Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Panel Takes a ’Raw’ Look at Barebacking: Why We Like It, Why We Still Do It

via EDGE, by Scott Stiffler

Lively, sometimes loud debate; passionate viewpoints accentuated by applause from the crowd; and skepticism towards the establishment’s ability to effectively advocate for public health. It sounds like a contentious town hall event in which the proposed health care overhaul takes a beating--but it was, in fact, an August 13th public forum sponsored in New York City by the nation’s oldest and largest private AIDS service organization, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC).

Certainly, it’s understandable why high passion would have erupted at a discussion of the most sensitive topic among gay men today: barebacking. Although its topic was every bit as divisive as Obama’s sweeping initiative, the event managed to demonstrate that the town hall format need not devolve into a shouting match.

Actually, it technically wasn’t about "barebacking," at least if the organizers could help it. The conclave’s premise was that the term "barebacking" unfairly stigmatizes gay men who have unprotected sex.

GMHC’s organizers instead chose the no less provocative but apparently more acceptable term "raw" as the title of the event. A poster promoting the night showed a man, shirtless and with back to the camera, displaying the word "RAW" in tattoo form on his back right shoulder.

GMHC Board of Directors Co-Chair Odell Mays moderated a seven-member panel, each of whom had had five minutes to assert his particular point of view around the issue of stigma and unprotected sex. Afterwards, moderator Mays spent the remainder of the evening taking questions and comments from the audience - to which the panel had the option to weigh in on.

Read the rest.

Related - "Risky Business" forum and podcast in Chicago


  1. Michael J. HarringtonAugust 26, 2009 at 9:41 AM

    Sounds like a very serious and very good public forum. From a community organizing perspective, I envy New York's ability to be so organized as to be able to call on so many People of Color in leadership to present as panelists and also to attract them as audience participants. OK, Chicago, we gotta lot to learn.

  2. Thanks for the comment Michael. But did you see that we held a similar forum here - on August 17 - called "Risky Business"??? We also had panelists of color discussing this issue to a crowd of about 150 people at the Center on Halsted. Please check out
    Chicago may have a lot to learn - and by the same token, many could learn from our leadership.

  3. Michael J. HarringtonAugust 26, 2009 at 1:07 PM

    Hey, Jim. Yes, I watched the video of Chicago's "Risky Business" forum (and the ensuing dialogue on the Feast of Fun and other blogs) which demonstrated great initiative on your part.

    In Chicago, you are your colleagues do remarkable work to include and honor People of Color as equal constituents to be served and respected in our community. It's a progressive model to be emulated across the spectrum of Chicago's LGBTQ business, social service, and community agencies and institutions.

  4. The GMHC CAB (Consumer Advisory Board) formed a committee about 1 year ago to organize a forum called "Lets talk about sex, lets talk about bareback sex". This group was composed by CAB members and GMHC staff. From the first meeting a senior staff member of GMHC raised an issue with the word Bareback, which originally was used to indicate a possibility of HIV transmission. That is not the case anymore and people who have unprotected sex, with or without risk of transmission, now use the word to define anal sex without condoms.
    The word Raw, can signify things other than bareback. I wonder how effective prevention measures we can come out with, when we are afraid to call an apple, apple.


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