There comes a time to stop talking and to get on with living your (new) life exactly how you want to. It's time to meet other gay and bisexual people and to explore your sexuality safely and confidently.

A common reaction to this statement, especially in rural areas is, "Fine - but where do I start?" Remember that being gay is about expressing yourself in the way YOU want to. Despite the stereotypes, there is no single way of being gay. We are all as different as any other group of people.

Going out with friends and meeting new ones at clubs or parties can be great. But the scene isn't for everybody and it's not everything there is to being gay. Most towns and cities have gay social groups and gay men's health projects. These can be excellent places to meet new people and to find out what there is to do locally and most will arrange to meet first time visitors beforehand.

As with any group of people, there will be some you get on with and some you won't. If you feel that you have little in common with the gay people you have met so far, you could try different ways of contacting more gay men, for example as pen pals, or through the many special interest gay groups (like gay men's choirs or gay football supporters networks) - look them up in Gay Times (available from some local newsagents or by subscription see the further information page).

Healthy lives and ...

There's no doubt that having a positive attitude towards yourself goes a long way to keeping healthy. It's also important, in whatever you do, that you look after yourself and consider your actions in relation to others.

This is particularly useful advice when it comes to sex. Whether it's a relationship or a one night stand, sex with another man can feel great and should make us feel good about who we are. Sex with other men can be whatever you want it to be and it's important to be clear about what you do want to do and what you don't. As with anything, people have their likes and dislikes and it's important that you talk them over with your sexual partner.

... safer sex

In the United Kingdom, HIV (the virus that is believed to be the cause of AIDS) affects more gay men than any other group and this can make us anxious about sex. But once we know how we can protect ourselves and our partners, we can relax and enjoy ourselves. HIV cannot be passed on through wanking, kissing, touching or hugging. The risk of transmitting HIV through oral sex (cock sucking) is believed to be very low but if either of you have cuts or sores in the mouth you should use condoms (flavoured ones taste much better).

Turn on images to see illustrationAnal sex (fucking), is the riskiest activity as far as transmitting HIV is concerned but by using suitable condoms and lubricant every time you fuck you can substantially reduce the risk. Suitable condoms for fucking are: Mates Superstrong, Durex UltraStrong, H.T. Special, GaySafe and Boy's Own. Of course, there is still a risk if the condom breaks, leaks or comes off. Lubricant is essential as it makes it safer and easier, so always use plenty of water based lube such as KY or Liquid Silk. Don't use oils, creams or lotions such as Vaseline or baby oil as they weaken the rubber in condoms in seconds.

You can obtain suitable condoms free of charge from Gay Men's Health Projects, some gay bars and clubs, Family Planning Clinics, some Youth Advisory Services and local GUM (Clap/VD/STD) clinics. Check the Yellow Pages for the clinic addresses if you are unsure where the nearest ones to you are.

While on the subject of sexually transmited diseases, it is worth mentioning that Hepatitis B is far more prevalent than HIV among gay men and it is much easier to become infected with it. The good news is that there is a vaccine against Hepatitis B and you can get vaccinated free of charge at your local GUM clinic.

For a confidential chat or for more information on any aspect of HIV, AIDS, safer sex or Hepatitis B, contact your local gay men's health project.

Come Out