Confront or hide?

I have just finished reading your story "Love Hurts." As the managing partner of a law firm that represents its fair share of meth users and alleged dealers, your story gave me a perspective that our clients do not often volunteer.

I thought you might find it interesting that law enforcement in urban Tampa Bay, like the counseling services, does not seem equipped to focus on circuit or "party" use of the drug. Most of our clients who are alleged users or dealers come out of our Bartow office and are the rural white folks to whom you referred. Rarely do we see arrests or prosecutions of gay, urban men. I do not have the answer as to why. Possibly the cops don't care?

Thanks again for an interesting and insightful piece of journalism. Hopefully you'll have an opportunity to do a follow-up on how "tina" is affecting the Tampa Bay area.

—Joe Touger

Let me start out by saying that I love the Weekly Planet and read it all the time. But I have never been so disappointed in your paper as I am now.

The fact that you kept saying "gay" men and wild parties and sex sex sex really turned my stomach. I don't know if you're gay or not but if you are, you of all people should know that society already thinks that being gay only means drugs, alcohol and sex parties. And oh, let's not forget that "ONLY" gay people get the "gay" disease HIV and AIDS.

I understand that "tina" might be on the rise but must we specifically label gay people with tina? I did not see one reference to straight people using it and how it can destroy a "straight" person's life. I know for a fact that "straight" people use tina and they are very addicted to it. I strongly feel that you are contributing to stereotyping people. The article was giving gay people a very negative rap.

I could understand if a regular newspaper printed this shameful story, but the fact that the Weekly Planet would condone such negative labeling of a person's sexuality is just shocking. I have always thought your paper was about how everyone should live and be in harmony with each other without prejudice. Unfortunately, this story is not giving that message. It is only confirming what society has labeled us as: sex-crazed addicted freaks with HIV.

If this story was in an all-gay publication such as TLW or Hotspots then it wouldn't have had such negative impact, because the only places you can get the magazines are gay businesses. The story was good, but there is a time and place for everything. Being plastered on the front page of a paper that is in the hands of many people only hurts the chances of gay people getting equal rights. At least at the end of the article you could have mentioned the fact that there are many hard-working, loving, gay people that are not all about sex, drugs and alcohol.

I'm sorry if this letter sounds harsh, but it has really changed my opinion about the Weekly Planet and had a great role in me not carrying the paper in my salon anymore.

—Name withheld on request

That was a powerful story. I emailed it around and got lots of "Wow!"s. I think "Lloyd's" story had the most impact. I just hope "Max" reads the whole thing and wakes up before it's too late.

I think the piece was cutting edge for Tampa, and especially for straight people who had no idea. Unfortunately, I feel tina is still in her infancy here and growing with leaps and bounds

—Name withheld by request

Editor's response: I sympathize with the second letter writer's anxiety. All minority groups with a history of being oppressed wince when an unflattering portrait of some aspect of their community gets distributed to the wider world. It is also common, in families as well as in communities, for substance abuse issues to be ignored or repressed, in order to preserve appearances.

In the end, however, "putting on a good face" rarely solves anything. Had pioneering gay journalists like the late Randy Shilts followed such timid advice, then the world's response to AIDS would have come even later than it did.

As the gay editor who commissioned our story, I firmly believe that all people, including gay people, deserve the same kind of journalism: fearless, unbiased and devoted to the unvarnished truth. Our aim was to provide an in-depth examination of a phenomenon that has affected many lives. We are not necessarily against all recreational drug use. We are aware — and tried to note in the story — that many people experiment with legal and illegal substances and find a manageable equilibrium that enhances rather than detracts from their lives. The growing evidence on crystal meth, however, is that such an equilibrium is very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.

Some may prefer that stories like ours be published only in "gay" publications. Indeed, we'd like to give credit to Brian Feist, editor of the Gazette, based in St. Petersburg and Tampa, for his courageous and groundbreaking work on this subject and for helping us to find sources for our story. The Gazette works hard to serve its community, but it does not yet have the resources to spend several weeks of full-time reporting, and then the space to publish the results.

That's why we chose to do our story. We hope it makes a difference.

—Jim Harper

CORRECTIONThe late reputed mobster Santo Trafficante was known to eat regularly in Ybor City, but not in the space now occupied by the Acropolis Greek Taverna, as we reported last week. The Planet regrets the error.

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