Dr Carlton Thomas (Photo: Supplied)
A gay doctor has earned a huge fanbase with his no-nonsense, straightforward videos about anal sex and sexually-transmitted infections. His following really exploded over the summer when he began to post videos specifically educating gay men about monkeypox.
Dr. Carlton Thomas’s videos arrived at a time when people were desperate for accurate and up-to-date information. An increasing number of people are turning to TikTok for bite-sized chunks of news.
Dr. Thomas was born and raised in “very conservative rural South Carolina.” He studied at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. He practices as a gastroenterologist (that’s everything to do with your gut health) but has become knowledgeable about all areas of queer health.
Thomas says there’s a real thirst for such information from the many queer people in his practice. He also says he saw, “a huge lack of proper queer health sex ed on social media.”
He’s now based in San Diego, California. Married, he has two 17-year-old children via surrogacy.
Related: Gay men are the “canary in the coal mine” of future pandemics, warns doc seeking HIV cure
Discovering TikTok during the pandemic
Thomas says he first started posting videos in 2020 as a result of “pandemic stress relief and boredom. My kids were big Tik Tok fans so I jumped in one night and realized how great it could be.”
“My audience took off after I posted delicately worded anal sex instructional videos on preparation and relaxation.”
“I got about 50K followers from that. Interestingly the stats showed 75% were women early on which I did not expect, but realized, ‘Hey, everyone’s got a butt and can be interested in anal sex.’
“I continued to grow by posting more butt health videos and then pivoted to a more solidly queer health platform on my Instagram. I talk about PrEP, PEP, HIV, U=U, Doxy PEP, but also proper STI testing, vaccinations, and harm reduction.”
Earlier this year, Thomas was “incredibly alarmed” to realize monkeypox was primarily hitting gay men.
“Because I have one of the few queer health social media platforms I felt the need to sound the alarm. On May 20 when the Darklands Belgium announcement came out that they had three new cases and I knew that IML would be in Chicago soon after and a similar crowd would travel to that, I made my first warning video.
“It felt eerily similar to HIV but this time without the near-certain death that early HIV seemed to bring in the 80s.
“When a fellow gay doctor friend of mine in Chicago posted that he had it about 10 days after IML [International Mr Leather], I knew this was going to be a huge problem. If he could get it, so could I!”
@doctorcarlton #monkeypox #gaytiktok #tiktokgay #bottom ♬ original sound – Doctor Carlton
Related: Half of gay and bi men have reduced their sexual activity because of monkeypox
Reacting to the arrival of monkeypox
“I started doing Instagram lives with people who had it, and started delivering all the treatment and vaccination information I could to help stop this,” says Thomas.
“I feel like those live videos gave people an insight to take this seriously. My inbox was flooded daily with men who were newly infected and had no idea what to do. I helped point people to resources to get treatment and vaccination.
“As a GI specialist, the rectal pain part of this was of particular interest. I had people tell me that their neighbors called 911 every time they went to the bathroom because they thought someone was being murdered.
“There were lots of sleepless nights helping men that had nowhere else to turn. Early on, doctors and nurses had no idea how to diagnose or treat this since it was new. Tons of people were misdiagnosed with herpes or syphilis early on.”
@doctorcarlton ♬ Big Energy (Remix) – Latto & Mariah Carey
Thomas pays credit to others, such as Grant Roth, who “built a Google Doc with vaccine and testing locations”, community advocate Jeffrey Galaise, and veteran activist, Dan Savage for also sounding the alarm.
“Our community has been through this before, and we took action together at the grassroots level to help stop this when it felt like no one else would help us. We still have work to do as the majority of new infections are in people of color, while vaccination rates are much lower for them. Health inequity is something we struggle with,” Thomas says.
“A real turning point for us in the US was when Dr. Demetre Daskalakis became Deputy Director for Monkeypox strategy. Having a gay man in charge who does all the same stuff we do really made people listen.”
The most important advice for gay men about their sexual health
Queerty asks Dr. Thomas for the most important advice he’d give to gay men.
“Be responsible for your sexual health. Your level of protection is your decision and your responsibility,” he says.
“Know your HIV status. If you are negative and at risk for HIV infection, get on PrEP to prevent it. If you are positive, get treated to undetectable status and stay that way to have a normal life expectancy. Also, be aware that U=U so you can’t spread the virus through sex when undetectable.”
He also tells people to be aware of PEP and get all their relevant vaccinations. He says urine tests alone are not enough if you’re also the receptive partner during sex.
“You need rectal swabs if you bottom and throat swabs if you perform oral sex. And inspect your partner before you play! If something doesn’t look or smell right, don’t play!”
@doctorcarlton Why doesnit take so long for the water to fet clear?!!!! #bottom #tiktokgay #gaytiktok #gay ♬ original sound – Doctor Carlton