The Daily Agenda for Saturday, December 1

Jim Burroway

December 1st, 2012

World AIDS Day: Everywhere. Today is the day set aside to increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education about HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, it is estimated that about 35 million people are are living with HIV/AIDS. The good news is that the rate of new HIV infections worldwide are still declining, as have AIDS-related deaths. Where access to antiretroviral (ARV) medications is available, AIDS changed from being a fatal disease to a chronic one, albeit a very serious one. Those who are on ARVs can now expect a nearnormal lifespan.

The bad news is that men who have sex with men (MSM) made up 64% of all new HIV infections in 2010. Alarmingly, African-American men make up about 37% of that category (PDF: 1.9MB / 79 pages; see page 26). The epidemic has also shifted from the major Northeastern, Midwestern and West Coast cities of the 1990s to becoming an increasing problem in rural and urban areas of the Southeast. While ARV’s have proven to be a literal lifesaver, access remains difficult. Treatment in the U.S. can run about $10,000 per year per person. Young people under 25 represent more than a quarter of new HIV infections each year (26 percent) and most of them (60 percent) don’t know they’re infected. All told, an estimated 75% of people with HIV do not have their virus under control because about quarter of all people with HIV don’t even know they have it. Do you know your status? Find out today. You can even do it from the comfort of your own home, so there’s no excuse not to.

Events This Weekend: International Bear Pride, Cologne, Germany; Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hong Kong, China; Holly Folly, Provincetown, MA.

Connecticut Passes It’s First Sodomy Law: 1642. “If any man lyeth with mankind as hee lyeth with woman, both of them shave committed abomination, they both shall surely be put to death. — Levit. 21. 13.” If it’s any consolation, the same penalty also applied to adultery.

Matthew Shepard: 1976. I’m not sure what to say about him that hasn’t already been said. He has become so much larger in death than he was in life — except, of course, to those who knew him. For the rest of us, he’s an icon, not unlike the golden images venerated in Orthodox churches of impossibly heroic saints who suffered their unimaginable tortures in stoic silence. Most of what we know about him can be summed up in a simple creed: he suffered, died, and was buried. Even one popular description of how he was found — tied to a fence with his arms outstretched — took on religious significance, even if the image it portrayed was inaccurate. Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, has always been uncomfortable with the deification.

“People call him a martyr, but I take exception to that,” she said. “I’ve tried very hard to keep him real. It’s unfair to make him larger than life. He had foibles. He made mistakes. He was not a perfect child by any means.

“When he was killed he was not on a victory march or a protest march or anything that you would consider fighting for gay rights. He was just living his life as a 21-year-old college student who smoked too much, drank too much and didn’t study enough.

“He was a college kid trying to figure out his future.”

But he wasn’t given the chance to figure it out. If he had not been beaten and left to die on a cold rural Wyoming fence, he would have turned 36 today. Instead, he is forever 21 and still much too young to die.

If you know of something that belongs on the Agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.


December 1st, 2012

Of course, 36 is also too young to die… and 150 is too young to be beaten to death.

Regan DuCasse

December 1st, 2012

Part of the significance of his death, is because it didn’t go on anonymously. In a place like WY, it might have made only local news and been quickly forgotten.
Matt’s image, if not his background other than being gay, took on significance, because he had friends who refused to let the story go away. He lingered in a coma for enough time for his story to build in scope.

And then he represented so many gay people who’d been killed similarly. He wasn’t JUST Matt, he was ALL of them.
The attack on him was horrific and brutal, but so many other acts of violence on gay men have been.
And then, came the truth of his remarkable size. He was so small, it’s hardly likely any grown women would feel the least bit intimidated by him.
So the oft asserted defense of sexual aggression seemed ludicrous.

But it typically always IS ludicrous. No matter how outnumbered, how obviously the attackers CAME armed and prepared for violence, no matter that THEY might approach the victim first, the defense was always the same.

The national sensation this crime caused, was also the impetus for hate crimes laws. But most importantly, for more significant sentences for such crimes.
Gay men and lesbians and transgendered have the unique and terrible problem, of ALWAYS being unsympathetic victims.
Ever since Matt Shepard, there have been more life sentences imposed than ever before for first degree murders with special circumstances.

Even if he wasn’t a saint, and had vices many people do, the fact remains he truly was a sweet person, and utterly harmless for such brutality to even be motivated.

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