A Lifetime of Drugs

DRAFT book chapter

62248A16-954F-485F-B33D-334C690B2E79.jpegDrawing on my experience of living with HIV for over two decades, this essay discusses the forms of anxiety and concern that emerged in 1996 in the context of the introduction of HIV combination antiretroviral therapy around the use of so-called ‘drug cocktails’. It shows how these concerns reflect broader anxieties about increasing sexual activity between men at this time. This event happens to kickstart a corresponding problematisation of gay men’s use of recreational drugs– another sort of ‘drug cocktail’ – on the same basis. I see the present moral panic over chemsex as the latest instalment of this discourse. The piece demonstrates the analogous character of antiretroviral therapy and recreational substance use in gay men’s practice, arguing that pleasure, self-medication, and experimentation with the conditions of life are concerns that cut across outdated distinctions between pharmaceutical drugs and illicit drugs. Meanwhile, the stigmatised and criminalised status of HIV-positive sex, gay sexuality and illicit drug use produces paranoid subjects and effectively endangers the health and wellbeing of those affected. It must be countered. Paying attention to the collective experiments of drug users is likely to be much more generative.


I wrote this piece for a forthcoming collection called Long Term, edited by Scott Herring and Lee Wallace, who invited me to write something about living with HIV.

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Queen Pleeeeeeez!

An open letter in response to Peter Knegt’s ‘concerned’ …but far from queer… review of Bohemian Rhapsody (which, incidentally, is not ‘a biopic of Freddie Mercury’ as Knegt claims, but of the creative transformations undergone and effected by the rock group Queen.


I think Knegt’s seething review is a complete misrepresentation of what the film does.  Here’s why :
Certainly, the film takes a lot of poetic license, all biopics do. But it’s handling of those narratives is much more nuanced than this critic gives them credit for. And I say this as someone who is extremely sensitive to and critical of moralistic narratives around promiscuity, hiv and drug use.
This is not a film about gays (or bisexuals) and heterosexuals. (Surely we remember that the category of gay identity was emergent at that point in history, not fixed).
It is a film about friendship, collaboration, creative experimentation and cultural transformation.
I thought Bohemian Rhapsody was profoundly insightful about collective creativity, care, play, and the importance of acknowledging the generosity of friendship and the originality of people’s creative contributions to a shared project *irrespective* of sexual identity.
Leaving aside the question of how true to life the moral trajectory the film narrates is (the films makers’ have not denied taking considered poetic license), after reading Knegt’s ungenerous review I am left asking: why do we react so violently against the implication made within this narrative that the camraderie and companionship and fun sexual social life that Freddie experiences in the emergent Euro/ uS urban gay subculture of the late 70s failed him in some ways, as his health was declining and his immune system being ravaged by this devastating, and at the time untreatable, virus ?
I read the treatment of drug use in the film less as moralising – (suggestions are made that drug use is part of Freddy’s creative process pre – the band splitting up, for example) then anxious – the sort of anxiety we see in others narratives of gay life in the 70s such as Dancer from the Dance…. so I thought it did a pretty well informed job of conveying the affective climate of that moment in gay history – the late 70s to early 80s). I admired the film’s bravery in going to that narratively overdetermined place but producing something much subtler about the nexus between risk and care and self-experimentation and cultural transformation. .
It seems to me that we (the Gays of today) – among whom I would count Knegt – are still trapped in this binary of either moralising against promiscuity and drugs (a la northern hemisphere chemsex discourse) …or sentimentalising those party scenes as foolproof generators of care and love and material support.
And yet it seems to me that the present context of PREP- enabled chemsex requires us more than ever to get better at recognising when subcultural care practices within party scenes work, and when they are failing, and how. So we can improve them. Because guess what?  some people slip through the cracks – even while others (including myself) experience these scenes are generative of great pleasure and intense joy and love and camaraderie and self-transformation
Also : Freddy does not present Hutton to his family as his partner/lover/boyfriend . He presents him, with marked and delightful irony, as his “friend”. The ambiguity of this term in that context is deliberate. At that stage of the narrative Hutton really *is* his friend and not his lover. .The scene is sweet because his mother and family take his euphemistic ‘friend’ to be his lover -as was common back in the day- and acknowledge their relationship, when we the viewers know that Hutton is actually acting in this instance /early stage of their evolving relationship in the capacity of Freddies *friend* (by *playing* his lover), to help him through a time of immense personal vulnerability and necessary self-confrontation that involves taking the risk of actively confronting his family with his excessively deviant sexual identification. Necessary, that is, for him, to grasp the moment ethically and self- affirmatively and joyously in the context of his imminent death.
This critic lambasts the film for lack of subtlety but it’s his reading of that I find cliched and stereotyped and full of reactionary moralism.  His ‘concern’ has less to do with anything queer than his righteous desire to enforce what he regards as a ‘correct’ representation of gay identity.
Bohemian Rhapsody is not a film about some precious queen -it’s an exploration of the pleasures and possibilities of playful (often agonistic) friendship


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Dear Paramount Management

I was disturbed, angered and ultimately saddened to come across the notice that appeared in the elevator of the Paramount on Saturday night about the so-called ‘loud party music’ said to be emanating from the rooftop of 47 William St (Slims).


