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Robert Birch

Robert Birch

Birch continues to shed the “ugly frog skin of heteronormativity,” (Harry Hay, co-founder Mattachine Society and Radical Faeries) by coming out of the closet not only as cisgender gay person but by ‘coming out’ of trauma laden systems of oppression. From theatre princess to sacred drama queen (i.e. Reclaiming witch and Radical Faery), ~birch will soon don the costume of a PhD student in social science, researching queer/trans population health at the University of Victoria in the Social Dimensions of Health Program. His husband CrowDog continues to love and tolerate his antics while looking after the chickens and vegetables and making wood-fired country bread on Saltspring Island, BC. 

Jul07

Dr. Orgy’s Pleasure Emporium

Monday, 07 July 2014 Written by // Robert Birch Categories // Gay Men, Health, Sexual Health, Living with HIV, Population Specific , Sex and Sexuality , Robert Birch

Robert Birch is assisting in reserach which examines the sex lives of gay men in unconventional ways.

Dr. Orgy’s Pleasure Emporium

I’m supposed to sell pounds of organic ‘Fudge-packers Fudgewe’ve made for the gathering. The fundraiser will have to wait. My presence is requested at the Love Lounge. We’re invited to a play ritual with our trans-brothers. Enough talk I thought, time to erotically show up for each other.

The first to arrive, I begin to fluff the space. Chocolate, soft music, candles, clean sheets; as per usual everything in it’s place. I notice on the east alter the plastic doctor’s kit I bought at Target. Not sure why I grabbed it then I am pleased to see the condom and lube supply I brought from work steadily going down. Several folks arrive and the ritual begins.

Lying naked side by side, starting with our breath, opening our bodies and hearts to our brothers. We make it up as we go. We begin to giggle. We chase each other around the room. We’re joyful little boys together. Then I am on the ‘examine table’ up on all fours, doctor’s kit placed squarely between my spread legs. The snap of latex gloves and the exam begins. Physician, the time to heal thyself has arrived. Friends are here to help. 

Welcome to the Pleasure Emporium

Dr. Orgy is a boundary-immersing conversationalist. He is a research ‘character’ and a potential future self. The Pleasure Emporium represents a space for emerging erotic philosophies. The Doctor invites conversations about and between gay male sex cultures, transitioning mainstream norms, HIV/AIDS social science research and gay men’s health initiatives. By sharing some of my own real-life, faggot fairytales the Doctor also facilitates my coming out process, this time out of imagination numbing heteronormativity. 

Horny Heart-to-Hearts

Stimulating conversations turn me on. It’s how I learn best. Sex is a multi-dimensional conversation, an exchange between breath and body, heart and mind, lovers and friends, spirituality and science. Sex continues to shape and shift my world-view in significant ways. As a neophyte University of Victoria, BC doctoral student* of the Social Dimensions of Health program I am fortunate to have joined a team of allies, caring senior scientists investigating the sex lives of gay and other men who lust for men. 

The New ‘Drag’

I’ve played many roles over the past thirty-three years: theatre artist, social justice educator and environmental activist, counselor, journalist, gay men’s wellness coordinator, farmer and queer sex magician. I am now in training to become a social scientist and discover this emerging ‘ensemble’ fits awkwardly; turn one way I’m exhilarated, turn the other I contract with fear.

 

Loving community members continue to show me how to show up for myself. I gather courage from the people within the women’s, First Nations, diverse peoples of color and gay HIV/AIDS movements. Our mutual emancipation means moving through so much conditioned guilt and shame.

My admiration and trust deepens daily with gratitude for the humanitarian efforts of scientists and doctors working on all our behalf, women and men who have for decades walked the HIV beat. I anticipate introducing you to many fine people along the way, including mentors that help me heal my scar-tissued heart. They assist me to see the world through culture-transforming eyes. 

Community = immunity

Every year over the past decade I sit in circles with hundreds of everyday remarkable gay men who share their struggles and in doing so learn to redevelop trust. We move into and through tragedies on the way to reclaiming our miracles. Their astounding stories wake me up to my own. These men are the source of my inspiration and motivation to step up and out. 

Self-care demonstrates gratitude. We are part of one of the greatest stories in human history. AIDS. Dr. Orgy will endeavor to bring the wisdom shared by my faggot-loving-eco-feminist communities to the evolving conversation of gay men’s wellness.

Elders regale me with outrageous legends of our pre-Stonewall ancestors, stories of HIV infected friends and lovers who lived and died, some in soul-numbing misery, some as era-changing activists. These stories remind me that we live in the decades needed to heal from the generational trauma and cell-entrenched fear of near cultural extinction. Thanks to them, our many allies and these blessed meds we have the time needed to re-embody the erotic gifts of fuller lives. These everyday protagonists have taught me that the story of AIDS is not a burden but a blessing beyond measure. 

Self-empathy, shared compassion

As gay men we get to make it up as we go along. No one said, “This is how you are supposed to be gay.” Rather, we were warned not to be ourselves. The same is true of HIV positive people. As a result, like many of you I have made several near-scandalous mistakes along the way. (I’ll share those necessary derailments later.) With the help of community I learn how to clean up my messes, to ask for support, and appreciate the benefits of doing so.

Today, I am more sensitive towards and grateful to our troubled younger selves and their struggles. As a former urban sex addict, HIV Poz gay man, now rural loving fag-farmer I said yes to this academic process to research evidence of our healing. As Poz women and men our personal healing connects us to larger global health imperatives. We are a culture changing community. 

Please consider this an invitation to bump and grind your way into the conversation if and when called. This doctor makes house calls.

* D.O.P.E. also serves as an art-based performative writing research project under the guidance of Dr. Monica Prendergast. For a brief introduction to the research project, visit the Centre for Addiction Research B.C. website, Matters of Substance. 

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