If it didn’t hurt so bad, I’d kill myself, but I’ll let Ed Buck do it for now.

— Gemmel Moore, the last journal entry of Buck’s first methamphetamine overdose victim.

Here’s what we now know, which has become painfully obvious now, and part of the official judicial record. The white and powerful progressive activist, former fashion model, and Democratic political donor, Ed Buck, weaponised the synthetic upper crystal meth to lure vulnerable black gay men to his West Hollywood apartment in exchange for sexual activities. During weeks-long parties in what is known as PnP (party-and-play), these drug-fuelled orgies lead to the overdose deaths of two men.

The first death, that of Gemmel Moore in July 2017—and an early precursor of the atrocities to come—should have been enough to bring charges. Moore overdosed after Buck flew the young black man from Houston to fuel his unsated ravenous appetite for the bodies of black and brown men.

Earn money as an Airbnb host

“If the dead body of a blond-haired, blue-eyed white man was found in the room of an older black man,” lamented the attorney Hussain Clark of the Moore family, “he’d be lucky to ever make it to the police station.”

It happened again, months later, after Timothy Dean, 55, once a fashion consultant, succumbed to the same fate as Moore.

That it took only two weeks and four hours to find the liberal crusader of animal and LGBTQIA rights, after four arduous years of legal manoeuvring, is a victory—of sorts, certainly for black queer causes and the rights of those whose lives are often in the shadows of white gay men and their cis-het counterparts.

Cruel ironies have often plagued this case from the beginning

It wasn’t until after the third overdose of a black gay man, who remains anonymous, were charges formally issued; he narrowly escaped the drug den that Buck ran for years, with black gay men, many drug addicts or of the homeless population, in compromising positions in his West Hollywood enclave.

Federal prosecutors produced video and images of a long litany of men passed out from meth or asleep being injected in “dangerously high doses.”

His defence was led by former black California prosecutor Christopher Darden, who failed to convict O.J. Simpson, making the unenviable case that the men in Buck’s apartment were “there of their own free will and knew what they were doing.”

Blame the victim

A seemingly specious argument to make considering that though they may very well have consented to the PnP sessions, free will and right-decision making became moot once drugs entered their bodies, especially, as the videos recorded of them reveal, were injected while unconscious or asleep.

Darden seemed to also miss the point that these were men, mostly already at-risk and caught on the margins of society, holed as many of them were in a world of suffocating addictions and chronic homelessness; that they had to pay with their lives for a black-bodied sex fetish that Buck harboured—and animated with his death-dealing sexual antics—seemed to fall deaf to the defence.

Ed Buck’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to Democratic causes and politicians; his long history of supporting queer agendas and animal rights, seemed to fail him at the point of seeking help for the black gay men who he ensnared in his meth-and-GHB vortex; his generosity woefully lacking, failing to extend to those men who begged for medical attention while in his apartment, complaining of not feeling well several times.

What seems curiously missing—and least talked about—is the way crystal meth has been ravishing the gay community at large and penetrating the black queer community specifically.

I know a little about what I’m talking about here. Full disclosure: I’ve been living with a stubborn cocaine and, more recently, crystal meth addiction now for over twenty years. Recovery is going well now, and I keep a “dream team” of support around me to stave off slips and relapses and steel me to some awakening in the face of often inevitable lapses.

And with this drug, meth—or Tina, as often referred in drug-using circles—slips are par for the course; early recovery tends to be wobbly here, if secure at all.

What does crystal meth look like? Party 'til you drop.
What does crystal meth look like?

I was concerned when the Black Gay Blog editor asked me to comment on the Ed Buck case. Progressives seemed to have become verbally comatose in the wake of his conviction, not wanting to sully more a reputation that helped bankroll their political strivings.

In fairness, some have redirected those contributions to civil rights causes.

Writing about meth meant I would have to talk about it in a personal way, what this especially menacing drug has done to me in such a short time. Thankfully, I can still count on both hands how many times I’ve used it intravenously, but even this has borne a price psychologically and sexually.

Crystal Methamphetamine is an especially dangerous beast. Whereas cocaine—and other substances of use—can release anywhere from 200-to-350 units of dopamine, that chemical messenger in our brains that motivate and drives us, meth unleashes a torrent of 1150 or more units, destroying the receptor on which it sits, often permanently.

This makes a recovery from the drug especially painstaking and arduous; typical detox modalities are utterly useless here.

Among other things, it keeps the user woke, often in a hallucinatory and delusional daze, for days, even weeks on end. Dehydration sets in quickly and wreaks havoc on the body’s ability to function in a sane way.