I am the owner of a Paramount unit and have been residing here since 2013. While admittedly my north-facing 1 bedroom unit is sheltered from the goings-on of William St, unlike the 2.5 bedroom units in the block, I do walk past Hyde Park House, the venue in question, on William St (the Paramount side) after 6pm almost every day, on my way home from work at the University of Sydney, and/or to walk my dog in Cook & Philip Park, any time between 6pm and 11pm.

While I have indeed noticed music wafting from the rooftop venue in question on one or two occasions over the past month on my way to and from home, to describe the muffled, atmospheric sounds of people socialising that I have experienced on these occasions as “loud party music” is – if I can be so blunt and pointed – a bit rich.

At the very least, I am quite sure these intermittent and ambient sounds of social recreation and urban leisure (which many people might otherwise or once have considered characteristic of urban centres and the experience of life in areas located close to the very centre of major cities) are nothing that a decent pair of ear plugs, or headphones with light relaxation music, or some straightforward interior design solutions could not mask. Certainly, the disturbance created by 47 William Street is certainly far less intense in duration and volume than the noise emanating from another social/communal venue within direct earshot of the Paramount in the vicinity, namely St Mary’s Cathedral

I am not aware of anyone ever having petitioned the council about the loud noise emanating from this institution, whose huge bells chime for whole swathes of precious time over the weekend, every weekend, from morning onwards.  Since I often work from home over the week, I have often thought to do so, since the “LOUD SANCTIMONIOUS NOISE” coming from this venue interferes with one of the main opportunities I have to get certain aspects of my job done – namely reading, research and writing – each of which require extended periods of concentration that are difficult to maintain when the boisterous noise that routinely emanates from this problem venue penetrates the haven of one’s private residence .

I have refrained from doing so, in the end, on the basis that cultural institutions such as this one serve an important social, communal and recreational function for a social minority in Sydney (i.e. observing Catholics); and that the noise made by these bells is a routine and ritualised part of these communal gatherings.  Most significantly, I knew full well that such activities went on in this neighbourhood when I first decided to buy into the Paramount.

So rather than try to impose my professional and personal needs on the neighbourhood as though I have some natural, ‘god-given’ entitlement to do so (as a “private resident”) I just shut my balcony doors, put some headphones on and get on with things.

For my part, I was delighted that the current owners of the trading venue t 47 William St decided to refurbish and convert the rather bleak, non-descript and usually empty Hotel William into Hyde Park House, complete with a stylish and striking rooftop eatery and bar, Slim’s Ithe venue I presume to be the source of some of my fellow resident’s moral indignation and NIMBY-style evangelism).  In my view – shared, it appears, by hundreds of friends and acquaintances familiar with Sydney’’s inner eastern suburbs and their urban and cultural history – the venue has added much needed life and effervescence to what has otherwise become a depressingly sterile local environs increasingly resembling a soulless ghost-town with little colour and movement whatsoever except the cars, buses and other vehicles pushing their way up the increasingly bland and alienating major road coursing through the area (William St) on their way to somewhere else.

To my mind, venues such as Hyde Park House add value – social, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, communal and financial value – to the area as a whole, the local environment, and indeed the residential properties located within it. “At last”, I thought, “a social venue that has the practical initiative, financial clout, critical and popular acclaim and aesthetic knowhow to buck the anti-urban wowserism that is killing the city formerly loved and known as Sydney.  Given the devastating effects of the O’Farrell government’s 2014 Lockout laws – not only on many small businesses throughout the entire 2010-2011 Sydney postcode area and beyond, but also on the distinctive social and recreational life and street culture that once made Sydney an exciting, friendly, vibrant and dynamic place to live and an internationally compelling tourist destination, I very much welcome a lively new social venue in my local area.

The elevator notice posted on the weekend asked residents to contact council to lodge their concern as well as email the building manager. But this approach to the matter is unfair and patently unbalanced. I believe it is necessary to devise a more even-handed strategy to these sorts of issues. I would like to see notices of this kind changed to reflect a more neutral and open stance that genuinely polls residents to express their views on the matter in question, whether for or against, and encourages them to share such views with council should they desire to take further action.

