Hi, I’m David.
This is my site, and here is some stuff about who I am, and what I do.
It's not a CV; it's me, verbatim, it's off the cuff. It's the only way I know.
Mostly, I’m associated with the cultural phenomenon known as chemsex. That’s probably fair, and appropriate; I’m credited with being the person to first ever coin the term “chemsex” (which might well be true; I have memories of inventing the word - but I was very high at the time). Shortly after that particular drug high (it lasted a decade or so), I found myself sober’ish, with a criminal record for drug dealing, a considerable accumulation of traumas, and with a fire in my belly that drove me to raise awareness about chemsex; but the fire in my belly was bigger, broader than chemsex, and it took me down several paths.
I’m born of a violent family, that erupted in gun crime when I was six. Both parents dead, (one murdered by her husband, the other a tormented suicide hours later), I meandered through youth a mess with mental health that went mostly unrecognised, because I’m a firecracker of charisma and coping mechanisms. HIV positive and sex-working by the age of 19, I lived (barely) through the AIDS epidemic (barely, barely), and watched societal concepts of homosexuality and gay sex change while my careers included high profile pimping in the early 90s, high profile drug dealing in the noughties. I'd argue that surviving AIDS was a career in itself too (it certainly occupied a decade of near-death experiences). I watched technology shift these worlds on their axes. I watched the advent of household PCs and smartphone technology, and the explosion of gay sex apps, and porn.
I watched the word “Queer” change from a hateful slur to an identity for a new gay youth.
I watched a generation of homophobic heterosexual men be replaced by a generation of heterosexual men who wave rainbow flags at Gay Pride parades, in support of their gay friends, colleagues and allies.
I watched men who a few decades earlier were cottaging secretly in public toilets, risking arrest, become men who got married in the eyes of their governments, friends and families.
I watched a complete lack of change, in other parts of the world where gays are tortured, killed, arrested, shunned.
And now I'm a (fit but) old man, and sober(ish), in a changed world, and I find myself in an incomprehensible twist of fate, an internationally celebrated activist; something that humbles me and blows my mind. So I try to hone my opinions so they are helpful, and I try to do good where I can. Kindness guides me, like a religion, it is my north star, my ethic, and my prime directive, my most stoic principle.
I need kindness; my world is a kaleidoscope of differing opinions about gay sex, sex generally, morality, religious influences & stigmas, cultural backgrounds, family experiences, attitudes toward drug use, sexual freedoms... it's a complicated mess when you factor in all the corners of the world my life takes me; and chemsex exists in all of them; so kindness is my only guiding light, amid these very different and passionate personal experiences and debates.
Kindness, kindness kindness. It's gorgeous, and it saves me.
That fire in my belly, is the passion and kindness born of these historical and global experiences.
I’m a tireless, tireless worker. I want every minute to be productive, not wasted, and I’m driven manically to enjoy this less selfish part of my life, and (as I said) to be productive, effective. It’s a purpose, a duty. After years of trauma and wasted time, selfish pursuits.
I have tried to raise awareness about the chemsex epidemic that that is responsible for (yes, great amounts of pleasure) and also unfair, disproportionate experiences of trauma, psychosis, suicides and overdoses amongst (mostly) gay men all around the world. It truly is epidemic and so, so upsetting, almost becoming normalised experiences for too many gay men. Nearly every gay man in the world knows someone who has been affected very poorly by chemsex.
The legacy and collective trauma of all the AIDS deaths, or all the injustices afforded homosexual men, still rattles in our souls; it's too recent a trauma for us to be able to fathom this new epidemic of deaths and traumas that accompany chemsex.
The deaths. Deaths, amongst brilliant brilliant gay men, simply pursuing the joy and intimacy of sex and love, and finding it complex; needing drugs (chems) to find the pleasure in it where it can be complicated.
And dying, or suffering in the pursuit.
Approximately 2 gay men each month, die in this pursuit in London each month.
Varying similarities in other cities around the world.
I can’t stand it.
So I am an activist, and I don’t stop.
Join me. I insist.
Who am I, what do I do?
