meth. “Tina” has, more precisely, emerged as a dark metaphor for all that gay men have been through and still struggle to overcome. [...]

For many years I lived contentedly and with unending curiosity in the underbelly cultures of gay men — a brief stint at porn, a bona fide career as call boy, an ebullient partaker of club and drug cultures — this with an inclination toward artists, activists, and anyone interested in fashioning a life of invention and un-convention. In this world there exists a startling honesty around sex, about its multitudes, its infinite psychologies, its private anatomies, and also how sex feels under which drugs, or combination of drugs. To earn a living in this world made it easy to feel whole and not compartmentalized like other queers, who lock up their ids and alter egos until weekends or special times of the year. It was a unique time in my life. I was a student of pleasure, of giving and receiving it. I learned to honor pleasure as fundamental to us all.

But I came to learn there was an additional category of pleasure, one contorted and glassy-eyed and, I think, relevant to the crystal-meth moment we find ourselves in. This pleasure, obtained through unfettered desire, ultimately inverts itself into a state of anesthetized routine, and slowly but definitely leads to the death of pleasure altogether. Too many of us, I began to think, were crossing this slippery pleasure divide, landing in our own “black, burnt-out forests.”

Yes, there are folk who believe in infinite variety and then, as Howard Dean so helpfully reminds, there are Republicans who "all behave the same." Take your pick.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 9, 2005 6:55 PM

It's "...the pursuit of happiness..." or the dark crystal. Pick one.

Posted by: Luciferous at June 10, 2005 9:58 AM

The Dark Crystal must be healed by a gelfling! The Skeksis must be rejoined with the Mystics!

Posted by: Governor Breck at June 10, 2005 10:55 AM
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