June 5th, 2006
AIDS is twenty-five years old today.
It was on June 5, 1981 that the CDC first reported a puzzling new disease that we would come to know as AIDS. The intervening twenty-five years has been searing experience for the gay community. Discovering that one had AIDS was to receive an automatic death sentence, and over those twenty-five years an estimated half a million Americans died in the worst epidemic of modern times.
As deadly as AIDS was before the advent of Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), the Age of AIDS was not the Age of Death. Instead, it is the age of struggle and determination, of coming together and caring for one another, and ultimately of triumph. Today, modern medicine means that for most people, AIDS is not the automatic death sentence it once was. With HAART, most of the estimated one million Americans who harbor the HIV virus live normal lives. But HAART is not a cure. For that, there is still more struggle and determination to go.
But more than anything else, the Age of AIDS is the Age of Family. “Family” has a very strong resonance in the gay community — in a way that few outside of the community know about. When someone wants to ask whether someone is gay or not, the question most often asked is “Is she family?”
That’s not a mere euphemism. “Family” is an honorific that the gay community has earned through twenty-five years of hard work and determination. As those with AIDS were cast out of their own homes and natural families, they turned to those who stepped in and filled the rightful role of family in their lives. The gay community has reinvented the family, not in imitation of what others think a family should look like, but in response to the life-and-death need for all of us to be “our brother’s keeper.”
Jonathan Rauch, writing in Sunday’s New York Times, offers this very experience to explain why marriage is so important to the gay community:
But there was also an epidemic of care giving. Lovers, friends and AIDS “buddies” were spooning food, emptying bedpans, holding wracked bodies through the night. They were assuming the burdens of marriage at its hardest. They were also showing that no relative, government program or charity is as dependable or consoling as a dedicated partner.
Yet gay partners were strangers to each other in the law’s eyes. They were ineligible for spousal health insurance that they desperately needed; they were often barred from hospital rooms, locked out of homes they had shared for years, even shut out of the country if they were foreign citizens. Their love went unmentioned at funerals; their bequests were challenged and ignored. Heterosexual couples solved all those problems with a $30 marriage license. Gay couples couldn’t solve them at any price.
The Age of AIDS has awakened a sense of family for all of us, and with that the determination to protect our family with all the power we can muster.
This twenty-fifth anniversary is a day for remembering those who have died. It is also a day for celebrating those who have survived. And it is a day to remember that the struggle isn’t over. AIDS entered our consciousness twenty-five years ago, and so did the stigma that went along with it. You can read about the role this stigma has played in this epidemic in our latest report, Opportunistic Infections.
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.
In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.
On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!
And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.
Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.
Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.