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A second plague is well underway

An essay on isolation and desperation in the age of communication



At the February 12 ChemSex Forum it was revealed by LA Department of Health Associate Medical Director for Prevention, Lello Tesema, that 25 percent of all Fentanyl related death involve Methamphetamine. On the panel was West Hollywood Council member John Duran, Alex Sanchez, Tom Pardoe, Melissa McCracken, Leilo Tesema, Jimmy Palmieri and Jason De Puy. About 100 community members attended. (Photo by Troy Masters)

It’s not news to anyone that some gay men like to chase drugs (chems) with sex, seeking the ultimate orgasm — an experience that in reality might only happen once.

Nothing will ever match the overwhelming dopamine rush of first time use, but don’t tell the chem-sex crowd that. They will spend the rest of their addiction (for some, the rest of their lives) hoping to repeat that first high.

Chem-sex is simply the old PnP or party and play, using drugs and having sex, most commonly crystal meth. Crystal Meth is a stimulant that has been used to self-treat ADHD and obesity. It can be snorted, smoked or “booty bumped” (a little mixed with liquid in a syringe and pushed into the rectum without a needle).  Or, for the “ultimate” and most harmful high, you can “slam” it (injecting the drug mixed with a liquid into the vein), usually without any self-regard. This, when sharing or using dirty needles, can lead to HIV, hepatitis, serious abscesses, infections and a host of other problems. Other drugs that are “usually” used in this scene can be GHB, cocaine, and even heroin, which is making a strong come back (said to be used  to calm users down after a night of sex and stimulants).

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Contrary to urban legend, chem-sex has never left the gay scene.  It has been around for decades, but every once in a while there are articles that say the culture has declined.  Empirical evidence — recovery facility bed nights, emergency room visits, detox bed nights, and overdoses — have remained constant and high, however.  Providers that serve the City of West Hollywood report meth as the primary addiction, along with secondary and tertiary addictions, among their clients.

The new monster at the party, though, is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.  The user usually has no clue that it has been mixed in with their drugs and it can kill in moments. There is no standard safe dosage, as everyone is different.  If there is no biological intervention with something like Narcan, (an anti-opioid drug that stops overdoses sometimes within two minutes), an overdose can turn fatal quickly.  Now also available are fentanyl test strips. When the test strip is dipped into a small amount of the drug to be used, that has been mixed with water, the strip will indicate if there is a presence of fentanyl. 

Los Angeles LGBT Center Addiction Recovery specialist Mike Rizzo tests a Fentanyl test strip. (Photo courtesy Rizzo)

These strips are available for free from some of the City of West Hollywood’s recovery program providers. 

It is assumed that dealers are mixing fentanyl into their product, to either stretch their drugs further and make more money or to get their clients hooked more quickly, as fentanyl is extremely addictive.  The outcome is a rash of overdoses, with many of the victims never knowing there was fentanyl in their stuff.

Another unfortunate phenomenon is mixing chem-sex with undiagnosed pre-existing conditions, whether physical or mental.  An asymptomatic and undetected heart ailment can turn into a full fledged cardiac arrest wtih meth or fentanyl laced meth use. Mental illness, treated with proper medications or not treated at all can, after substance use, induce hallucinations leading self harm or injury to others.  

“I liked sex on TINA (crystal meth) and G (ghb), ‘cuz I could get fucked for 8 hours straight.  I liked it because I could take multiple huge cocks for long periods of time.  I liked it because I was totally detached from my spirit and I didn’t care what happened to me” says one recovered chem-sex player.  They now have more than a decade of recovery, through hard work and a 12 step program: “Now I unashamedly like the same, but, without chemicals, and I am present.”

Another recovering addict says, “Chem sex…it made doing WHATEVER I wanted to do ok. It made orgasms feel like a 20 on a 1-10 scale. It helped me to validate myself. The more sex I had, the more validated I felt. Sober sex was hard at first, but now it is seriously enjoyable and I am able to have multiple orgasms in a healthy way.”  They are celebrating more than 11 years clean and sober.

These are not uncommon stories. 

Chem-sexers claim they have sex for hours even days on end. But they begin to not have erections, even with the tightest of cock rings, and cannot reach an orgasm. They masturbate sometimes until their penis is bleeding, raw, cut or abraded into open wounds, rendering it unusable for long periods of time.  Sometimes the damage is permanent. It is an unintended consequence, but sadly a common profile for the chem-sex crowd.

