MTA Condoms and Black Queens in Bed-Stuy

MTA CondomsWalking down Bedford Ave, one weekend morning, not too long ago.

Two black guys, very gay, walking on ahead of me . . .

Since the summer,  one sees a great increase in openly gay black men in this section of Bed-Stuy (there are also a great number of evidently hetero black men with very small dogs. But that’s another post). Sometimes, they look like young (if well-dressed) straight guys until you get up close, sometimes they wear a touch of make-up. Once, I saw three actual transvestites, each over 6 foot tall, wearing ripped tank tops, mini-skirts, fishnets and size 13 heels, walking past Nostrand to the projects, then another queen, maybe even taller in silver flats the size of small canoes. A friend saw another queen, wearing one of those “I ‘Heart’ You’ pajama bottoms, walking up Bedford, with a couple of real female friends, saying ‘you know, girlfriend’ over and over.

You wouldn’t have seen openly gay men in the rough and tough Bed-Stuy of a few years ago. Once, four or five summers past, when I foolishly ventured outside wearing a tight-fitting designer tank top from a friend’s boutique in Toronto, one of a bunch of guys hanging out on a stoop, shouted: “I can’t believe they’s hiring motherfucking HOMOS for the force now!” (this, back in that not so long ago time when a lot of folks here assumed any white guy (or gal), walking around the neighborhood had to be a cop).

But the boys are out now, in numbers, and not at all shy. I’ve never heard anyone abuse them,  or even look at them twice. Maybe they’re originally  from the hood. Or maybe, like a lot of queens, they’re just really fucking tough and the homeboys have learned the hard way not to mess with them.

Anyway, one of the guys ahead of me drops something on the sidewalk, square and black, and they both look at it and laugh, the one who dropped it saying, “oh, just forget it!” When I get close enough, I see that it is one of those condoms with the round NYC subway logos and colours, the MTA condom brand the NYC Department of Health has been handing out for the past couple of  years in a big anti-HIV/STD drive (though, apparently, they no longer use the MTA logo) so you see them all over the place in bars and clubs, sitting in big glass jars like candy.

I have a friend who works in a non-profit which deals with, among other things, sexual education and STD prevention.  She says there is a big, big problem with these freebie condoms: they break. Not just once in awhile, like all condoms do, but frequently enough that her organization is phasing them out and going back to Durex. She even knows someone who became HIV positive after one such breakage.

Now, I sure as hell would never use freebie condoms, from the NYC Department of Health or anywhere else. But I guess our friends out for a morning stroll knew a thing or two.