The New 60: The Simplicity of Crisis
BY Robert Levithan
June 06 2011 2:05 PM ET
In the abstract history can be fascinating. When you have lived the history, experience’s emotional layers can act as blinders, obscuring the larger picture; relative objectivity is a challenge.
Thirty years ago the first article on AIDS appeared in The New York Times. As is often the case, we didn’t know in the moment that our lives would never be the same.
The brilliant revival of The Normal Heart on Broadway brings it back — a flood of memory and feeling. The gay community was caught up by a tsunami of fear, conjecture, and uncertainty. By the mid '80s, sudden deaths and struggle were commonplace. I remember sipping from the same cup of coffee as my GMHC buddy, his body weakened by Karposi's sarcoma, and thinking, I may have just killed myself — all bodily fluids were still suspect (HIV, carried by blood, had not been identified at that point). Yet I didn’t refuse the proffered cup. I didn’t want him to be an object of fear.
In tandem with the suffering, we were also experiencing extraordinary beauty. A community came together —those in the first wave, young gay men, were embraced by their brothers (and sisters). We found our soul. If liberation had inadvertently led us to a plague, we could bond together lovingly — and effectively. I also remember this as a time of faith and celebration of life.