A forum about suicide in the gay community takes places tonight, Wednesday, May 29 starting at 7:30 pm in the meeting room located at 385-A 8th Street near Harrison next door to the Mr S Leather store in San Francisco. Titled "When the Rainbow Flag Isn't Enough", the forum promises a lively discussion with a panel of diverse activists. It's sponsored by the SF Gay Men's Community Initiative.
There has not been a single social marketing effort congratulating HIV positive and negative gay men of a certain age for having survived the worst years of the AIDS plague, and for creating countless methods of prevention, caring for ourselves and our brothers, and a few service agencies.
We've be subjected to numerous ads flooding our media, public bus shelters, web sites and sexual gathering spaces with one message: there's something wrong with gays. Or gun imagery used to make a point to start a dialogue about health and wellness.
Ever seen a campaign lauding gay men for practicing safe sex, regular STD testing or driving HIV numbers down? If you have, share it with me please.
As if the stigma of the ads weren't enough, we've had an endless parade of AIDS Inc executives and San Francisco Department of Public Health officials manipulating data and stats supposedly showing gays don't give a damn about our wellness or each other.
There's also the matter of the gay bathhouse ban in San Francisco, created because of the myth that we can't be trusted with private spaces behind closed doors for sexual liaisons. We are currently subjected to sexual monitoring in the sex clubs and it was easier to lift the ban on gays in the military than it is to lift the gay bathhouse ban in San Francisco.
I'm saying all of these factors should be taken into account when debating what societal elements may contribute to gay men feeling their lives are worthless and leads them to kill themselves.
Let me close with a few comments made in 2005 by the late gay thinker Eric Rofes about some of these concerns that I believe should be part of the discussion tonight, with bolding added:
I think more than anything we need a few years of “time out” from directive AIDS prevention work for gay men. We need to get away from all the messaging, all the marketing, all the “crises of the week” used to terrify gay men into sexual sterility [...] Frankly, many of us have forged our own “time out” from all of the violence sent down to us by AIDS prevention. Many gay men do their very best to avoid the messaging, avoid the social marketing, avoid getting caught up in the drama of crisis about our sex [...] What effects does the colonization of bodies and desires have on a people when it is allowed to go on for 25 years? [...] The use of social marketing as the primary tool in HIV education and prevention has been a disaster with consequences we never imagined.