In the slippery dark digital world of instant hookup sex apps, chem-sexers can match with potential partner in just a few minutes and even fewer clicks. They can score drugs, find each other for chem-sex or hustle for money or for exchange of sex for drugs.

Looking at any dating or hook-up app, there are countless mentions of “the clouds,” “get to the point,” “PnP,” and  “Tina” sprinkled throughout thousands of profiles. Those are some of the code words and camouflaged phrases used to seek out other chem-sexers at online dating sites and hook-up apps.

There have been a rash of “gay baiters” preying on gay men in search of drugs or partying on some apps. The end result is a straight guy or crowd waiting where the meeting is supposed to take place. They will rob, beat, harm or kill the chem-sexer, who may be already partying and unaware of what is actually happening.

Holidays that advertise love, togetherness, family and friends, are many times the cause of a relapse. Gay men are still socially ostracized and may be estranged from families, may be loners or just lonely.

Underlying depression or undiagnosed mental illness exacerbates the feeling of loneliness which can cause a return to the familiar chem-sex scene.

Relapses can sometimes be more harmful than first use. The brain, psyche and body may not be healed and rates of relapse among meth users exceeds 90 percent. Everyone is different, of course.

For those able to seek help, recovery services and programs are available.

Many insurance companies will cover 30/60/90 days of in patient treatment. But for those with no assets or insurance, there are free services. The system is not easy to navigate and beds are not always immediately available. There are 12 step meetings in almost every city and at multiple times during the day or week, easing the stress of waiting to check into an available facility.

For now, there is still no biological intervention for meth. Users of the drug – as well as professionals in the medical field – remain hopeful that biological intervention may be just around the corner. Let us all hope an intervention comes sooner rather than later.

It is said no one can help an addict get sober better than another addict. Sober crowds and groups exist nearly everywhere and gay enclaves like West Hollywood thrive because of them.

Call it the collective will-power of the tribe. It saved us before and it will save us again.

The second great plague on the gay community is most certainly well underway.

— Jimmy Palmieri is founder of The Tweakers Project and currently serves as a West Hollywood Human Services Commissioner.

— Joseph Fenity contributed to this article. 

Note: The City of West Hollywood works through its Social Services Division to provide services to community members through agencies that provide substance abuse, recovery, and other health and mental health services. For additional information, visit



(855) 638-4373

(323) 936-4343 or (800) 923-8722

(for relatives and friends of Alcoholics)
(818) 760-7122

(213) 201-1600
Addictive Behavior Specialist. Individual therapy, groups and community events for individuals with HIV

(323) 874-4322
Provides substance abuse counseling for HIV positive community members

60-90 day substance abuse rehab in Laurel Canyon

(323) 660-2450
Substance abuse programs for youth 12-24 years old

Youth group made up of youth leaders from the community. All activities alcohol/drug- and tobacco-free for youth ages 14-24

(323) 463-1601
Provides HIV prevention and substance use treatment to MSM and trans women including one-on-on counseling, groups, street outreach and technology-based interventions (mHealth and eHealth)

(323) 993-7448
Provides Crystal Meth and addiction recovery services and programs

(323) 662-0855
A residential substance abuse recovery and sober living facility for men. No one turned away for lack of funds

(562) 987-5722
Residential substance abuse/co-occurring mental health treatment, HIV/AIDS services, and recovery support services

Comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment center for adults and teens

Resources and referrals for addiction and recovery. The Tweakers Project also distributes condoms and safer sex kits to individuals and groups in need, at no cost

(310) 623-1477
Outpatient alcohol and drug treatment. Government-funded services are available to young adults under the federal “Access to Recovery” program. Private pay options accept most insurance plans and/or flexible payment schedules

(323) 463-4266
Day Treatment, Residential, Sober Living and Aftercare drug and alcohol recovery services targeting LGBT men and women. 12-step meetings throughout the week (AA, OA, NA HIV+, SCA)

(310) 360-4833
12-step group meetings

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California ends loitering for prostitution law

This repeals “loitering with intent to engage in prostitution” law, which results in profiling of sex workers particularly trans women



California Governor Gavin Newsom (Blade file photo)

SACRAMENTO – Senate Bill 357, the Safer Streets for All Act, authored by Out state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)’s was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday. 

