My Journey with MAX Ottawa

Hello, I’m David Ley and I use he/him pronouns. I am originally from Montreal and currently live in Ottawa. Since the age of 16, I have volunteered at various ASO’s (AIDS Service Organizations) and LGBTQ+ organizations with a harm reduction focus. I presently share my lived experience and knowledge of PNP to MAX’s safer party advisory committee and serve as a MAX volunteer in a variety of roles.

For those not familiar, PNP, or party and play, refers to guys into guys using substances like crystal meth or GHB to increase sexual pleasure and connections.

How I first met MAX

I went to Montreal Pride in 2016. During my walk, I saw this booth called MAX Ottawa. I didn’t know what it was about. I went to the person that was standing there and got into talking about PNP. Matt, the MAX employee I first spoke with, said to me after a long conversation, “Why don’t you come to the office and we can chat about it more?”  Later that month I met with Matt in the office. I was pleasantly surprised that MAX would be serious about addressing this subject, but I’m very proud and happy that they did. 

Increased Involvement

Later on, I was asked to be part of a new advisory board that MAX started. The purpose of this committee was for guys who are into PNP to share their experiences and help MAX approach harm reduction with community informed ideas. There are a couple of reasons why I signed up.

First, I wanted to this subject to be at the forefront in Ottawa. It’s true that for people to start talking about the use of crystal meth in our community, we have to break down the stigma. 

Second, I know that there are certain drugs that are okay in the gay community. I myself have been discriminated against because I use crystal meth. If you’re somebody who uses ecstasy, that is okay. I don’t know the percentage of people that would agree with me, but for me, a drug is a drug. It’s important we talk about drug use, regardless of which ones, with the same care and attention.   

Spill the Tea

During our meetings, we helped MAX Ottawa plan 3 events at a club in Ottawa. The names that we use for our event was called Spill the Tea. 

The 3 events went very well. It was through their success is when we realized that there is a need to talk about harm reduction and ways to party safer in our community. We also have to create and promote programs in order to make the community aware of ways to stay safe and healthy. 

Vancouver Summit

At the end of October 2019, I went to Vancouver BC for a gay men’s health summit. Myself along with other MAX and ViiV staff had a panel discussion about how we worked on the Spill the Tea program. 

It was hard to believe we were up on stage talking about this subject that I find important! I got to share why I joined the Safer Party Committee in the first place…to break down the stigma of PNP. Lots of people have no problem when you say you did ecstasy but they have a huge problem when you say you do crystal meth. This is why I wanted to share my experiences and it was great to see the response that we have seen so far.

The response I got back when we finished the panel was unbelievable.  I was so proud that people came up to me and said thank you very much for bringing this to the forefront.  They shared my passion for the need to talk about this subject. I hope that we are making a change and letting people know you can party and be safe.

I was so happy that MAX invited me to this Summit. I learned a lot about LGBT2Q  community health information. I also learned that we still have a lot of work to do in our own community plus in the healthcare system. It was an eye-opener for me.

Feeling Proud

I’m so pleased by the conversations Spill the Tea has started. I hope we are changing the conversation around guys who PNP in Ottawa, and even across Canada. You can party, you can have fun without any issues. There are guys that do party and they are not all bad people. I party and I’m not a bad person!  I’m actually the most generous and kind person you’d want to meet.

I do keep people safe in my own place. I also keep supplies in my house so that the people who need supplies. This way, they have what they need to party safer. I take care of my people that are partying in my place.

Final Thoughts

I’m so appreciative that MAX has taken on this important subject and speaks to why I became a volunteer at MAX in the first place. I’m proud to be a part of their organization that listens to the information I share with them and they in turn have turned into something valuable for our community.  I want to take this time to thank MAX for listening to me and hosting the event. Let’s keep implementing programs so that people can either stop PNP or continue with valuable information that the community needs to party safely.