On PrEP

For much of this year I’d been seeing posters in the subway platforms and cars depicting a healthy-looking, hot guy (or guys) staring dreamily into the camera with captions reading I’m on PrEP, or Ask your doctor about PrEP or some such verbiage involving something called “PrEP”.

I had no idea exactly what PrEP is, other than it obviously being a product strategically aimed at a gay male audience, so a little Googling was in order.

I found out that PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. Using the brand name Truvada, it is a drug to prevent the contraction of HIV in people who have not yet been exposed to the virus. Taken daily, it is a medication which reportedly reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 92% (ideally, for total prevention against HIV transmission, PrEP should be accompanied with the use of condoms). So, basically, the miracle of modern medicine has given us protection from something as horrific as HIV/AIDS in pill form – at last.

Please don’t misunderstand the intentions of this post – I am neither for or against PrEP; to be honest, I’m not sure where I stand on the issue. On the one hand, I marvel how the advances of modern science can at last give us protection against the dreaded disease that has wreaked such devastation on the world. On the other hand, I’m a little shocked at how the advertising/media world imply that if we take PrEP we should throw all caution to the wind and go at it like mad bunnies.

I confess the whole thing makes me slightly uneasy because I remember the past very well. I can’t help thinking of those early, awful, fearful, devastating years of AIDS my generation witnessed and lived through. We were the next generation of potential AIDS patients after the initial onslaught claimed men from the fallout of late 70s and early 80s sexual hedonism. My age group became very used to seeing the miles of obituaries – in our bi-weekly Toronto gay rag, Xtra! – of the beautiful, young men we’d see in the Village, taken from us far too early in life. We’d wonder who’s next? as we checked ourselves, yet again, for swollen lymph nodes, weight loss or any fresh and mysterious spots on our skin. I remember very well the Act Up! demonstrations and “die-ins” during the Toronto Pride Parades of the 80s and early 90s, the AIDS candlelight vigils and memorials in Cawthra Park (now Barbara Hall Park) just off Church Street, the protest marches and gatherings at Queen’s Park where everyone shouted for more AIDS research funding. Over the years I’ve seen acquaintances and work colleagues succumb to this horrible disease and have felt the fear and loss.

I guess I’m simply old school and still have contagion issues and fears, remembering how history unfolded over the past 30 or so years. I don’t know – I guess time will tell how effective these new meds are. If proven effective over the long term, they truly are a marvel of modern science and will change our lives.

“Vicious”

By way of Matt Baume’s fascinating YouTube channel, where he takes a light-hearted look at issues affecting and involving the LGBT community, we recently discovered the British TV comedy series Vicious.

Vicious_(TV_series)

The primary stars of Vicious are Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi. With a core cast like that, how can you lose? There’s not a lot of characters throughout the episodes; the regular cast never goes beyond six members. There are the two central characters Freddie Thornhill (Ian McKellen) and Stuart Bixby (Derek Jacobi), their friend Violet Crosby (brilliantly played by Frances de la Tour) and younger upstairs friend/neighbour Ash Weston (Iwan Rheon). Occasionally we see the mostly-senile but lovable, long-time family friend Penelope (Marcia Warren), and Mason (Philip Voss) as Freddie’s acid-tongued brother who is also gay but disapproves of Freddie and Stuart’s relationship.

Vicious is very British with its sly insult-humour, a genre the English do especially well. The plot centres around the love-hate relationship of gay male couple Freddie and Stuart (played by our two aforementioned knighted actors) who have been together just shy of fifty years. Each episode’s plot also includes their circle of friends – Violet, Ash, Penelope and Mason – each generating their own form of lunacy. The two seasons weave the characters in and out of various hilarious predicaments, ending in The 2 knightsFreddie and Stuart’s wedding (after fifty years of being together) in the final episode of the second season. This wedding episode is not to be missed.

Only two seasons of Vicious plus a Finale were shot and each season has only six or seven episodes, which is very typical of a British television series. The series premiered in April 2013 but was cancelled by ITV in the U.K. in 2016, with the Finale special airing in December of that year. The series was panned by British critics but, nevertheless, did well during its run. PBS in North America carried the show in 2014 but I’m not sure what the success rate was on this side of the Atlantic. The humour in Vicious does not appeal to everyone, and you have to approach the series with an appreciation of camp, gay humour, comedic put-downs, dark humour and a general love/appreciation of British comedy (which is interpreted somewhat differently by our North American sensibilities).

The series was twice nominated for the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, while the finale was nominated for Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series.

If you do find the series somewhere online (i.e. streaming services, YouTube, etc.) and begin watching, my advice is to stick with it through the first season. I found the first two episodes of the first season, especially, just plain mean-spirited and cruel, and I felt quite the 2uncomfortable watching them; I just about gave up on the series at that point but I’m so glad I stayed with it. The script, characters and tone does soften, however, and the series becomes much more enjoyable and hilarious with each episode. By the end of Season One I was howling with laughter! I read somewhere that Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi had a hand in rewriting some of the script and making the dialog a little “softer” and the characters more empathic.

The opening and closing theme is an abridged version of The Communards version of Never Can Say Goodbye (which is on my list of Desert Island Songs by the way); this scored big points with me.

