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.
- BREAKING: Boy Scouts Vote to End Discrimination Against Gay Youth
- WATCH: What Happens When a Gay Boy Scout Comes Out to His Camp Leader
- Transgender High School Senior Skips Graduation Over School's Transphobic Policy
- Nevada Takes Another Step Toward Marriage Equality
- Canada Lifts Lifetime Blood Ban on Gay Men — But There's a Catch
- PHOTOS: Real Weddings, Real People
Sign Up For Email Updates
- Sports Gay Athletes Hop Aboard the Condom Mobile 2 min 58 sec ago
- Crime Questions Over Police Response to Murder of N.Y. Gay Man Still Unanswered 15 min 58 sec ago
- Marriage Equality Nevada Takes Another Step Toward Marriage Equality 36 min 36 sec ago
- Youth BREAKING: Boy Scouts Vote to End Discrimination Against Gay Youth 55 min 46 sec ago
- Theater WATCH: How Billy Porter Becomes Kinky Boots Drag Diva 1 hour 2 min ago
- Entertainment News Debbie Reynolds: 'We All Knew He Was Gay' 1 hour 27 min ago
- World News Ugandan LGBT Activists Arrested While Protesting Media Censorship 1 hour 41 min ago