- ‘Listening to the old bray of my heart…’ - 16 September, 2014
- Do we need a new definition for ‘cisgender’? Part 2 - 5 June, 2014
- Film Review: The Normal Heart - 2 June, 2014
My generation is, unfortunately, prone to forgetfulness. Whether it be because we’ve been told history but never really cared about the reality of it, or are just ignorant, we forget.
I was made aware of this fact during my time on Twitter when I encountered and befriended (said tongue in cheek) older gay men. As I soon realized, at least two of them had survived the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and were talking about it. It hit me then: how many young gay men are aware of our predecessors? How many are aware that, in the United States, at least, the epidemic resulted in the deaths of 600,000 plus men? As I thought about LGBT History Month in the UK (since the US one has already passed) I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my duty as a young gay man.
At 18, I come from a generation obsessed with the now, a generation who thinks Destiny’s Child is old music and Macklemore is the epitome of pro gay sentiment. I come from a generation in which equality for gays and lesbians is increasing, the social stigma towards bisexuals is slowly decreasing, and awareness for trans* individuals is slowly advancing. Frankly, I am part of the most selfish, historically unaware, and privileged society I can think of, with the least battles to fight at home. This isn’t a bad thing, though. However, this privilege and equality did not come without a price. The battles and losses of the past have informed our evolving social conscience and helped bring about a new stage of equality. Never again should be the mantra as we count the cost of history.
One of the costs was the 600,000 plus, predominantly LGBT, men in the United States who died as a result of AIDS and were ignored by my faith and ostracized by a government run by the Moral Majority. They were left alone as hospitals tried to find a cure but had no real backing from our government as the pledge to protect the lives of its citizens was not fully honored. All of this, forgotten it seems, is a moment listed in a history book, no more than a factoid of the past to which we look, bat our eyes, and get chills and move on from.
I am naive. I forgot the very intimate side of this epidemic and plague. I forgot the stories. I failed to appreciate that it took dying, whether through this or homophobic violence, to bring about the stark need for equality. And yet we return, we relapse, as within the trans* community, murders are high and the world looks on again. Let’s do better for them informed by the memory of a torn LGBT history that many of us forget.