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The Power of Gay Sex for Queer Liberation

Talk About Sex

A new sex-positive summit helps to bring the focus back to gay sex at this week's International AIDS Conference in Montreal, and that's important.

Gay sex has tremendous power. You wouldn't know that looking back on our recent LGBTQ+ or HIV movements. In fact, we've seen the movements take very intentional actions to divorce themselves from gay sex. But it has been at our peril. Now we have the opportunity to recenter sex in our movements. The For Fuck's Sake Summit, hosted by the organization MPact Global Action for Gay Men's Health and Rights, is a groundbreaking convening that will bring back the focus to gay sex at this summer's International AIDS Conference in Montreal on July 28.

Nearly 70 countries around the world still criminalize same-sex sexual behavior. For centuries gay, bisexual, and queer men have pursued sex while navigating violence, discrimination, arrest, and disease. The 1970s was a moment of sexual liberation, but once AIDS happened that was all sent into retreat. For decades after, gay sex would be inescapably linked to death and disease.

For 40 years the conversation around gay sex has been nearly always about preventing illness. The key messages we've heard have been stop having sex, reduce the number of partners, or use a condom every time. The overwhelming narrative around gay sex was that it was something dirty and immoral. Speaking openly and honestly about gay sex was frowned upon, and condomless sex was stigmatized. Condomless sex was and still is seen as behavior that gay men need to be prevented from participating in. Many still can't comprehend why some will risk so much for sex.

FFS

In our history we have risked all sorts of things for sex. We risked exposing our sexuality and losing our homes, families, or jobs. We've risked arrest or violence while cruising for sex in public spaces. We've risked an incurable disease to find pleasure and intimacy with one another. Sex has so much meaning that we are willing to risk everything for it, and men continue to do so all around the globe.

Our ability to confront all these challenges and yet still cultivate a sexuality and foster a community is a testament to our resilience. We've found our power through our community connections. We've found our voice when speaking openly and honestly about sex and desire. We've discovered that using our bodies to pursue a fulfilling sexuality is a radical political act.

This activism and community around sex is why MPact's For Fuck's Sake Summit is so important and timely. We have the opportunity to leverage this activism and strengthen our communities. We can explore the audacity of people living with HIV pursuing a thriving sex life. We can work to demystify trans sexuality. We can uplift and strengthen sex workers. We can discover how COVID changed the sexual and economic landscape for OnlyFans content creators. We can prioritize pleasure in our movements. We can continue to mobilize to decriminalize gay sex. And we can celebrate the complex pursuit of sexual pleasure and satisfaction.

For many people, this convening will be the first time they have been in a room full of other gay men just to talk openly about gay sex. The exchange of ideas will allow us to learn from each other and strategize the various ways we can prioritize gay sex in our movements and bring about meaningful change. We can transform our world so that our sex is no longer deprioritized, stigmatized, or pathologized but valued, invested in, and celebrated.

Our sex has always endured because it has profound value and meaning. To affirmatively declare that our sex has value is a radical act. Together we can leverage the political and social power of gay sex and sexuality. No apologies, no fear, and no stigma. Simply proud, powerful, and affirmative. Because this is about the lives of our communities, for fuck's sake.

ALEX GARNER is the director of community engagement at MPact Global. MPact is a catalyst for creating change among global gay, bisexual, and genderdiverse communities. He was most recently the senior health innovation strategist at Hornet, the gay social networking app. He crafted sexual health messaging, developed social marketing campaigns, created digital content for a global audience, and led Hornet's research efforts. Alex has over 25 years of experience working as a community organizer. He has been a freelance writer for over two decades, capturing the experiences and perspectives of the queer community. As a writer and an artist, he has utilized the cultural arts to advance the narratives of LGBTQ+ communities.

This story is part of The Advocate's 2022 Advocacy and Politics issue, which is out on newsstands July 18, 2022. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe -- or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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