several decades later and i still love and miss you, jo-joe. hey…remember the doctors/nurses telling me not to touch you or i’d get aids? then i asked her to take a pic of us? (we’d known over a month before the medical staff that you couldn’t get hiv/aids by skin contact.)
i dedicate this willie nelson song to you, old friend…
i came out on my 19th birthday. i got the courage to go a secretly-located gay bar and, a year later, worked there as the door person.
weekends were a monster. the line to come in was long and the place was packed. a few months later, not so much. you see…hiv/aids was hitting america and we were just learning about it. not in the news, as much as watching a few friends suddenly get sick and die a very slow, painful, death. then “a few friends” became ten, a hundred, a thousand, and hundreds of thousands.
religious folks, politicians, and society in general, thought it was a “gay plague” and only gay people were affected. almost every church in america spewed their homophobic filth all over the news with “they’re getting what they deserve”, “ye reap, what ye sow”, and other cherry-picked bible quotes to make themselves holier than thou and to demonize us. because religion made or broke elections, the politicians echoed these sentiments in order to win elections.
i will never forget the genocide of hundreds of thousands of people (straight and lgbtq), because of this.
it wasn’t until a little boy got a blood transfusion, and a famous actor (who was thought to be straight), became infected with hiv…that something was finally done for study and prevention. all of a sudden, funding became available and, 7 or so years too late, people learned that anyone could become infected.
during this genocide by the government and churches, i watched a bar filled with hundreds turn into one filled with 50. nobody asked where anyone was, because we all knew they were either sick or dead. i hope you can picture the horror of this void, as well as empathize with the emotional scar this left on the survivors. to this day, i clearly remember all of my lost friends and still feel the incredulous pain from those losses.
when we realized what america truly thought of us, we (yet again) fought back. when you have a second, google “act up” for the desperate measures we had to take to get noticed and treated as human beings.
as lgbtq continues to “trend”, please remember those who fell. trump and his minions want to see us dead again…but we’ve kicked their collective asses before and will do it again as long as we don’t become complacent.
(pictured below is me with my best friend who died a week after this pic was taken. the doctors/nurses said not to touch him so i wouldn’t “catch it”, but i was ahead of the curve on hiv/aids education and knew better. i love and miss you still, jo-joe.)
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