Monday, 11 December 2017 02:31
I was browsing through Grindr on the weekend, mindlessly flicking through profiles until one jumped out at me. What caught my eye was not his photo but his wording - “proud to be masculine”. I then started paying attention to other profiles that were looking for "real men”, or who were “masculine” or seeking “masculine”.
It got me remembering and thinking about this whole notion of masculinity. To be honest, I find it perplexing, partly because growing up my father was paranoid that I wasn’t man enough. I could never figure out what this quality of “man enough” was and why I was apparently missing it.
To be masculine or a real man is always said or written in a way that leaves several unspoken questions. For example, what is this quality of masculinity? What does it mean if you are “not masculine”, or “not a real man”? What does a “real man” look like?
This quality of masculinity is never defined, and I imagine if we were to talk to guys who want to be masculine and ask them how they see it, they would say something like:
“you know, strong, muscley, can’t be pushed around, dominant, you know…manly, masculine”.
For my father, masculinity had overtones of being a Christian soldier which was an ugly mix of the military, Christianity and masculinity.
Masculinity is a construct that is more solid in the imagination than in reality. We all think we know what is meant by masculinity, yet each of us have a nuanced meaning depending on our up-bringing and our early erotic experiences that so often determines what arouses us.
The whole notion of masculinity on gay apps is interesting given the backlash within the wider society against dominant masculinity, for example Harvey Weinstein and others who projected an image of being dominant and strong. People within the wider community are fed up with such brutish, selfish masculinity, yet on hook-up apps, we still look for real men who are “dominant tops”. (Here I am speaking of general hook ups and sexuality, rather than the specifics of leather groups or men who are into BDSM, where domination and submission is in a different context).
Within each of us there is a masculine and feminine aspect. Jung referred to this as the animus and the anima. When we are not comfortable with the feminine within us, we project it outwards to others, to the fems, to the queens, to anyone who reminds us of what we are uncomfortable about within ourselves. Our sexual activity and hook-ups become a constant fear driven attempt, to prove to ourselves we are “man enough”, because after all we only play with real men.
So, what is the feminine principle within a man? Does it make us “girly” or “sissy”? Of course not. The feminine principle is what enables us to nurture other people. Those of us who have children, those of you who have pets you love. Your ability to nurture, to care for another person or animal comes from the feminine within you. Your ability to enjoy the sensuality and comfort of a hug come from the feminine principle.
Does the feminine principle make you less a man? Of course not. It adds depth, it adds texture, it adds subtly to who you are as a man in and out of bed.
If I were looking for a real man, I would want a man who was comfortable with his nurturing side, a man who would have the flexibility to be strong and yet gentle. A man who had his boundaries yet can be compassionate. A man who would own his own crap and not blame others. A man who was strong enough to get counselling to resolve his own issues.
A real man is a man who, in his masculinity, is comfortable with the qualities of his feminine aspect. A man who is proud to be a person.
Thursday, 07 December 2017 07:34
Marriage Equality - It's official!
From all of us at WAAC - well done Australia, about bloody time! Let the celebrations begin!
See more here.
Thursday, 23 November 2017 04:23
On a warm, sunny Saturday, (December 2) members of the community here in Perth gathered at the AIDS memorial in Robertson Park for morning tea to celebrate, reflect and watch the unfolding of the WA AIDS Memorial Quilt as part of AIDS Awareness Week.
The day was put on by the WA AIDS Council and POWA (Positive Organisation WA), the day after World AIDS Day, to give as many people in the community the chance to take part.
Great food was provided and a coffee truck supplied everyone with freshly made coffee and tea to set the scene for people to mingle, catch up and enjoy the warm Saturday morning sunshine together.
The morning tea was not just about catching up with friends, but also focussed on the unfolding of the WA panels of the AIDS Quilt and some speeches to set the scene of the current HIV landscape in 2017.
The proceedings were emceed by Lisa Tomney from WAAC. Opening remarks were provided by David Kernohan, CEO of WAAC, who welcomed everyone and also shared the sad news of the passing of long-time HIV rep on the WAAC Board, Darren Vernade. There was a minute of quiet reflection when everyone remembered Darren in their own way. Senator Dean Smith spoke from the heart about some of his own personal experiences with HIV, as well as thanking the people with HIV that had been part of the “This is what HIV looks like in 2017” World AIDS Day campaign, for their bravery and involvement. Cipri Martinez, the Chair of NAPWA, spoke about what is happening nationally for PLHIV and finally Ryan Oliver, the chair of POWA, spoke from a local perspective and talked about resilience and the importance of working together to reduce stigma and discrimination.
