Op-ed: Why the Next Generation Needs Us to Talk About AIDS
BY Advocate Contributors
December 15 2011 5:00 AM ET
As three decades of AIDS were marked in 2011, it was startling to see the degree to which Americans’ notoriously short memories had already begun to airbrush away the experience of their gay countrymen’s devastation and defiance in the plague years. Accustomed by now to thinking of the “face” of AIDS as that of an impoverished, dark-skinned African woman or baby, even the nation’s best-educated young people seem not to be aware of the plague’s impact here in their own homeland, beginning in the very decade when many of them were born.
“The de-gaying thing really worked,” said author and Dartmouth College professor Michael Bronski. “For better or worse, we did our jobs.” As evidence, Bronski described a class he taught about AIDS, called “Plagues and Politics.” He said his students couldn’t understand why he spoke of AIDS as a “gay disease.” Even a lesbian student told him, “I thought it was a little weird you were talking so much about ‘gay.’” She believed AIDS “was Africa and inner-city drug users, but mostly Africa.” Another student said, “I was wondering how you were going to bring in the U.S. part.”
Young gay men can be forgiven for not knowing the details of their community’s recent travails. They didn’t live through the nightmare, after all. At the start of the millennium, The New York Times noted that a generation of young gay men had by then already come of age without seeing their peers suffer and die from the horrific and disfiguring effects of HIV before HAART brought such dramatic change for many of those living with the virus.
Older gay men, many having lost lovers and friends and possibly living with HIV themselves, seem to prefer pleasanter subjects than the horrors we lived through. It’s understandable, to an extent. As with returning war vets, the grief and shock sustained by our wounded warriors keep so many of us silent.
- WATCH: President Obama Tells Morehouse Grads 'Be the Best Husband to Your Boyfriend'
- WATCH: Ben Affleck and SNL Crew Go to Ex-Gay Camp
- WATCH: The Cure for Gay Wedding-Related Depression
- Thousands Rally Against Anti-LGBT Violence in New York City
- Nintendo Will 'Fix' Bug That Allows Same-Sex Couples to Marry in Video Game
- Gay Man Gunned Down in NYC Street, Dies
Sign Up For Email Updates
- Politics Obama to Grads: 'Be the Best Husband to Your Boyfriend' May 20 2013 7:56 PM
- Crime Thousands Rally Against Anti-LGBT Violence in NYC May 20 2013 7:35 PM
- Women WATCH: Ellen Responds To Abercrombie's Sizeist CEO - 'Fitch, Please!' May 20 2013 7:26 PM
- Marriage Equality WATCH: Matthew Morrison Can't Even Make Sense of Marriage Inequality May 20 2013 7:00 PM
- Law Texas Man Resurrects Suit Alleging AG Fired Him for Being Gay May 20 2013 6:48 PM
- Women Obama to Award Presidential Medal of Freedom to Sally Ride May 20 2013 6:01 PM
- Pride Turn It Way Up with Pride Beats 2013 May 20 2013 6:00 PM