What Happened Was This
BY Ari Karpel
February 26 2011 1:00 PM ET
Weber: The hospice movement got a huge boost with this. If you look now at women with breast cancer, their activist role came out of PWA’s going out there and saying, “We’re fighting for ourselves.” The involvement of volunteers in healthcare organizations…
Weissman: The alternative ways of dealing with memorials.... Not to mention the fact that there is a powerful, visible community of people that in many ways was built through the response to the epidemic. People forget that the AIDS epidemic started 12 years after Stonewall. It’s not like we were an established community; we were in San Francisco, but even there gay bashings would happen all the time. There was tremendous resistance to us, and our own sense of self-worth was still fresh. All of a sudden, a sexually transmitted disease comes along and we start to think, “Oh, maybe we are being punished by god.” So all of the things we take for granted in terms of our self-acceptance and our acceptance by society did not exist. All of these things had to be worked out, internally and externally, in the midst of the leadership getting sick and dying.
Do you think the gay community has carried this on since, or has it fallen away?
Weissman: I think the sense of emergency propels that degree of engagement. And with the emergency not being there the community doesn’t exist as much. So, it’s a mixed blessing. But I think that the instinct towards community is inherent in certain people, the desire for it. I saw in many young people’s response to Milk, some of them came out and went “Wow!” about being exposed to that sense of community engagement.
Weber: Oh, look, that’s Kevin Spacey!