For my part, I am cc-ing this email to council, as well as the venue in question, to express my opposition to this resident action. Since the retort I taped below the original notice was removed, I had also planned to mailbox all residents a copy of this letter and share it with my extensive professional, governmental and community networks through relevant social media platforms. I would do so, not because I have anything personal against the complainants or building management per se, but because the action itself is indicative and/or symptomatic of wider trends in the erasure of public urban space that I find deeply concerning and demanding of counter-action.

As it happens, I contacted council, who informed me their rangers visited the venue on the night of the complaint and determined the sound levels were within the acceptable range for this venue’s licence type. I now wonder if the residents responsible for the complaint might be suffering from hyperacusis. They might want to look into it.

The Paramount is situated in the 2010-2011 area, very close to the city, right in the middle of the inner east’s Sydney’s historic urban social scene. Presuming those who reside here or buy properties in this apartment block are aware of this history, the “loud party noise” issue of the past weekend – like similar matters/actions that have come to my attention over the time I’ve resided here – have left me and many of my friends and correspondents wondering why those intent on wielding their status as ‘property owners’ or ‘private residents’ to shut down social venues in this neighbourhood, effectively killing all signs of social life in Darlinghurst, don’t just sell up and/or go and move somewhere quiet and peaceful and as boring as they seem determined to make this area.

Yours sincerely,

KANE RACE (Associate Professor)

E kane.race @sydney.edu.au

Gender pronouns: he/him/his

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Instagrabs: moments in time, practical aesthetics & digital vernacular creativity

 ~ aka, fucking around on my smartphone ~

working girl

Working Girl – May 2018

 I’ve been doing this thing where I screen-cap a bunch of consecutive shots from my Instagram account that happen to line up, in my view, to make some aesthetic sense of a moment or phase in my life that gives me pleasure or generates affective resonance for me: let’s call them Instagrabs.

Don’t Cry Mama – July 2018

An Instagrab relies on the mediating capacities of a particular technology, the smartphone camera and its screen cap function, as well as the commercial software platforms of Instagram and Facebook, to pull together a series of takes on the world that I take to hang together to provide some handle on a particular moment in experienced time.
kim jong

Kim Jong um… March 2018

It is a tableau of images that in practical and partial terms captures some perspective on my world in a retrospective and makeshift attempt to convey the feeling of particular trajectories or moments of movement through that world that have formed me as a subject (and will continue to do so through this intervention, to the extent that it formats and brings them into the present)

Viking it – September 2016

As an assembled collage of a series of digital depictions of my experience of the world I move through, the Instagrab assembles a second-order perspective on what that phase in my experience of the world felt like, as well as the sort of meanings and feelings it might generate and confer, both retrospectively and prospectively – into the future.


Tendrils – Autumn 2017

At once intimate, publicly accessible and imbued with personal meaning and affect, Instagrabs attempt to make some aesthetic sense of where I’ve been and the feelings that sequence of moves through the world involved in a multiply-mediated and specifically assembled practice of re-collection.


Click through for my Instagrab Album–  a work in progress



FanPhatic – February 2018


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Queer Carry On

Colour & movement, the motion of light, and flowers  …

Reverberations/ Post-Impressions / Queer Carryover


Outfit created by Benjamin Williams








pink feathers






Intimate Exposures


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Gingko Leaves in Winter



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Above & Beyond a Joke: Who are the  real criminals here?

Above & Beyond;
Over & Above;
Beyond a Joke.

& more to the point: how long has this been going on???

Back in 2007, I tried to work out why the police state was insisting so dogmatically on policing techniques that, even back then, had already been shown to exacerbate rather than reduce the harms associated with the consumption of psychoactive drugs.

I could only conclude that the police and their state operatives were completely uninterested in regulating a market that their actions actually maintain and reproduce as dodgy and dangerous, realistically, at all. That would defeat the point.

Here’s what I argued, in Pleasure Consuming Medicine (2009), Chapter 1



That was A DECADE AGO.

Nothing has changed: things have only gotten worse.

The drug dog now serves as a shitty mick pretext to produce anyone who fails to tow the state line on ‘drugs’ as deviates… and punish young people for socialising en masse at all.

Fuck them; fuck the politicians who allow this to take place; fuck those sections of the public that support such blatant abuses of rational authority; and fuck the dumb-assed officers that swallow the bullshit ideology they get served up from their ‘superiors’ whole.

Above & Beyond & Pretty Much completely Over it All….

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