I graduated from high school in June of 1981 and came of age a month later, while at the same time the world became aware of the oncoming AIDS crisis. As difficult as the previous four years had been for me, coming out and doing so while still in high school (at a time when there was very little, if any support for young gay people) nothing could have prepared me for the genocide of neglect that my world was about to endure. Conservatives had swept into political and social power and nowhere more so than my home: Hamilton County, Ohio. Prevailing thought among them concerning the mysterious “gay cancer” was that queers were dying because that’s what God does to those who violate his law, so let them die. We did die, in increasingly alarming numbers with little concern from the powers that be, until their favorite actor Rock Hudson and Nancy Reagan’s favorite fashion designer Halston became casualties and it became clear that this disease was epidemic and now infecting the upper echelons of society.
Homosexuals have always occupied a special place in human society: reviled at times for the mistaken idea that their sexuality is unnatural: celebrated other times for their creative faculties in everything from the art of painting to the art of war. Let’s face it, if it weren’t for gay men the birth rate would plummet because without their hair dressers, fashion designers and makeup artists women, in general would be less attractive (this statement, I do admit, is a bit misogynistic.) Imagine a world without Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar, Plato, Da Vinci,Tchaikovsky, Whitman, heck Neil Patrick Harris! Now consider the thousands of equally gifted gay men we lost to the ravages of AIDS. Now consider the millions we lost to oppression and bigotry over the ages. It staggers the mind to think where we could be if those minds had been able to contribute fully to the human condition.