As Bi Men We Need To Talk About Our Drug Abuse – It’s Killing Us



“Since when does him being bisexual have anything to do with a drug overdose?” reads a comment on an article about the death of 21-year-old rapper Lil Peep.

I can’t speak for Peep himself. Nor can anyone, since he took a handful of Xanax at the end of last year and never woke up. But as a bi man, I can say my sexuality and the drug dependencies which have twice hospitalised me are absolutely inseparable. My sexuality justifies my dangerous drug use – I want to feel relaxed and comfortable having sex with men, and there are four easy ways to do this: MDMA, GHB, crystal meth, and booze.

I know from friends and fellow performers at the chemsex discussion night Let’s Talk About Gay Sex and Drugs that many gay men feel the same, and a cursory internet search turns up thousands of straight men fretting about ‘turning gay’ when they drop a pill or get coked up.

Kissing your mate in a mandied-up frenzy when Bronski Beat comes on at 3AM does not make you gay. But drugs make it easy to live a double life of self-denial, a condition endured by many gay men – and at the absolute root of my bi experience.

‘Coming out’ is a crude term for a complex, lifelong process. But where a gay man might begin the struggle to accept his queerness at 12 and retreat from school bullying into isolation, fantasy or gay media, many bi men meet our queerness aged 18 or 25, when other worlds are readily available at the cost of a pill or a baggie of powder.

I came out into a world full of hard drugs. One in four men who has chemsex in London knows someone who has died after a chillout. When does an epidemic become a plague?

Michael Hobbes’ terribly sad article on the epidemic of gay loneliness reveals that suicide, not HIV/AIDs, is now likely the biggest killer of gay men, who are up to ten times more likely to take their own lives than their straight counterparts. “While one half of my social circle has disappeared into relationships, kids and suburbs, the other has struggled through isolation and anxiety, hard drugs and risky sex,” he writes.

Drugs provide a way for bi men to switch between these two lives: between suburbia and crystal meth, between socially normalised sex and sex we are taught to despise.  One great lie I internalised was that bi people should feel the same attraction toward men and women, when in fact the two sensations are so radically different as to be almost unrecognisable.

Bi men are yet more likely to kill ourselves than gay men, more depressed, more anxious, more prone to self-harm, more likely to be addicts and abuse drugs. (Our bi sisters suffer the same fate, and the suffering of trans and non-binary people is another story entirely.) One in three bi men has considered or attempted suicide, and we experience more rape, violence, and stalking than gay men do.

I would never presume to understand the suffering my gay or trans friends lived through as queer youth at school, at home or in the street. My first attempt to come out as bi, at 15, prompted tears and refusal from my parents and lectures from church elders. Together, we agreed I was “in a phase,” acting out for attention. For half a decade I accepted this analysis, more or less. It was so much easier than the truth. It was fine.

It would also be easy to write my parents’ response off as backward, moralistic censoriousness, a very British form of conversion therapy by ignoring the problem until it went away. But in a sense, they were right. As someone raised a strict, practicing Christian, I know I find sex with men and hard drug abuse alluring for precisely the same reason – because they are transgressive, wrong, not what mother would want.

The “talks” I endured following my failed coming-out were very similar to those I sat through at 17 after putting my mother’s car through a brick wall at 60 miles an hour in the dark and the pissing sleet, blind drunk and stoned, and waking up in the hospital with chunks of asphalt in my skull after trying to batter myself to death on an exposed roadway two miles away. By instilling sensations of shame and wrongness, they fed into internalised taboos which make gay sex and drugs so appealing to me.

Drinks and drugs do not simply release me from deep-rooted, internalised homophobia – they are a release in their own right. I’m sure I’ve been too fucked to meaningfully consent to almost all of the last hundred or so people I’ve slept with, male, female or otherwise, but I could not enjoy sex any other way.

Do I sleep with men because I’m drunk out of my skull, or do I get drunk out of my skull because I want to sleep with men? In the end, there is no difference.

Several guys who’ve fucked me have stopped, mid-sex, to ask if I’m sure I’m enjoying myself. How can I explain that I want to feel nothing, to be inert, a void which must be filled? Likewise my friends use the phrase “dead behind the eyes” to describe a particular state I enter into somewhere far past the point of drunkenness, automaton-like but still stumbling, smoking, pouring drinks, though there is absolutely nothing sentient visible in my eyes. The absence is the end in itself.

