Don't Blame MeThis article from last week's Detroit Free Press kind of set me off. I don't care about your sexual orientation. It's none of my business who you decide to "be intimate" with or what that "intimacy entails. But, if you decide, even with all of the information that we have today about the consequences of unsafe sexual practices, that it is a good and proper practice to let anonymous men do things to you in your anal area that have been known to transmit awful diseases, do not ask me for money for a cure for what you have. And do not try to blame society (which I consider myself a part of) if you come down with one of those nasty diseases that are spread through these practices. Yes, I know that the sexual drive is strong, and if one has the opportunity to "release one's tension" in a way that feeds into that lustful component of the human brain, that the majority of us would jump right in, but it is still not my fault that you are now in a diseased state. And please, no "blaming the victim" nonsense, there is no longer any excuse for ignorance. We know that some ways of tension release are much safer than others.
No doubt, biases against gay people have worsened the stigma of AIDS and continue to help spread this deadly, incurable but completely preventible disease.Bias against gay people has had nothing to do with the spread of AIDS. Not with the amount of publicity brought to the anti-AIDS fight by the gay community and by big Hollywood and musical stars for the past 30 years. This is an absolutely avoidable disease, unless you are still stupid enough to allow yourself to be buggered by strangers.
Detroit's politicians and community leaders, including pastors, must talk openly and with compassion, about AIDS and how to prevent its transmission. Mayor Dave Bing and others could help enormously by helping to lead this conversation, promoting testing and taking part in events like the annual AIDS Walk in Detroit, which no mayor since Dennis Archer has attended.Don't depend on others. I'm sorry you got yourself into this unpleasant situation, but it did not have to happen. Take responsibility (and what ever else you need in order to avoid those unsafe sex practices) into your own hands to avoid the problem. Besides AIDS, there are other diseases that will lose prominence in the gay community. I hadn't thought much about it, but after reading this blog post, which led me to this rather lengthy but informative article, I increased my awareness of pre-AIDS illnesses which were spread through anal sex in the early days of gay liberation. Some of it makes for some grisly reading, but it it worth reading nonetheless. There were a lot of illnesses being spread before AIDS hit the scene. Did that stop anyone from indulging in promiscuity? It doesn't sound like it from reading that article.
When you're being told repeatedly that you have to take the blame for someone else's suffering when it was entirely due to their behavior, it's good to know the facts. Not that people listen to facts that contradict their beliefs, but after reading these articles, I can't be snowed as easily. I'm sorry if I sound callous, but I have other things to worry about, and unless you are a close family member, I'm not the one who has to worry about your self-inflicted disease.
Nobody likes to be told that their own bad habits are the cause of their problems. And the gay community was warned. Their reactions were very human - shoot the messenger. For example, gay writer, Larry Kramer faced informal ostracism for writing a story containing an uncomfortable truth.
For his literary effort, Kramer was shunned that summer at the gay resort of Cherry Grove, the scene of Faggots, concluding chapters on Fire island. Old friends looked him in the face at the Ice Palace, Fire island's hottest gay nightclub, and walked away without saying a word. His best friend stopped speaking to him. This ostracism went on for years.I remember those pre-AIDS days. I was working in a restaurant where about half the staff was openly gay and a large minority of our clientele was gay. I know at least two of them died from AIDS related illnesses. And sure, I cared because I knew them, but not well enough to be affected by their deaths.
In a December 21, 1981, letter sent to the New York Native, playwright Robert Chesley charged Kramer with homophobia and anti-eroticism. "I think the concealed meaning in Kramer's emotionalism is the triumph of guilt; that gay men deserve to die for their promiscuity. In his novel Faggots, Kramer told us that sex is dirty and that we ought not to be doing what we're doing.
"Read anything by Kramer closely. I think you'll find that the subtext is always: the wages of gay sin are death."
It wouldn't be until the actual discovery of the AIDS virus in 1984 that criticism of Larry Kramer or Joe Sonnabend by the gay community would die down. Very few people in the gay community could accept the idea that the sexual freedoms they had fought so long to obtain were suspect. Even when doctors such as Sonnabend began warning them in 1981 and 1982, few listened. The idea of sex causing AIDS was anathema to those who defined their liberation as gay people in terms of having as much sex with as many people in as many places in as many ways as possible.
Ironically, in describing his longing for love in gay life, for commitment between two individuals, Kramer was prophetic in his warning about promiscuity. In 1978, gays were already talking over dinner about the latest parasites to strike them and the latest medicines their doctors had prescribed. Over Sunday brunch, men were talking about their shingles and amebiasis. The year before it had been chlamydia and fungus.
They sounded like a group of retired seventy-year-olds in Century Village down in Florida complaining, over gin rummy, about their hearts and their operations and how they keep forgetting which pocket their nitroglycerine is in.
There was a continuum of flamboyance amongst the gay waiters. It made for some entertaining nights. One night, one of our gay waiters came to work, and let us know immediately that if possible he was going to try and skate out early. He was exhausted. Why? He had had sex with four different men that afternoon. He was treated as hero and as butt (yeah, I know) of our jokes for the night. Now, in hindsight, I wonder if he lived through the 80s.