Exploring the future of health for same-sex attracted trans men at AIDS 2014
Anthony Rebelo talks to trans activist and educator Jez Pez about the often overlooked issue of sex between trans men and bio men.
Nowadays with diversifying identities and the ever expanding classifications that accompany them, it’s unsurprising that statistics on HIV/AIDS rates for trans men are difficult to come by. The AIDS Council of Victoria states there were 280 cases of HIV diagnosed in Victoria in 2011, one of those classed as transgender (it didn’t state whether it was a trans man or trans women).
Difficulties arise when defining trans identity at the time of diagnosis and consequently trans men’s health education, in particular, can be lacking. So, with around 80 per cent of all cases of HIV diagnosed being cis men who have sex with other cis men—where does that leave trans men?
As a part of the 20th International AIDS Conference this month, youth worker, activist, creator of Dude Magazine and trans man Jez Pez will be co-facilitating a workshop on same-sex attracted trans men and the future of their sexual health.
“When I started looking for trans resources in Australia some ten years ago there was nothing,” Pez says. “I found some information from Canada and the US in fact sheet or pocket card form, but nothing from Australia.”
Over the last ten years Pez’s work in the trans community has helped to improve the lack of information, and with Dude Magazine he created a local point of reference for trans men covering body identities, sexual diversity, safe sex consent and boundary issues.
[Image] Dude Magazine covers a range of topics pertinent to trans men.
“We’ve put on some community forums with the Buck Angel tour,” Pez says, referencing the American adult film performer and educator who toured Australia earlier this year. “They consisted of talks about sexual health and how it intersects with emotional health and mental health. But currently most information is community based advocacy, so no large programs are funded by any organisations. And those that do offer funding usually fall under a wider scope of anti-violence framework. There are no specific campaigns targeted at trans men.”
International research has shown that many transgender people do not consult doctors even in serious medical situations, due to discrimination they may face in health services.
“There needs to be a focus on trans men’s sexual health promotion, especially queer and gay trans men that are sexually active because some trans men are too nervous to ask about the sexual health status of their play partner or unable to enforce their boundaries around what they are ok to do and what they aren’t ok to do,” Pez says.
“The population of trans men is steadily increasing and this means that more trans men are having sex with other men, but there is little research or knowledge about how trans men are having sex with other men, including sexual activity and safer sex practices. Because some trans men, just like other men, can have a range of issues ranging from self-esteem to body image, it means that they can be a more vulnerable group when sexually exploring in areas where they have little experience – particularly with other men.”
In some cases sexual activity between trans men and cis men may happen under the influence of drugs and alcohol. This, as well as issues around consent and disclosure, can place trans men at greater risk of HIV infection.
The AIDS 2014 workshop will cover topics such as the marginalisation and exclusion sometimes experienced in the realm of queer spaces, issues on identity, sexuality and sexual health and how to increase participation from trans men in the development and delivery of trans men’s health promotion.
Pez says he hopes to see posters or safe sex campaigns that include trans men models to shine light on the different kinds of relationships that are occurring between all kinds of gay men.
“Things are changing, slowly, but most importantly—things are changing.”
Pic cap- Trans activist and educator Jez Pez
Same-Sex Attracted Trans-Men: Inclusion, Participation and Health Promotion, Community Skill Development Workshop will be held July 21, 2014. For more information go to aids2014.org