“As trans people are being criminalized across the country, Governor Gavin Newsom has once again shown that California stands with the LGBTQ community and communities of color,” said Wiener. “Everyone – no matter their race, gender or how they make a living – deserves to feel safe on our streets. Thank you, especially, to our coalition of former and current sex workers and LGBTQ advocates who made this day a reality. Your leadership is inspiring.”

SB 357 repeals a provision of California law criminalizing “loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution.” This criminal provision — arrests for which are based on an officer’s subjective perception of whether a person is “acting like” or “looks like” they intend to engage in sex work — results in the disproportionate criminalization of trans, Black and Brown women, and perpetuates violence toward sex workers.

SB 357 is sponsored by a large coalition made up of former and current sex workers, LGTBQ groups like Equality California and Transgender Gender-variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), and civil rights groups like the ACLU. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST LA) is supporting the legislation.

SB 357 does not decriminalize soliciting or engaging in sex work. Rather, it simply eliminates an loitering offense that leads to harmful treatment of people for simply “appearing” to be a sex worker.

This crime is so subjective and inherently profiling that it allows a police officer to arrest someone purely based on how they are dressed, whether they’re wearing high heels and certain kinds of make-up, how they’re wearing their hair, and the like. This criminal provision is inherently discriminatory and targets people not for any action but simply based on how they look. People who engage in sex work deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Criminalizing sex work does not make sex workers or communities safer. Most criminal penalties for sex workers, loitering laws included, do nothing to stop sex crimes against sex workers and human trafficking. In fact, loitering laws make it harder to identify trafficking victims; trafficking victims are often afraid to come forward in fear of being arrested or incarcerated. 

In February of 2021, a similar piece of legislation to repeal this type of loitering ban became law in New York. SB 357 is part of the movement to end discrimination against and violence toward sex workers, especially the most targeted communities — trans, Black, and Brown people. SB 357 is co-sponsored by Positive Women’s Network – USA, St. James Infirmary, SWOP LA, Trans [email protected] Coalition, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Equality California and ACLU California Action. 

Under current law, it is a crime to loiter in a public place with the “intent” to commit a sex work-related offense. But this law can be broadly interpreted, and thus allows for discriminatory application against the LGBTQ community and people of color.

Law enforcement can use a non-exhaustive list of circumstances to subjectively determine if someone “intends” to engage in sex work, including factors such as speaking with other pedestrians, being in an area where sex work has occurred before, wearing revealing clothing, or moving in a certain way.

Because current law regarding loitering is highly subjective and vague, law enforcement officers disproportionately profile and target Black and Brown transgender women by stopping and arresting people for discriminatory and inappropriate reasons.

This is how Black and Brown transgender women get arrested and cited for simply walking on the street. It also gives law enforcement the ability to more easily target and arrest sex workers.

People in the LGBTQ, Black, and Brown communities report high rates of police misconduct throughout the United States and are disproportionately affected by police violence.

Transgender people who have done street-based sex work are more than twice as likely to report physical assault by police officers and four times as likely to report sexual assault by police.

A Black person is 3.5 times more likely to be shot by police than a white person. These statistics are a daily reality that transgender, Black and Brown people face and lead to mistrust of law enforcement.

SB 357 will repeal a discriminatory law that makes it a crime to loiter with the intent to engage in sex work, given that it fails to prevent street-based sex work and disproportionately results in the criminalization of transgender people and communities of color.

“For far too long, California law has been used to profile, harass and arrest transgender and gender-nonconforming people simply for existing in public spaces,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “We all deserve to live in public peacefully without fear of arrest. Thanks to Governor Newsom and Senator Wiener’s leadership, California boldly stands on the side of justice. This law will make our communities safer for all Californians. We are immensely proud to be in this fight as part of a coalition that has been trans led since the beginning.”

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Proud Boys disrupting a California Pride drag show get pepper sprayed

“There was an altercation, obviously people are here & are upset about the bar having their Pride event,” said the deputy police chief



Woodland police officers after Proud Boys disrupt drag show (Screenshot KCRA 3 News)

WOODLAND, Ca. – An end of Pride month drag show in this suburban city Northwest of Sacramento was disrupted by Proud Boys at the The Mojo Lounge bar and restaurant in the downtown business district.

