The meth overdose death of a young, black American, gay man – whilst in the company of a well known Democratic donor – has inspired a new documentary asking: Why won’t gay and bi men of color talk about drugs?
Michael Rice’s new documentary, parTyboi, looks at how meth use in the black and queer latinx community is on the rise. And a lot of them are using meth for sex.
Focusing on New York and Los Angeles, he explores the trend. It also known as ‘chemsex’, getting ‘high and horny’, or ‘party and play’.
These are made up of a mixture of GHB, mephedrone and crystal meth. In some cases, the mostly gay and bi men who use these ‘chems’, will ‘slam’ or inject these drugs.
Most people will only know the drug crystal meth from the popular Netflix drama ‘Breaking Bad’. The series pictures the drug, as one used by a mostly white middle-class America.
But parTyboi, follows a very different meth story.
Who is Gemmel Moore?
Michael Rice’s documentary follows the meth overdose of a young gay black man, Gemmel Moore. He was homeless and working as an escort when he died aged just 26, in July 2017.
It was from an accidental methamphetamine overdose in the Laurel Avenue home of the well known democratic donor Ed Buck, according to the coroner’s report obtained by the LA Times.
The report says paramedics found Moore naked on a mattress in the living room with gay porn playing on the TV. His death was ruled accidental.
Why are black gay and bi men using drugs for sex?
Rice’s documentary believes Gemmel’s story is something a whole community is currently going through:
‘I thought It would be important to have his story in parTyboi. To show others, the dangers of sex work, drug use and addiction, especially when it comes to crystal meth.’
The documentary follows queer people of color. But it finds white pimps entrap them with drugs, taking them down a path that forces them into being sex workers.
‘A great deal of chemsex drug users in the US that are queer people of color had no prior knowledge of the drugs. They were introduced to them as a quick party drug, or as sexual enhancers for arousal.
‘Many whom I spoke with was introduced to meth with a non-threatening name like ice, Tina, and glass – for party and play.’
Rice saw a range of different reasons for why they began. Notably, they often start using drugs as a self-coping mechanism for sex work and fighting depression.
‘He’d been eating my ass for five minutes – I found out later he’d spit two CC’s of crystal meth up my ass’
One of the sex workers in the documentary, Michael, shares his horrific story.
Whilst at a client’s house in Beverly Hills, a client inserted meth into his ass while rimming him. Obviously, by doing so, the client also drugged him:
‘I didn’t even think that this mother-fucker could poison me. All I was thinking about was how good it felt right now,’ Michael tells the documentary.
He had a similar story to Gemmel’s:
‘I was 18, grabbed all my stuff in a garbage bag and moved to LA on a whim. And when I got there I was at a bus stop when a writer of a famous TV show told me his fetish was to “fuck his dealer.” And that was the beginning of it all.’
Not only would Michael would go on to be the writer’s dealer but he would also deal to many of the man’s friends too.
‘He gave a whole bunch of clothes, do-rags, dressed me up, and three pounds of crystal. He gave me a list of his friends’ names in LA and told me to go fuck them.’
Michael explains how easy it is to get wrapped up, and forget you are not the boss:
‘When you get there thinking you have them wrapped around your finger because you are the black guy with the big dick. No – he has you, wrapped around his fingers because you think that.’
How meth started as a ‘white circuit party drug’ and made its way into queer black and latinx culture
Methamphetamine was first synthesized by the Japanese Military. In fact, suicidal ‘Kamikaze’ pilots in World War Two would use it.
The drug first traveled to America when soldiers brought it back with them after the Allies’ victory. And the pure drug, easily made in underground labs, quickly became popular in rural America.
Rice says: ‘Historically, within the US, Black Americans have not brought narcotics into the country. Even though they were the demographic largely seen using them.
‘Any time you get oppressed, traumatized and low income/ poor communities of color in the US, you are able to also find those wanting to medicate via drug use from reality.
Then in the 1980s, cocaine and meth began to be used by ‘mostly moderate well-to-do’ white gay and straight men on the party scene. But it didn’t stay there for long.
Rice says: ‘A level of classism has now been associated with drugs like cocaine and meth. But, when a lot of white men begin to realize that crystal meth puts you at risk of losing your job, home, family – a great deal of them who used and sold it started pushing it into the urban communities instead.
‘I believe they began using sex workers as a way to move the drug use urban population.
‘The movers and pushers of the product are bigger than the ones who are selling the drugs to make a quick buck. It’s all really under the control of individuals who push it out to multiple cities, making it in labs. And in my opinion – this is mostly controlled by white men.’
Review of parTyboi: black diamonds in ice castles
It took Rice seven months to put this documentary and since completing it, fortunately, no-one has passed away.
But with the high use of drugs and bareback sex among some of those in the documentary, this comes as a surprise. Last year’s Gay Star News survey about the way people all over the world are having chemsex shows 1 in 4 who use drugs for sex, know someone who has died from using these party drugs.
Moreover, many of the men have no plans to curb their addictions and few are able to hold down a job. So it is clear their drug use is taking a toll on them.
The documentary also explains why black gay and bi men find talking about drugs as such a taboo.
One of the young black gay men Rice spoke to puts it perfectly:
‘Crystal meth is impacting the black gay community but no-one wants to admit it. When you talk about crystal meth, you think of it impacting white men. We don’t think of it as ours. But we have to own the issue and talk about it, because it is impacting us.’
This documentary is a vital piece of storytelling about a trend decimating queer people in cities all over the world.
It is particularly important because no-one has told the story of the black communities relationship with drugs. Rice explains why they, above all others, struggle with them.
He says he has become tired of seeing ‘my gay people of color riddled with this addiction. I’m taking a stand with this documentary’.
Want to understand why black gay and bi men are taking drugs for sex? This is a must watch.
parTyboi, the documentary, is out now. Follow their Facebook page for up-to-date screening information.
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Go to the Support section of the Gay Star News chemsex series.