I have a very hard time talking about World AIDS Day, and as I said a post ago, I’m in a semi-hiatus, but I have an equally hard time not talking about World AIDS Day.
It’s only been in the past year or so that I’ve begun to wake up to what the history and present of HIV/AIDS means for queer people in America, and “undesirables” worldwide. (This was in large part thanks to Dan Fishback, by the way, and his piece Thirtynothing, which you should probably see if you happen to be a person.) Here’s what happened in the 80s under Ronald Reagan, and to an extent is still happening today:
The US government knew queers were dying of HIV/AIDS. The US government let them keep dying, because they were queers, and their lives did not have value. The US government quickly realized that HIV/AIDS could end more lives that they considered valueless–not just queer lives, but straight black lives, straight Latino/a lives, and more.
Negligence about HIV/AIDS is a way for the kyriarchy to kill undesirables without having to fire the gun.
The next time you hear a conservative politician lionize Reagan and the Reagan administration, think about what Reagan did to queers. What kind of a country is this where we are capable of forgetting this much?
As I said, this is very hard for me to talk about. A generation of queer men before me was in large part systematically destroyed. How am I supposed to feel like I can ever live in this country? How do I make contact with the generation before me? How do we communicate? How am I ever going to understand their experience when I have never had to attend a funeral every other weekend? If we can’t communicate over the boundary of all that atrocity, how are we going to pass down knowledge across the generational boundary and help build a radical institutional memory?
Did you know that the lyricist who wrote the songs for The Little Mermaid died of AIDS-related complications? So did Alvin Ailey, my favorite modern dance choreographer, and Keith Haring, whose art is my desktop background right now, and many creative and brilliant men who were friends of my family, who I could have had the opportunity to meet but never did. These people who died as a direct result of the US government’s actions were not the non-persons that we are taught to believe they were–they were not nameless, faceless, statistics. They left legacies and those legacies are all around us.
Today, please take a moment to think about the brave queers and allies who make up and made up ACT UP. These days, the mainstream media would have you believe they’ve always been all for the heroes of ACT UP, but it wasn’t always so. These people are and were fucking heroes. If it weren’t for them I have no idea what kind of world I’d be living in as a young gay guy. Probably a very scary one.
According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 1 in 4 black trans people is living with AIDS. If you want a sharp reminder of why the queer movement needs to recognize intersectionality and why its white members need to shut up and listen to POC–myself included–there’s one.
This violence is structural and systemic. As Audre Lorde once said, we were never meant to survive. The system isn’t broken; it was made this way.
Get tested today! If you’re anywhere near NYC, head to Callen Lorde Community Health Center, where you can get genuinely affordable healthcare and you will be treated like a human being, not shamed for your sexual practices or dehumanized for your gender identity. (I don’t know about you, but I dread conventional doctors for that reason.)
Please, know your status. I know there is stigma attached even to getting tested, because it implies you think you might be positive, but if someone pulls that shit, tell them that the idea the being positive is shameful is part of what’s killing people worldwide. And then demand they buy you a free fucking coffee because they are an asshole.
Play safe! I know it can be really hard to find good safe sex resources when you’re trans, especially if you’re trans and gay/bi/pan/not straight in whatever sense. Here is a fabulous safe sex resource for trans men who fuck other men and the cis men who love us
Also, please stay alive.