As the group attempted to gain access to the establishment, a now viral video by local ABC10 television reporter Luke Cleary showed them and the near-by police officers getting pepper-sprayed by an unseen person inside the bar.

Screams of pain erupted along with one Proud Boy who can be heard shouting “fuck you paedophile motherfuckers,” after being sprayed. Woodland police officers can also be seen retreating wiping their eyes from the effects of the irritant self-defensive spray weapon.

Another reporter, Lee Anne Denyer from NBC News Sacramento affiliate KCRA 3 noted that the event, which was initially advertised as an an all-ages Drag Show by the bar was at first postponed and then scaled back.

Denyer posted video that showed the heavy law enforcement presence after the Proud Boys attempted to storm the restaurant demanding to know how many children were in attendance at the show.

“There was kind of rumors that things were brewing on main street but there was obviously a presence by the Woodland Police Department so that made us feel more comfortable. Then it escalated, it escalated pretty quickly,” Julie Ramos, who attended the event, told KCRA. “This really was a positive event and everyone was having a great time. So I think most people were angry but I would say resilient.”

Woodland Police Department, Woodland, California

“There was an altercation, obviously people are here and are upset about the bar having their Pride event,” Anthony Cucchi, the deputy chief of the Woodland Police Department told KCRA. “We tried to intervene as quickly as we could, it was a pretty chaotic scene. Our main priority was to get a safe scene and then make sure anybody that needed help got the help that they needed. We will work on the investigation.”

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Gun industry advertising to kids & restricting ghost guns Calif. laws signed

Latest nation-leading action to protect Californians from gun violence adds to decades of California leadership on gun safety



California Governor Gavin Newsom on gun adverts targeting minors (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed legislation to take on the gun industry and get more guns off California streets. Gun violence is the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. 

“From our schools to our parks to our homes, our kids deserve to be safe – in California, we’re making that a reality. As the Supreme Court rolls back important gun safety protections and states across the country treat gun violence as inevitable, California is doubling down on commonsense gun safety measures that save lives,” said Newsom. “The lives of our kids are at stake and we’re putting everything on the table to respond to this crisis.”

The legislation signed Thursday directly targets the gun lobby and manufacturers.

Governor Newsom signs gun safety legislation June 30, 2022 (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

Governor Newsom signed AB 2571, prohibiting marketing of firearms to minors following recent efforts by the gun industry to appeal to minors, like Wee 1 Tactical advertising the sale of a JR-15, an AR-15 meant for kids, complete with cartoon child skulls with pacifiers. 

“Guns are not toys – they are deadly weapons,” said Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda). “California has some of the strongest gun laws in the country and it is unconscionable that we still allow advertising weapons of war to our children. Our kids have a right to live long, happy lives, free of gun violence.”

Also Thursday, the Governor signed AB 1621, which further restricts ghost guns – firearms that are intentionally made untraceable – as well as the parts used to build them. Ghost guns have been called an “epidemic” by the Los Angeles Police Department, contributing to more than 100 violent crimes in the City of Los Angeles last year alone.

“Alarmingly, we are finding that more and more, no region or demographic is exempt from gun violence – our hospitals, grocery stores, schools, and even places of worship, are no longer safe. The proliferation of ghost guns, which are intentionally untraceable weapons to evade law enforcement, has only worsened the issue,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson). “Following the signing of AB 1621 into law, I applaud Governor Gavin Newsom for his leadership and unwavering commitment to eradicate the rampant wildfire of gun violence currently ravaging our streets and safe-havens.”

Earlier this month, Newsom announced a record $156 million in gun violence prevention grants provided as part of the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program (CalVIP). The funding will support 79 cities and nonprofit organizations that are implementing anti-violence programs suited to the unique needs of their local communities.

California’s gun safety policies save lives and provide a national model for other states to follow. According to the Giffords Law Center, in 2021, California was ranked as the top state in the nation for gun safety. As California strengthened its gun laws, the state saw a gun death rate 37 percent lower than the national average. Meanwhile, other states such as Florida and Texas, with lax gun regulations, saw double-digit increases in the rate of gun deaths. As a result of the actions taken by California, the state has cut its gun death rate in half and Californians are 25 percent less likely to die in a mass shooting compared to people in other states.  

A recent study from the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis found that California’s red flag law was used to stop 58 threatened mass shootings.

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