I'm a social worker in my bones, a harm reductionist, a therapist with a particular expertise in "Motivational Interviewing", or therapies that help people (who might be frightened of change, or 'stuck') to move gently toward a safer emotional place where change becomes easier. Sometimes it's being the gentle nurturer, sometimes the gentle affirmer; often it is the guiding kind hand that shows new directions as possible options. But sometimes too (when welcomed) it's being the tough-love motivater. Whatever the person sitting in front of me gives me permission to be, to reach a desired goal. Sometimes, denial and reluctance to change are very appropriate things in a discussion of these sorts; sometimes a brave person gives me permission to highlight these emotions when they become obstacles to change. I work in environments that prioritise the clients' (or patients') goals and well-being, without ever imposing my or other goals or beliefs upon them. This is a strict essence at the core of my work. I believe in this, as much as I believe in kindness.
At other times, I'm a politician, activist. I've been effective in raising awareness about chemsex, campaigning and effectively arguing (kindly) for culturally competent chemsex support to be written into government drug policies, invested in, and moved into real practice. I help government and non-government organisations to build chemsex support and HIV prevention services from scratch, especially where the gay sexual wellbeing needs to be embedded into the policy and practice and skill-set of the staff. I've designed chemsex support programmes around the world, in partnerships with people who totally get it, and with people who don't, or with people resistant to it. I've done it where there is funding and where there isn't. I've done it where stigma or homophobia is rife, and where it isn't. It's all politics and activism; a good argument, a good case, argued kindly, will be effective nine times out of ten if you never ever give up, and if you are dedicated.
And where it isn't effective, you keep trying or find other ways.
Often, finding other ways means working at grass roots level with some passionate, often angry people, to effect smaller more local change.
This is the best, the most fun.
Inspiring local communities or individuals, perhaps current or ex users-of-drugs, or a small group of HIV prevention activists, or some local performers who use their art to fight stigma, sex politics or discrimination against people who use drugs or engage in sex work. Being invited to engage with these groups is an honor, and collaborating with them to familiarise ourselves with what needs to be addressed locally, what new trends are there, how can we all change it, and improve life experience for some struggling brethren... this too, is my life, my joy, my ambiton, my politic, my heart and life.
And my privilege.
I am very driven.
I also cry a lot, in grief, or despair.
And I’ve worked, I’ve created, I’ve inspired. I’ve done it very badly, I’ve done it well.
I am proud to boast that I developed the world’s first chemsex support services, culturally tailored support programmes and harm reduction information; I have supported the governments of many countries to develop public health policies (as well as practice) regarding chemsex, and I have contributed my bits to research and media and the arts, as I strive to stimulate awareness and discussion and thinking on the subject. Most of my time is spent at London’s 56 Dean Street sexual health and wellbeing centre where I manage the chemsex support services, providing one to one care and support for tens of thousands of gay men (over the years) who have sought helpful care-focused conversations with me. This is where my heart is, mostly; having these humbling and important conversations with some of the most extraordinary people I could have the privilege to speak with. This is where my heart is.
You know who you are; and I thank you.
But on any given day, you might also find me dancing on a float somewhere in the world, as an honored guest at a Gay Pride march, proudly carrying an honorary Key to the Gay city; or perhaps in a gay fetish dungeon/nightlclub in Shanghai, hosting a discussion with the local gay men, communities and activists about what defines great sex for them in their cities. I might be cheering and clapping enthusiastically, front row of a fringe Queer performance festival in Berlin or Bogota, watching the local Queer performers explore what chemsex means within their communities and contexts. I might be in a gay sex shop in Kaoshiung chatting about local gay sex trends with some miliant activists and volunteers, while we diligently pack condoms and lube into small packets. Or in a gay cafe in New York, where an impromptu small crowd has accumulated as a chemsex discussion organically evolves around me.
(I struggle to discourse about anything else; even in my off-time.)
It might also be a community screening of a documentary I participated in, perhaps in Melbourne, where people yell and argue passionately at/with each other, on how they feel the film depicts gay sex and gay communities, or how it might have been made differently.
That’s my life; it’s odd, it’s busy, it affords me the huge privilege of international experience with truly fascinating complex peoples and cultures, all trying to make sense of modern gay sex, love, pleasure, community set against a complex background of HIV/AIDS, smartphone Apps, and gay sex stigmas.
And all set amid the backdrop of an extraordinary and complex recent gay history.
It’s odd; I don’t know how I got here, but I honour the bizarreness of the position I find myself in, and I thank every single brilliant person who contributes to my awareness and experience, to my travels and (mostly) to the immense and very personal human experience that might be being shared with me at any given moment, somewhere on this diverse planet.
You know who you are; you know I love you, and I thank you.
In fact I miss you; let’s talk.