Gay Twitter has a new Big Bad, and his name is Vaccinated Top.
As vaccines roll out across the country, the gays are meeting this paradigm-shifting achievement of science in their customary way: adding it to their Grindr bios. You’ve probably seen some version of this screenshot circulating on your timeline already, some hapless chap who claims to have received the COVID-19 vaccine—which is currently in limited supply restricted to healthcare workers and the elderly. The gays of Twitter dot com are, as is so often the case, not pleased.
The Internet eye-rolling comes in a few different forms, but the general sentiment seems to be that advertising your vaccinated status is a grievous sin somewhere on the order of putting “Masc for Masc” in your bio. A faux pas that points to having bad politics or perhaps unchecked class privilege. Risible, but not totally disqualifying. While I agree that most gay antics on the apps are worthy of at least some scorn, I’m not convinced that that’s the case here.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the great gay circuit party civil war, it’s that gay men will do almost anything if there’s a high probability that it leads to fucking. I don’t want to fan the flames of conflict by suggesting that we reward bad behavior, but I see no reason to discourage people from making smart public health choices sexy.
While it’s true that vaccines are currently scarce, the greatest problem we’re facing in ending the pandemic isn’t vaccine access. Most experts believe that we will soon have enough doses to vaccinate those who are willing. The biggest barrier to reducing transmission of the virus is the willingness of the public to be vaccinated. Whether because of vaccine skepticism, anti-vax rhetoric, or confusion about the severity and transmissibility of the virus, it’s likely to take far longer to reach the levels of immunity needed to stop the spread. With that in mind, what’s wrong with linking vaccination to sex?
The gay community has a complicated history with public health, much of it tied up in the decades-long mishandling of the AIDS crisis. While it’s true the lack of information, government ineptitude, and stigmatization all contributed to deepening that disaster to the detriment of many, it would be a mistake to think that every lesson we internalized during the peak of the HIV/AIDS era is applicable to today’s crisis. Advertising vaccination as a sign that we’re available for safe sex does nothing to stigmatize the disease. What’s more, COVID-19 is an acute, potentially fatal respiratory infection, but not a long-term chronic affliction like AIDS. There is no meaningful “COVID-19 community” whose long-term wellbeing we need to reckon with.
The reality is that the gay community is particularly vulnerable at this stage of the pandemic. As vaccination rates climb in the wider population, insular groups that primarily socialized amongst themselves won’t see the full benefits of growing community immunity unless their vaccination rates match those of the wider population. Add to that the combined impact of anti-vax propaganda and the false notion, pushed by the circuit party set, that the virus isn’t that dangerous, and the gay community is at risk of lagging behind the rest of the population in terms of vaccine saturation. Faced with that, I think we can all afford to let the vax4vax boys live a little.
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