The unfolding of the quilt then followed. It was the first time in over 10 years that both panels have been unfolded in a ceremony that saw the names of those included read out as members of the community took part in the official unfolding. This was an emotional ceremony, that reminded all present that even though we have come so far, there are many people that we have lost along the way.
The morning finished with people gathering around the quilts in quiet reflection and remembering.
Thank you to all those who attended, it was a beautiful morning. Please see photos below.
Thursday, 23 November 2017 04:23
We had a HUGE day at our World AIDS Day stall in Murray Street Mall on Friday, starting at 7am and finishing up at 7pm.
We had a big marquee set up near the information booth and opposite to Zara, handing out red ribbons and World AIDS day merchandise and asking for donations. In total we collected $1,040.00 worth of donations - Thank you to everyone who generously contributed to our fundraising efforts.
The engagement we had with people was really positive, with people stopping by to ask questions about HIV or how they could volunteer with us, to chat about their own personal experiences with HIV or lost loved ones, or express their appreciation for us and tell us how much our work is needed in the community. This was the first time for a number of years that we have had a stall in Murray Street and been so visual on World AIDS Day, so it was great to get such a positive response from the public. Sometimes it is the simplest connection with community that is the most effective in assisting us to break down barriers, build resilience and reduce stigma and discrimination.
Thanks to all staff and volunteers who helped us out on the day, we really appreciate it!
Thursday, 23 November 2017 04:23
This year's Pride Parade was the biggest yet, and WAAC staff and volunteers had an absolute blast, marching, singing and dancing along the streets of Northbridge.
The WAAC entry supported the official 'Freedom" theme with a hot air balloon float. Our community now has the freedom to choose when it comes to HIV prevention - and what says freedom better than floating in a hot air balloon?!
The float carried the Sharing the Journey moniker, continuing our World AIDS Day theme on the eve of World AIDS Awareness Week, and marchers carried posters promoting the PrEPIT-WA Implementation Trial, currently under way at M Clinic and other sexual health sites around Perth.
And last but not least - WE WON BEST FLOAT!!
See all the colour and glitter (So. Much. Glitter!) below.
Thursday, 23 November 2017 04:23
On Friday morning, we hosted a morning tea to launch our World AIDS Day campaign. Health Minister Roger Cook MLA attended, along with the people photographed in the campaign, as well as others.
Our World AIDS Day campaign aims to reduce the stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV. We are so pleased that six HIV positive people (Mark, Cipri, Stephen, Diane, Wendy and Kristal) from Perth volunteered to have their photograph taken and used extensively on promotional materials. Some of which were also involved in our short film 'Sharing the Journey', which complimented the campaign by providing in depth interviews about what it's like to live with HIV. The photo of these HIV positive people was an important part of promoting the fact that HIV positive people who consistently take appropriate medication can reach undetectable status, meaning they cannot transmit the virus to anyone else, and also highlighting the stigma and discrimination that positive people face.
See below for photos of the campaign billboards & photos from the event, including a photo of Health Minister Roger Cook and the people pictured in the World AIDS Day campaign in front of our office window decal.
Thursday, 23 November 2017 04:22
We had a blast at Leavers Week!
KISS (Keep It Safe Summer) Officer Carley Robbins and her team headed down to Dunsborough for a big week on Monday the 20th November, while Gay Men's Outreach Officer Matt Bacon and volunteers went over to Rottnest on Wednesday 22nd November for the Beach Party.
The crew in Dunsborough hung out at The Zone each night doing activities around contraception and responsible service of alcohol. During the day, they were based at Dunsborough foreshore playing games and giving out Leavers goodie bags packed with the ever popular Mi Goreng, condoms, water bottles, lollies, wristbands and fun merchandise kindly donated by SHQ. They also attended Meelup Beach Party where lathes were given out to young people in return for doing a quick survey on topics such as sexual healtj, alcohol and drugs, and consent.
The Leavers loved this years condoms designs, with the special Leavers 2017 condoms being quick to go, and the animal meme condoms provided a good laugh. By the end of the week, we'd handed out a total of 12,000 condoms to young people celebrating at leavers week.
Thanks to all staff and volunteers who were involved! See photos from the week below.
Monday, 20 November 2017 02:14
The incidence of HIV among heterosexual men is increasing. One of the main reasons for this is that men are having unprotected sex while on holidays. Heterosexual men can often forget that many women in other countries have HIV.
Whether men identify as straight, gay or bi, being diagnosed with HIV has a number of challenges. One of the main challenges is stigma, particularly self-stigma. How do you deal with the sense of shame from having acquired HIV?
