I don’t do trigger warnings in my writing but I’m letting you know now that I might have written something here that pisses you or someone you know off. And yes, some people who are living with an addiction might be triggered.
This is the story of how an aphrodisiac got its afro and became, like crack, an epidemic in the Black community but one that few people want to openly discuss. It’s about white gay men with money and a thirst for Black flesh using their privilege, power, and resources as well as methamphetamine i.e., crystal meth or Tina, to exploit the racial and economic status of Black men who have sex with men, gain access to their bodies and sex, and undermine their ability to negotiate fair and equitable terms for themselves as sex workers in the context of commercial sex relations. It’s about those Black gay and bisexual men once addicted to meth and undermined by its effects importing it into the Black community through hook ups, sex parties and orgies with other Black men who have sex with men.
It’s about LGBTQ leaders racialized as white who can’t afford to confront, challenge, or call out middle class and wealthy white gay men because they have a stranglehold on LGBTQ priorities as major donors to LGBTQ organizations. It’s about heterosexual Black folks who don’t have a clue about what’s happening among Black gay and bisexual men because the bar for loving them is set so low at the level of tolerance or being an ally and people who are racialized as white have so successfully colonized LGBTQ movement politics that the majority of heterosexual Black folks associate anything LGBTQ with wyppipo and think that only wyppipo have anything to say worth considering on LGBTQ issues. It’s about Black LGBTQ organizations that don’t have a Black funding base and are, therefore, beholden to wyppipo and the respectability politics that they require Black leaders to maintain while they are confronted by the life and death issues at stake for most Black people–LGBTQ and cisgender, heterosexual alike.
It’s about money, power, sex, and drugs. It’s about how people manage, cope, and heal sexual shame–the shame about their desires, how they love, fuck, and experience pleasure.
It’s about me, you, and all of us. And yes, it’s about Ed Buck, Gemmel Moore, and all the Black men Ed Buck has touched with his fetish, money, and drug use too.
He and I hooked up a few times before. It was 2004, maybe 2005. The sex was great. We had amazing chemistry. His bronze body had been chiseled by genetics and the gym in ways that would have made him an obvious choice to be in front of the camera but instead he had a a successful career behind the scenes helping to make other people look beautiful. His Clinton Hill loft apartment, stylishly decorated in contemporary and African Diaspora aesthetic, definitely showed the signs of his success.
He was one of a few Black men I had encountered who was into kinky sex, the set of sexual, erotic, and spiritual practices that are oftentimes referred to as BDSM, which stands for bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism, and masochism. I had been introduced to kink a couple of years earlier and had begun the journey to become a Dom, a BDSM practitioner who feeds their partner(s) bondage, discipline, domination, and/or sadism. A sub BDSM practitioner feeds their partner(s) submission and/or masochism. In those early days of my experience in the life, finding Black folks with whom I could share that kind of sex was a welcome surprise.
At some point, we lost touch. But he was the first person I saw party, the term for using Tina in the context of a sexual experience. We were at his place. He loaded the bowl of the glass pipe with the Tina and smoked before we got started. The sex was still great and better IMHO than fucking anyone who is on coke. In my experience, having sex with someone who is on coke is like fucking Roger Rabbit, a lot of activity for very little pleasure.
I began to learn about meth when a fraternal brother of mine invited me to a community forum on meth in the Black community, organized by Harlem United, an AIDS service organization in New York City. It was there that I started to learn of the physical and psychological effects of meth use as well as the various ways it was consumed, smoking, pointing or slamming (i.e., injecting it using a syringe and needle), and booty bumping (i.e., inserting it into the anus to be absorbed into the bloodstream through the mucous membrane of the anus).
That was the only space I saw created to discuss the topic. And it was just a one-time forum. No one was creating prevention or harm reduction programs specifically for Black men.
2007. I returned to New York after spending time in the south being domestic and domesticated. Getting back into the sexual culture of NYC, I started to encounter more Black men who were using Tina. Over the years that hook up culture migrated from cruising spots like parks, train stations, and public restrooms to websites to phone apps, I witnessed the rise in Tina use among Black men. At first, people didn’t associate themselves with crystal meth publicly. After some conversation with a person and in the negotiation of meeting for sex, they would ask if you partied along with the questions about sexual interests and preferences.
