Being a black man, who has sex with men in London, comes with its own unique set of pros and cons. It can be challenging being a minority within a minority.
Like anyone else, we like sex. But sometimes our journey to comfortably enjoying sex with men comes with a variety of cultural issues, and some of those issues can take longer than others to overcome.
We don’t often see ourselves represented in gay media, yet we make up a significant number of London’s MSM population. The times that we are represented, we may be portrayed in stereotypes; hypersexual and aggressive, or flamboyant and sassy. Yet like all gay men, we can be those things and a million things in between.
Many of us come from homes where religion and gender expectations don’t allow room for us to be open and visible as gay men. We may have grown up hearing our community talking about gay men with a violent language, often times just in casual expression. As a result, we can find ourselves in the London gay scene without many people to talk to about what it is like to be us.
These factors can lead us to feel like there is a choice; between being a black man or a gay man. Yet it is important to know that those 2 identities can blend and coexist happily.
Now is a good time to mention that you may have experienced all the issues listed here, you may have experienced some, or even none. It is essential we are kind to each other, and don’t perpetuate any stigma that we experience, towards each other. In each other we should be able to find safety and encouragement, who knows better what it is like to be a black, gay man in London than another black, gay man.
Like the broader gay community, we need to know what options are available for having sex safely. We need to know where and when to get tested for HIV and STIs, and where to get treatment when necessary. We need to know there are groups in the community, just for black gay men e.g. https://blkoutuk.com/about/ where our voices and faces are safe and welcome.
Statistically black men have an increased risk of contracting HIV in London, so it is important that we educate and protect ourselves and our sexual partners through prevention (PrEP, condoms) and regular HIV testing. Through these methods, we can make a huge impact on reducing HIV infections.
If we do test positive, it’s important to know that people who are diagnosed early and start treatment immediately can expect to remain healthy and have a normal life span. This is because modern treatments work really well at controlling the virus in the body. After 3-6 months, we can expect to have an undetectable viral load. This means that even if we have sex without a condom, we will not be able to pass HIV to others. With the right care and support, there is no reason why HIV should get in the way of our future life and happiness.