You may love Vicious or you may hate it – everyone’s mileage will vary. I’ll leave you with a clip of Season One’s “Best Of”:

Today Is World AIDS Day

Created in 1988, World AIDS Day takes place on December 1st of each year. The Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

A Guide to the Finer Points of Every Gay Man’s Life

I recently found this 90s essay on my hard drive while browsing for inspiration and ideas for new blog posts. I’m not sure where the piece came from and it dates quite badly, but what the heck… here it is anyway.

By a certain age, you should:

Know the three meanings of the word “chicken”.

Know something about Anita Bryant, Pierre Trudeau, Harvey Milk, and Svend Robinson.

Have danced all night and shared a sunrise with someone you never want to see again.

Have had a one night stand you really regret, and haven’t confessed it to your therapist.

Have tried on some women’s clothing and hummed a drag number.

Have tried a designer drug and had a really bad trip.

Have been to fifteen pride days in four different cities.

Know what Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, and Mae West have in common.

Be gracious enough to offer a trick breakfast in the morning.

Know the significance of Stonewall, Bill 167, bathhouse raids and Bill 7.

Know when to hold him, when to walk away, and when to run.

Have stopped giving attitude and being self-absorbed.

Own a piece of original art (not including something given to you by a boyfriend).

Know who Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde and Armistead Maupin are.

Be able to name twelve famous gay people, and fantasize about sleeping with two of them.

Have been to the Gay Games, or the March on Washington, or ten circuit parties.

Have stopped dressing like some sort of clone.

Have tried makeup to cover a skin blemish.

Be able to go out on the town with a skin blemish.

Be able to fix an unplugged drain or be able to afford someone who can.

Have worn pearls or a “pearl necklace”.

Know the difference between a “Prince Albert”, a cock ring and a guichet.

Know the difference between a Warhol, a Haring and a Lichtenstein.

Have spent a night in one of the following places: police station, park, bus station, casino or hotel lobby.

Know a trick which always gets a laugh from a nephew or friend’s kid.

Have become proficient in something other than in your field, excluding card games.

Have participated in a political demonstration and have been roughed up by the police, or lost a shoe.

Have had sex 2,345 times.

And 23 different partners.

Know a short verse or prayer to say in a moment of sadness.

Be able to visit your parents without cutting up the place by pointing out all the tacky things.

Be able to spend a day alone with a parent or sibling and actually enjoy it.

Have stopped pursuing unrequited love.

Have tasted some exotic meat and not commented “it tastes like chicken”.

Have made up a toast that rhymes and used it at various parties.

Have experienced a supernatural phenomenon, not including deja vu or losing a sock in the dryer.

Be able to turn on a man without touching him.

Be able to cook one dish you are proud of.

Have stopped saying you spent the night in a bathhouse because you needed a place to sleep.

Have said things to both a partner and a boss that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.

Know what the words “shrimping,” “spooning” and “rimming” mean.

Have gone home with someone who has a fetish that you sort of enjoyed but are ashamed of.

Be able to catch a mouse and get rid of it.

Have stayed with a friend at a critical moment in life or death.

Have been a good Samaritan without expecting anything in return.

Have been in the newspaper or on the TV or radio.

Have gotten rid of all clothing you owned before you were twenty.

Collect something that you enjoy (other than boyfriends).

Have given up getting drunk and stumbling around, but have four nights in which you can’t remember what happened.

Know what the words “bump,” “buffed” and “bear” mean.

Be able to admit you enjoy being a bottom without giggling.

Have stopped saying you’re versatile when you’re not.

Be comfortable about arriving at events or parties alone.

Have lied about your age to pick up.

Have stopped lying about your age to pick up.

Know everything there is to know about safer sex and have told it to a younger friend.

Have stopped voguing on the dance floor.

Know what the words “trade,” “troll” and “trick” mean.

Have shaved off all your body hair for fun.

Have had crabs.

Have a straight friend whom you spend time with on a regular basis, whose company you actually enjoy.

Have said at least once: “I understand, but I’m just not ready for a relationship”.

Have said at least once: “I can’t understand, why are you not ready for a relationship?”

Have deep regrets that that you don’t play an instrument.

Have no furniture made of pressboard, crates or bricks.

Have been to Provincetown, Saugatuck, or Fire Island.

Have gone to a movie not intending to pick someone up.

Have picked someone up at a movie.

Have traveled in Europe (not with a tour group).

Have had your heart broken.

Have moved from the city where you were born.

And most importantly,

Come out, come out wherever you are.

Gay Wedding Etiquette

This is soooooo early 90s and it dates badly but it’s still kinda amusing:

Gay wedding cake

1) On the day of a gay wedding, it’s bad luck for the two grooms to see each other at the gym.

2) Superstition suggests that for good luck the couple should have: Something bold, something flirty, something trashy, something dirty.

3) It’s customary at gay and lesbian nuptials for the parents to have an open bar during the entire ceremony.

4) Gay wedding tradition dictates that both grooms refrain from eating any of the wedding cake because it’s all carbs and sugar.

5) It’s considered bad luck for either of the grooms to have dated the priest.

6) During the first dance, it’s considered unlucky to use glowsticks, flags, whistles or hand held lasers.

7) For good luck at the union of a drag queen, the bouquet is always thrown in the face of a hated rival.

8) The reception hall must have a disco ball and at least 1 go-go dancer.

9) The wedding singer is not allowed to play/sing “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”, “It’s Raining Men” or “I Will Survive”.

10) The father of the Bottom pays for everything!