What are chemical practices?

Chemical practices are the use of chemicals (or substances, drugs, etc.) to transform or enhance aspects of our sexual and gendered experiences. While the use of chemicals to achieve normal functioning is widely accepted, investigating these practices in the context of sexuality and gender variance potentially offers unique insights into the broad range of chemical practices and the significance of these practices for bodies.

LGBTQ cultures are concerned with pleasure, risk, care and intimate experimentation, and the proximity of these concerns offers the opportunity to generate new ways of thinking about the place of drugs in social life. By considering together substances that, because of their varying legal status, are rarely recognised as linked, this project will generate new perspectives on how risk, care and pleasure can inform and/or interfere with each other across a range of different settings.

Aims of the study

To investigate the factors associated with different chemical practices in a broad sample of LGBTQ people in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria (VIC).

To explore the effects that LGBTQ people value in their chemical practices.

To describe how people learn about drugs and drug effects.

To describe the ways in which people procure the drugs they consume.

To investigate the factors associated with different chemical practices in a broad sample of LGBTQ people in Victoria and NSW.

Research activities

Mapping and analysis of programs and policies that address LGBTQ chemical practices.

Qualitative interviews with service providers & policy-makers in NSW & Victoria

In-depth, qualitative interviews with LGBTQ drug consumers in NSW & Victoria

An online survey with LGBTQ drug consumers in NSW & Victoria

Who funds us?

This project is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC). The ARC is a legally constituted entity, independent of government. It runs a competitive grant scheme called the Discovery Program. Applications to this scheme take the form of original research proposals which are assessed by academic experts in the relevant fields of study.

Ethics approval

This study has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committees (HREC) at the University of Sydney (project number: 2017/735), and also the ACON Research Ethics Review Committee, and the Victorian AIDS Council’s Research, Promotion and Ethics Committee.

The Team

Meet the researchers behind this project

Kane Race

Principal Investigator

Associate Professor Kane Race is based at the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney. Prior to joining the department in 2007, he worked at the National Centre in HIV Social Research at UNSW, where he also undertook his PhD in Health, Sexuality & Culture. He has published widely on the impact of HIV antiretroviral therapies on gay cultures, practices and politics. His work has explored embodied engagements with medicine across various different contexts and cultures of consumption: HIV/AIDS; sexual practice; drug use (both licit and illicit); and more recently, markets in bottled water. His current work is concerned with the ways in which online devices and technologies participate in the making of new cultures, spaces and practices.

Toby Lea

Chief Investigator

Dr Lea conducts applied social health research in the fields of alcohol and other drugs, blood-borne virus prevention and LGBTQ health. He is currently based at the German Institute for Addiction and Prevention Research (DISuP), Catholic University of Applied Sciences, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, on a Alexander von Humboldt Foundation postdoctoral fellowship, and is an Adjunct Lecturer at the Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW Sydney. His research in Germany will examine harm reduction practices and responses to: gay and bisexual men who use recreational drugs in sexual contexts (“chemsex”); and, people using psychedelic drugs for personal development and the self-treatment of substance use and mental health issues.

Kiran Pienaar

Chief Investigator

Dr Kiran Pienaar’s research focuses on the biopolitics of health and medicine, the body in society and social studies of drug consumption. A research fellow at Monash University, she has a multidisciplinary background in Gender Studies, Sociology and Applied Linguistics. Before joining Monash University, she was a research associate at the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University where she was involved in a project exploring lived experiences of alcohol and other drug addiction in Australia. Kiran has published in the areas of health and disease (with a particular focus on ontologies of HIV); drugs, addiction and the self; and gender and the body. Her first book Politics in the Making of HIV/AIDS in South Africa was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2016.

Dean Murphy

Senior Research Associate

Dr Dean Murphy’s research interests include queer kinship, reproductive technologies, biomedical HIV prevention, masculinity, alcohol and drug use, and sexual cultures. He has previously worked at the Centre for Social Research in Health (UNSW), the Kirby Institute (UNSW), and the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University. He has also worked extensively in health promotion. Dean's book, Gay Men Becoming Parents Through Surrogacy: Reconfiguring Kinship, was published by UNSW Press in 2015.

David Vakalis

Research Assistant

David Vakalis is a PhD student in Criminology in the School of Social and Political Sciences at Monash University. Previously, David received degrees in criminology, sociology and political science. His research focuses on how various marginalised populations interact with and are responded to by the legal system. His research has been published in journals, online, and in a book. David has previously worked on projects investigating HIV criminalisation and corporate crime. He also has experience in lecturing, designing, marking and tutoring in law, criminology, sociology and victimology subjects at a number of universities in Victoria (Australia).

Tell us about your chemical practices