Hullo, hullo! Are there any investigative journalists left in Sydney?
When there was a COVID surge in India last April, Australia slammed its borders shut, stranding travellers and separating families.
Excuse the pun, but the media was all over those stories like a rash.
Now monkeypox has been declared a “global health emergency” by the World Health Organisation. States of emergency have been declared in New York, California and Illinois, where case spikes have conspicuously followed “pride month” celebrations. Having recorded over 40 cases, Australia has likewise declared a “communicable disease incident of national significance” over the virus.
Where are the Australian journalists who are willing to raise questions over “WorldPride 2023”, an event affectionately nicknamed the “gay Olympics” and scheduled for February and March in Sydney?
This is an unforgivable omission. As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, the best explanation for this year’s explosion of cases traces the epidemic back to gay raves in Belgium and Spain. These included the Darklands fetish festival in Antwerp and a Pride event in the Canary Islands that drew 80,000 people.
Next year’s event is supposed to be even bigger. When Sydney won the rights to WorldPride three years ago, Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC, rejoiced that the event “could bring more than 1 million visitors to the city” — a “real shot in the arm” for local businesses.
And the event’s official website boasts: “Sydney WorldPride will incorporate all the beloved Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras experiences like the Parade, Party, Fair Day and Sissy Ball but supersized into 200+ event festival.”
Where is the “fearless and forensic” ABC? MIA. Where is the “independent always” SMH? MIA.
Yes, we know. Anyone can get and spread monkeypox. Also: 98% of cases globally are currently men who have sex with men.
Yes, we know. Gay promiscuity shouldn’t be blamed for the outbreak. Also: casual sex and group sex is a beloved feature of many in the gay community.
It’s not me saying so. In a piece aimed at reducing stigma towards the gay community, the Washington Post (un)ironically quoted gay health activist Nicholas Diamond, who explained:
We just were maybe seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of the Covid-19 pandemic, and looking forward to a slutty summer, and we now have to deal with monkeypox and a government that really fumbled its response without learning the lessons of covid-19. So everyone’s tired. And it is hard to talk about anything when you’re worried if your last hookup was going to get you sick.
Along with others, Diamond and his husband Keletso Makofane have set up a website aimed at providing information and advice for gay and trans people during monkeypox—an admirable project. Yet its key resource, a tip sheet on safer sex, only reinforces the stereotype:
Girls, we hate to say it, but it might be time to hang up the group sex and saunas until we all get shots one and two of the vaccine. This is temporary and out of a love for group sex and those who enjoy it.
Makofane also happens to be an epidemiologist at Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights. He has complained that when people talk about halting certain sexual behaviour, the implication can be that there is something inherently wrong with the behaviour itself.
But what if promiscuity — heterosexual or homosexual — is wrong? Is there room in the monkeypox discussion for that inconvenient possibility?
“WorldPride 2023” is just months around the corner. Gay men from all over the world have been invited to Sydney for it.
In the meantime, to avert a monkeypox epidemic in Australia, common sense suggests that one of three things is required: the disappearance of monkeypox; the repudiation of promiscuity in the gay community; or the cancellation of “WorldPride”.
Which will it be? And again, where is our public-health-obsessed media on this issue?