But over the years, I saw the emergence of the term party and play and its different versions i.e., PnP and party appear on people’s profiles to help them connect with other Tina users. I saw The capiTalizaTion of all of The T’s in people’s hook up websiTe and app profile’s replace The phrase parTy and play as people found more subTle and cool ways of leTTing oTher Tina user’s know ThaT They were kindred spiriTs.
I never sought someone out for sex because they used Tina, quite the opposite. Sex for me has an important spiritual component therefore, I prefer to be sober during sex and likewise for my partners. Add to that preference, the PTSD with which I have lived that was associated with growing up with an uncle who had an addiction to heroine that caused him to harm himself and members of our family in ways that I had to heal as an adult.
But because the kinds of sex that I like to have, e.g., kinky, group, intensely orgasmic, experimental, queer, requires that people are able to be exploratory, uninhibited, sex positive, open to boundary crossing, and/or kinky, and most Black people that I had met were not able to do that without aid I found that most of the Black men with whom I had kinky sex used Tina. Through our conversations before, after, and sometimes during sex, I learned the history of Tina use in the Black community.
Initially, middle class and wealthy white gay men who prefer and/or fetishize Black men introduced Black men to using Tina as an aphrodisiac. Because of its price, meth has never been an attractive drug for Black people to use given how economically disadvantaged our communities are. Also, meth labs have historically been owned and operated by wyppipo and segregation has made access to the manufacturers and distributors more difficult for Black folks. But when meth use increased among middle class and wealthy white gay men, it opened up access that has fundamentally changed our community.
When I first spoke with Black men who used meth, the stories fell into two kinds: white gay men hiring poor/working class Black men who were sex workers for sex and introducing them to meth or white gay men introducing professional Black men who had sex with white men to meth. I should say about the latter that in my experience there are four kinds of Black men who have sex with men: Black men who don’t have sex with white men, Black men who exclusively have sex with white men, Black men who only have commercial sex with white men, and Black men who have sex with men of various ethnicities including white men.
It’s these last two groups of Black men who have sex with men who brought Tina back home to the Black community. I say this not to demonize these men or as a critique of Black men having sex with white men but rather to speak plainly about the race relations of sex in the context of Tina use in the Black community. If we are to address the issue, we need to be real about the dynamics that got us here and keep us here.
Eventually, these Black men would introduce Tina to other Black men sometimes at the behest of the white men. The white men would play host to sex parties and ask the Black men to bring their friends or find other Black men to satisfy their insatiable craving for Black male flesh. In other scenarios, the Black men would obtain meth from the white men either through purchase, trading sex for the drug, stealing it, or as a gift. They would take the Tina back home and introduce other Black men in their community to the drug as a form of sexual sacrament.
These sacraments birthed the party and play parties in our communities. On any given weekend, Black men gather together in someone’s apartment in their community to party, fuck, and invite other men to join. PnP communities such as these exist in Black communities across the country. These Black men are bonding around the drug, its impact upon the body’s experience pleasure, and the sex they have, but with a tremendous down side.
A Spirit Force
In the last 10 years, I’ve reconnected with several former lovers who started using and became addicted to meth. One Monday morning, he, a beautiful, dark skin, young brother, called me in tears desperate because he was late again to his medical training program. He had been put on probation for being late and this was, he thought, the last straw. Having partied since Friday, he hadn’t given himself enough time to recover and come back to himself to be ready and on time for the program on Monday morning. He was ashamed and terrified that he would be kicked out of the competitive program and wanted me to help.
From my conversations with two other former lovers who had become addicted to meth, I learned about the nature and power of meth as a spirit force always calling, beckoning for their participation in its dance. The ways in which feelings and sense memories associated with a certain smell of sex would spiral up into the root of their spine and travel up into their head. The way the muscles of their anus would flex and release and the sexual hunger would take them back to particular moments when they used and felt the spirit force commune with their consciousness.
Part panther, part belly dancer, part whirling dervish, part specter, the spirit force of Tina once it is tasted never fully leaves. So when you find a forgotten, leftover tenth under the bed or in a pocket or when a plug (i.e., dealer) who you have been avoiding finds a way past your blocked number to contact you, there’s some level of effort to resist, decline the invitation to dance.
Although people had been using meth for decades before it become a part of people’s sexual practices, the combination of Tina with sex, Black sex, kinky sex, group sex, conjures up something magical and dangerous in its long term impact.