Once seen as a rural white man’s drug by many, it is rapidly becoming the go-to party drug among black MSM (men who have sex with men). In New York alone, reports of men using the man-made molecule far exceed those of white users. Though available, the treatment seems out of reach for so many. A New York City magazine, Filter, shared that Black men experienced more hospitalisations for amphetamine poisoning, dependence, and “non-dependent abuse” in public city hospitals than all white people. And it remains a significant driver in HIV transmission in BIPOC communities as well.

And Meth is certainly not a new drug. It’s been around forever.

Leading psychologist and sex therapist, David Fawcett, has seen firsthand the spiral gay men caught in its orbit descend to; he’s been working with men in recovery from the drug for decades and has mapped the terrain better than anyone.

“The drug has a long history of use for a variety of purposes,” he wrote in his groundbreaking and seminal text, Lust, Men and Meth: A Gay Man’s Guide to Sex and Recovery.

Fawcett further explains:

“…It boosts energy to get through mundane tasks such as housework or manual labour, elevating mood when low energy and depressive symptoms pervade, and heightening concentration and even aggressiveness in stressful situations such as combat.”

Substances were decried among the Nazi Germany war machine and among the leading industrial powers—however methamphetamine seemed the lone exception.

“The war (World War II) was not only the most destructive in human history but also the most pharmacologically enhanced. It was literally sped up by speed,” wrote Peter Andreas in describing how it was used to toxic effect in Hitler’s maddening Final Solution.

But how did Meth become the drug du jour in the gay universe?

Despite the hell crack cocaine wreaked on my life for two decades, it was dwarfed by meth by light-years. Crack gives you 7-to-twelve minutes; meth gives you twelve hours to days. Nevertheless, this was the drug that sent me to the books. Most notably, Fawcett’s Lust, Men and Meth.

For I needed to know why I was, only after several intravenous uses, stuck in a McDonald’s bathroom scratching my face for hours, convinced that there were shards of crystals in my skin.

Or: Walking down a stretch of road on the North Side of Chicago, in the predawn hours of coming down from the synthetic drug, for hours, convinced there were people in the buildings who had meth for me, waiting to point (inject) me. I never got the fix. It was all a hallucination. 

When I get cravings now for the drug, it has nothing to do with crack. It’s about meth.

Crucially excoriating were the sexual thoughts I harboured while hopped up on the drug, wanting to do ungodly and unholy things with other men. Did it create or merely yield what was already there?

Here, if not condoned, Buck’s sordid behaviour can be better understood in light of this drug’s psychology and its link with sexual compulsion.

“Meth breaks down inhibition; it leaves the person open to breeching sexual templates and stepping deeper into dark areas of the sexual behaviour while maintaining full recall in the aftermath,” writes George Kallas, a noted sex therapist “…Meth melds with sexuality and changes brain structure, leaving sexual dysfunction in its wake.”

Small wonder how it has so aligned itself with gay culture. Ours was in many ways built on hurt and pain, stretching back to Stonewall in the 70s, the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s—and all the inexplicable hurt and mind-numbing loss we shouldered. Not to mention the sheer hell for so many of our brothers and sisters in remaining in airtight closets that left us emotionally spent. 

The fake adrenaline has such a pull and holds on the user that Fawcett’s theory of why it is so attractive to gay men is worth printing here in its entirety:

“Methamphetamine is the perfect drug for gay men. In addition to initially heightening sexual experiences, it artificially neutralises many concerns gay men have about themselves and their place in the community. Where there is little confidence, meth creates feelings of strength and power. Where there is fear, it creates assertiveness and even aggression. Where there is a feeling of unworthiness, it creates a sense of narcissism that is, in itself, mood-altering. If there is a feeling of not belonging, it creates a connection without concern for age, physique, or wealth. Finally, where there is an internalised belief, based on a lifetime of messages that gay sex is wrong and shameful, it creates an exhilarating thrill at flaunting taboos and celebrating gay sexuality.”

The Ed Buck story is hardly an anomaly. That behaviour remains a fixture in the underground crystal meth culture. The sexual exploits that exist causes many to stay silent about it for years, so embarrassing and traumatic are some of these sexual adventures.

And for black and brown communities that are depressingly becoming hooked on the drug and, ultimately, prey to those willing to exercise their deep and dark sexual—and distorted—sexual appetites, the carnage will continue.

Perhaps Ed Buck, who faces a lifetime in prison, will—if he so chooses—reach out to recovery as so many others have across the globe, forging as best they can a path forward to health and wellbeing.

It’s a path I’ve chosen myself, mingled with lots of meditation, mindfulness exercises and a recovery network of people who aid me in my journey. Therapy is also beneficial here with this drug and has been a Godsend for me.  The road ahead, therapists and recovery experts warn, is littered with many steps backwards and that these inevitable relapses shouldn’t be a cause to give up, knowing that they are, indeed, part of the journey to health.

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