But this makes my acts of gay love, such as they are, borne of homophobia: just as my love of alcohol is not a love of a good time but a love of no time at all. This is why I seek out unprotected sex with rough men in alleyways and chemsex orgies, why I drink to the bottom of the bottle and keep on drinking, why I take GHB while pissed and slam crystal meth, why I have spent nights in hospital beds gripped by comedown psychosis with scraps of my own torn-up flesh percolating through my bloodstream.

Bi rights campaigners decry the stereotype that bisexual people are wild, unruly, and promiscuous. We can have loving and monogamous relationships, they say. We are not cheap or easy. But in my case, this is not true. I can only really enjoy sex when high or blind drunk.  Having a same-sex partner improves mental health and cuts down drug use among LGB youth. But compared to their lesbian or gay counterparts, bi people are less likely to desire a partner of either sex: I cannot imagine ever settling monogamously.

“Just be yourself” is horrible advice to offer to queer youths. We do not know who we are, and we are created as sexual beings – as we are in all things – through the connections we form and the environments we find ourselves in. Foucault writes: “sexuality is something that we ourselves create – it is our own creation, and much more than the discovery of a secret side of our desire.” So it is that I, drunk beyond all reason or creative capacity in the bedroom, think of myself as less bi than whateversexual, an absence waiting to be fucked.

Yet there is hope here, also. In that same passage, Foucault continues: “Sex is not a fatality; it’s a possibility for creative life. It’s not enough to affirm that we are gay but we must also create a gay life.”

Lil Peep, it seems, felt much the same. “It’s a good thing, and I’m proud of that,” he said when asked about his newly-announced bisexuality in his final interview before he died. “I’m surrounded by good people, and I surround myself with good people.” Were it not for alcohol and drugs I might have never followed through on those long-repressed urges. I am happier now, I think, for having done so.

I remember getting fucked doubled-over on the balcony of a chemsex chillout in an East London high-rise, looking out over the council estates, both smoking cigarettes. As a young professional in the city you are sucked into a latticework of communicatory capitalism and exchange which bears no relation to the physical, occupied city. You rush past it in tubes to nodes of information exchange and value-extraction, alienated from all the realities of the street.

Queer, one enters into systems of exchange of another order entirely, of fluid and fists, excluded from the city but drawn into its nether-parts. It was a Monday morning, and I looked at the civilians passing by in suit and tie on their way to work and thought that the only place more deathly than here was everywhere else. As with an alcohol dependency, the only thing more dangerous than carrying on would be to quit.

More than that, I have had a good time with some wonderful men, and sometimes not even blind drunk. The great gay sex and the gorgeous high nights I have had surrounded by my friends – patient, kind, beautiful queers – are defined by a wild release I would never have known had I had nothing to transgress.

“We have to create new pleasure,” Foucault goes on. “And then maybe desire will follow.” He is not denying the biological basis of (homo)sexuality: he is saying that humankind has dwelled for too long on our sexuality as an abstract inner entity to be tamed or freed, rather than the real relationships and identities we formulate and revel in. If we become preoccupied with probing, weighing and measuring our so-called sexual identity, we “will turn back to a kind of ethics very close to the old heterosexual virility.” Fuck that: let’s fuck.

Sometimes I think the day will come when I can be fucked by a man, sober, and not be scared. Should this be something I have to work towards? No, but it is. Will I snort, drink, or inject myself to death before that day, which part of me longs for so badly, comes? I don’t know.

Lil Peep “took a nap and never woke up.” Earlier this year I woke up in cold spring sunlight after unknown hours spent ‘going under’ on G, curled up unattended on the floor as others have been dumped in a bin and left to die, while other men continued to fuck each other in the room next door.

“Come and chill out, man,” one of them beseeched me as I gathered my possessions and stumbled back toward the civilian world. “Come and play.” But I had already got what I wanted, and I left. I felt fantastic: I felt alive.

Matt Broomfield
Matt Broomfield is a freelance journalist, poet and activist. He writes for VICE, the New Statesman and the New Arab; his prose has been published by The Mays, Anti-Heroin Chic and Plenitude; and his poetry by the National Poetry Society, the Independent, and Bare Fiction. His work was displayed across London by Poetry on the Underground, and he is a Foyle Young Poet of the Year.