Ed Buck: More Real and Dangerous Than Willie Lynch
So when white men use it to collect the bodies of Black men, access the beauty, pain, and power encased in those bodies, and hold those men in psychological bondage, it reinforces an intergenerational trauma going all the way back to the first slaving expeditions in Africa and the resulting Middle Passage. It’s a hostage taking whereby no matter how far away the hostage goes, the chains that tether them to their enslaver extend to maintain the domination and pull them back into the enslaver’s den.
According to the National Black Justice Coalition:
On Monday, January 7, 2019, a 55-year old Black man [,Timothy Dean,] died under suspicious circumstances in the West Hollywood apartment of Ed Buck. Buck is a white man who has been a prominent political donor to primarily Democratic political candidates. This tragedy follows the death of Mr. Gemmel Moore at Buck’s home in July 2017, under seemingly similar circumstances. According to the Los Angeles Times, authorities found “24 syringes with brown residue, five glass pipes with white residue and burn marks, a plastic straw with possible white residue, clear plastic bags with white powdery residue and a clear plastic bag with a ‘piece of crystal-like substance” at the scene when Mr. Moore’s body was found. Mr. Moore’s death was immediately determined to be an accidental methamphetamine drug-related overdose and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges.
Mr. Moore’s personal journal was later published, blaming Buck for giving him his first methamphetamine injection and suggesting he was responsible for coercing continued drug use in Buck’s home. Mr. Moore’s account suggests Buck had a pattern of coercively injecting drugs into young Black men. Since Mr. Moore’s death, other young men have stepped forward to confirm Moore’s account and share their own stories about Buck’s alleged practice of injecting Black men with various illicit and dangerous substances.
Jasmyne Cannick was one of the first and few journalists to break the story and stick with it since Gemmel Moore’s death by injection. With permission of Moore’s family, Cannick published Moore’s journal:
“I pray that I can just get my life together and make sense. I help so many people but can’t seem to help myself. I honestly don’t know what to do. I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worse one at that. Ed Buck is the one to thank, he gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth. It was very painful but after all the troubles I became addicted to the pain and fetish/fantasy…”
“I just hope the end result isn’t death…If it didn’t hurt so bad I’d kill myself but I’ll let Ed Buck do it for now.”
The death of a second man in Buck’s West Hollywood apartment has prompted another Black man, Jermaine Gagnon, to come forward and share his experience with Buck. In a story reported by the DailyMail:
“We did the usual, I changed into his clothes. I drank most of the Gatorade then within a few minutes, I felt woozy. I didn’t feel like my normal self…. I could barely keep my eyes open. I was real drowsy and limp. I was laying in the middle of the floor…. Buck said, ‘You’re not high enough for me, I want you to do another point.’ I was so blurred in the situation. He actually pointed me and when he injected me with crystal meth, my body heated up like fire…. My head felt like it was going to explode and I just felt so dizzy and limp…. My body was numb, I could barely move. It was a matter of seconds. My speech started slurring, I was in and out…. I saw him preparing the drugs at the table. He said ‘you’ve got to watch.’ I couldn’t really stand up…. I really thought I was the next person that was going be dead at Ed Buck’s house…. He took my phone. I was so scared. I felt the sensation of death. I felt death walked into my soul…. I went and drunk out of the faucet. I found my phone and called my mother. I said, ‘Mom, I feel like he’s going to kill me, I think I’m going to die.’ She said, baby, I love you.”
The Willie Lynch Letter or Speech is an infamous part of folklore in the Black community that fits neatly into our need to make sense of the unfathomable nature of slavery and white supremacy. In the fictitious letter/speech, a slave plantation owner, Willie Lynch, shares with other white supremacists the science and art behind his practice of controlling Africans who he has enslaved and held in bondage. The existence of Lynch and the credibility of the letter/speech have been debunked by various historians. Although Willie Lynch most likely did not exist, Ed Buck does.
More importantly, Ed Buck is not alone. We know about Buck because two Black men died in his apartment. But there are numerous white gay men who every weekend invite Black men into their homes and hotel rooms, pry them with crystal meth, and attempt to satiate themselves in an ocean of Black flesh and servitude.
As I said at the beginning, these stories are about money, power, sex, and drugs. They are about a melting pot in which white supremacy, the consumption of Blackness through chemsex, and a LGBTQIA movement dominated by settler-colonialism, imperialism, consumerism, and the restoration of queer wyppipo’s status as white people in the world fuse together to produce Black servitude and suffering. This story is about us and what we do. It’s a story with an ending yet to be written.