As enlightened and open minded as we like to think we are, STI's, BBV's and HIV are loaded with a sense of shame, which is generally not associated with other health problems such as Diabetes or Arthritis.
When we do not acknowledge or work through our shame, we can start to withdraw and feel isolated and alone. Loneliness exacerbates feelings of worthlessness and depression. Before we realise it, we can end up with major depression, feeling nothing is worthwhile and keeping people at arm’s length. Most of us aren’t good at talking about stuff, particularly personal stuff. We think it is easier to bottle it up or push it out of our mind. When things get a bit “hairy” and emotions are close to the surface, we think having another drink of alcohol will help numb things for a while.
Yet the sense of shame continues to eat at us. We feel we can’t talk to our mates because they might think we had been having sex with a guy. We might not be able to tell our partner because then she would know we had been having “a bit on the side”. If you are single, then it is constantly negotiating the dating scene and whether you should disclose or not and how will you be perceived.
Part of the process of dealing with shame and stigma is removing the sense of isolation and aloneness. It is removing the sense of “I have a secret” to “Iike many people, I have an illness in my body that I can learn to live with and enjoy a fulfilled life”.
HIV is not about whether you are gay or straight, it is about:
- Learning the facts - having an undetectable viral load means you cannot transmit HIV to anyone else.
- Knowing you are not alone - there are other men, straight and gay, who are HIV positive living successful, engaged and fulfilling lives.
WA AIDS Council provides a Peer Support program for men living with HIV, whether they identify as straight or gay. For further information, please phone 9482 0000.
Monday, 13 November 2017 05:47
This morning we witnessed something many people did not think they would see.
Australians agree marriage is not just the preserve of a man and a woman, but is an expression of love and commitment between all couples, including same sex attracted.
Despite attempts to maintain the status quo, Australians have shown their understanding that the right to marry is about all people having the equality and fairness to enter into a loving, committed relationship, that is recognised and affirmed by the State.
To everyone who believed in the possibility of marriage for all who chose it regardless of sexuality, who have fought for it and pushed to get to the point in time – thank you. Today we celebrate this result.
Staff at the WA AIDS Council join with the wider LGBTIQA communities in celebrating this response to the survey.
Having heard the wishes of the Australian community to change the Marriage Act, we would encourage all politicians to show bi-partisan support to change these laws as quickly as possible.
Thank you and congratulations from,
WA AIDS Council
Monday, 13 November 2017 01:55
The sexual landscape is changing. While there is still no cure for HIV, modern technologies are available that reduce and stop the transmission of the virus. These technologies will impact on how we navigate our sexual encounters.
First there was PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis), which is a short-term anti-retroviral treatment that reduces the likelihood of HIV infection after a potential exposure to the virus. PEP should be started as soon as possible and definitely within 72 hours of the exposure.
Now there is PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), which will soon be more readily available in Perth via a trial. The PrEPIT-WA trial uses a generic version of the medication "Truvada", which has been shown to be extremely effective, when taken daily, to prevent contracting the virus. To be eligible for the trial, certain criteria must be met, therefore, some people will not be able to access the medication unless they order it online fom overseas.
On top of this, scientific research has now demonstrated that a person whose viral levels are undetectable is unable to transmit the virus to another person through sexual activity. This is the basis for the U=U campaign or Undetectable = Untransmissible. Undetectable status can be reached by being on the appropriate treatment for a period of time and being tested for viral load levels.
The importance of PrEP and U=U cannot be underestimated, particularly for men who are HIV positive. In the past, sexual activity was often complicated by anxiety as to whether to disclose one’s status or not, and the fear about transmitting the virus to other people. However now, men who are HIV positive with an undetectable viral load can have confidence they will not infect another person with HIV through sex. PrEP can be taken as a precaution when having sex with someone who's HIV status is positive (with a detectable viral load) or unknown.
While advances in technology comes with many benefits, there are also potential downsides as well. With more men taking up PrEP and the message of the U=U campaign, there is more incentive to “bareback” or not use condoms. The danger is that we are still at risk of picking up other sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). As much as we don’t want to think about it, some STI’s are increasingly becoming resistant to antibiotics that once treated them, some are painful with nasty symptoms, and all can mess with your sex life, at least for a while.
Sex is and should be a pleasurable activity. We should be able to totally engage in sex without fear, guilt or anxiety. PrEP and U=U play a large role in redeeming sex from the arena of guilt and anxiety back to a place of joy and pleasure. However, as positive as this is, we still need to take precautions, to do what we can to avoid STI's, and to get tested regularly, otherwise STI's may get in the way of enjoying our best sex life.