They say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” One person to typify that mantra is Dr. Carton Thomas.
A couple of years ago, he noticed that gay and bi men were finding their health advice from sources which weren’t always reliable. Thomas decided to start posting TikTok and Instagram videos. The clips offered bite-sized nuggets of information for tops, bottoms, and those just wanting a greater understanding of queer health matters.
Friendly and informative videos about anal sex quickly went viral with people of all genders. After all, none of us received this sort of sex education at school.
Little did he know when he started that a new gay health problem was lurking on the horizon: The 2022 monkeypox outbreak (now renamed mpox).
The mpox outbreak
Mpox previously cropped up in parts of West Africa. When it started to spread in Europe and the US, Thomas was among those to pick up on the fact gay men were disproportionately affected.
With his growing online following, he was in an ideal situation to deliver clear, factual information. Together with the efforts of other LGBTQ activists and advocates, and the speedy rollout of the vaccine in the worst-hit areas, mpox was largely brought back under control. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced recently that mpox is no longer a global health emergency.
It was an incredible response and an awe-inspiring example of the LGBTQ+ community getting its act together when faced with a threat.
Growing up in a conservative state
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) but has become knowledgeable about all areas of queer health.
He’s now based in San Diego, California. Married, he has two teenage children via surrogacy.
“I feel like those live videos gave people an insight to take this seriously,” he told Queerty last year of his early mpox videos. “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.
“There were lots of sleepless nights helping men that had nowhere else to turn.”
Besides mpox, Thomas is passionate about talking to people about their health. PrEP, HIV, U=U, Doxy PEP, and anal fissures are all subjects he has returned to again and again.
Dr. Thomas now has a following of over 250,000 on TikTok. Last fall, he was one of Out’s 100 honorees. He’s been interviewed by numerous outlets on the topic of gay men’s health. He’s humbled by the reaction to his videos and the role he played in addressing the mpox epidemic.
“This first really reminded me of the AIDS epidemic, but with less mortality from it,” he told Out. “I knew I had to do my part and I hope that shows others the power that social media and one person can have.”
Taking his message on the road
Enjoying his heightened profile, Thomas has used it to gain a foothold in places where information on gay health issues may be lacking.
Queerty reached out to him to ask how his 2023 was going. He said, “The biggest development is that I have been doing sex education and queer health shows in conservative states. I just did the Austin Kink Weekend where I taught ‘Butt Stuff’.
“I have things in Orlando, Florida, in August and Houston, Texas, in October and in September.”
Thomas also has a new podcast brewing. Organizers in his home city recently named him a “Stonewall Hero of Pride” for the upcoming San Diego Pride festival. It’s a well-deserved honor for a gay medic who’s helped countless numbers of people, both online and in real life.
Thinking of attending International Mr. Leather? Health officials warn people to get vaccinated.