As a young boy growing up near the Nepean River, I used to spend a lot of time with friends building cubby houses, climbing trees, swimming off a rope swing and occasionally doing somersaults and diving into the river, often with very little regard for my own safety. Being as naive as I was and considering I was probably only 11 years old, I was completely oblivious to what was going on around me.

It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I worked out that there are some places along the Nepean River where men would meet to have sex. I can remember seeing two pairs of feet in a cubicle or seeing men standing really close to each other at the urinal for what I could only imagine was a little slap and tickle session.

These locations are not always used for sex. Often in western Sydney these locations are used for their social aspect, to chat with friends and just hang out.

However, if you are using public places, especially at night, there are some things that you should keep in mind.

Check out the location during daylight. That way you are familiar with the surroundings and are able to work out a good exit strategy if needed.

Take a cruising buddy with you. That way you can act as a look-out for each other.

Leave your wallet at home. A good idea might be to put together a play wallet. This may contain an old driver’s licence, an ATM card and a little bit of cash.

For emergency contact, put someone you trust as your last number dialled in your phone. That way if you get into a situation you can just hit redial. A good idea is to let your friend know where you are going, what time you will be finished, and then call them when you are done.

Cruise sober. Often when you are under the influence of either drugs or alcohol you may make compromising or risky decisions.

The final one: always carry condoms and lube, even if you’re not planning on having sex. Better to have them with you.

Don’t forget ACON’s Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project. If homophobic harassment happens, you should report it on 9206 2116 or online www.avp.acon.org.au.

If you want any information about groups, services, organisations or community events taking place in western Sydney, you can contact Matt Vaughan at ACON on 9206 2064 or mvaughan@acon.org.au.

Matt Vaughan is the Community Development and Liaison Officer for the ACON Western Sydney Community Development Team.

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