About Gary Alton Russell

While occasionally engaging in the frivolous, I prefer to spend my time engaging in pursuits that enrich my life and the lives of others.

aids

In an Advocate piece titled Adolf Reagan, Larry Kramer wrote,People magazine called me for a quote [on] Reagan’s death. ‘I wish he had died before he was elected’ is what I told them. I wonder what they will run.”

Kramer also harshly criticized President Ronald Reagan’s AIDS record in a 1987 speech printed in Reports from the Holocaust: The Making of an AIDS Activist (St. Martin’s Press, 1989).

Look who is our friend: the Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop. A fundamentalist is our friend. Koop said, “We have to embarrass the [Reagan] administration into bringing the resources that are necessary to deal with this epidemic forcefully.” He said a meeting has been arranged with the President several times, and several times this meeting has been canceled. His own Surgeon General is telling us that we have to embarrass the President to get some attention to AIDS. [. . .] You sure didn’t see [a story about this] in The New York Times (p. 136).

While many in the media are lining up to defend Mozilla’s ex-CEO Brendan Eich, who was supposedly targeted by intolerant homos, I wonder: Where were they during the early days of the AIDS epidemic?

In 1986, Kramer posed a similar question.

[W]eek after week, all [The Village Voice] turn[s] out [is] more issues filled with pointless tripe, filled with pages and pages of critics with their jerk-off reviews, sounding off on what’s on the tube, what’s playing in the latest loft, where you can buy the trendiest spaghetti or eat it, who has been at what stupid movie preview, what undiscovered rock song/star/ ballet/mixed media simply must be discovered, what film director/playwright/novelist/poet/painter has a career that’s too big and overinflated or too small and underappreciated. Have you ever seen a publication that devoted so much of its valuable space to so many saying so little you care about reading? While we are dying. While the “Village” part of the Village Voice is dying (p. 98).

The gay press, Kramer argued in 1983, was just as negligent.

I am sick of the Advocate, one of this country’s largest gay publications, which has yet to quite acknowledge that there’s anything going on (p. 44).

What was going on was an epidemic that President Reagan seemed to have little interest in addressing, the press seemed uninterested in reporting, and the homophobic masses seemed intent on pinning on faggots.

Increasingly, we are being blamed for AIDS, for this epidemic; we are being called its perpetrators, through our blood, through our “promiscuity,” through just being the gay men so much of the rest of the world has learned to hate (p. 48). [B]eing promiscuous is a characteristic that straight men congratulate each other on achieving, [yet] they condemn us for the same acts (p. 274-75). The concept of making a virtue out of sexual freedom, i.e., promiscuity, to use that loaded word, came about because gay men had nothing to call their own but their sexuality (p. 273-74).

Kramer’s verdict: “AIDS is here because the straight world would not grant equal rights to gay people” (p. 178).

The heterosexual majority has for centuries denied us every possible right of human dignity that the Constitution was framed to provide for all. The right to marry. The right to own property jointly without fear that the law will disinherit the surviving partner. The right to hold a job as an openly gay person. The right to have children. The right not to be discriminated against in just about every area and avenue and byway and nook and cranny that can be found in which hatred is stored. Indeed—the right to walk down the street holding hands, as [heterosexuals] do when [they] are freely in love. Yes, the right to love. We are denied the right to love. Can [heterosexuals] imagine being denied the right to love?

So rightly or wrongly—wrongly as it turned out—we decide we would make a virtue of the only thing [heterosexuals] didn’t have control over: our sexuality (p. 178).

The press gave one privileged, white, heterosexual male (Reagan) a pass. Now they are rushing to the defense of another privileged, white, heterosexual male (Eich). The masses who fawned over Reagan are now fussing over Eich. The ugly history of gay oppression once again gets trampled in the stampede.

Why is it that white heterosexual males prefer not to think about or deal with AIDS? For the African and the black and Hispanic American cases, it’s because of racism. For the gay male cases, it’s because of homophobia (p. 232).

Stigmatized communities battling AIDS may have contracted the virus through sexual contact or drug use, but they had aids: the privileged, white, heterosexual males who demonized or ignored us and those who let them get away with it.

Too bad the press has more pressing matters to write about.