Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gay Man's HIV/AIDS Awareness month

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.    

Recently was apparently Gay Men’s AIDS/HIV Awareness day or some such (I’m not much of a one for special days) or so I infer from the number tweets, emails, blog posts etc I’ve seen from oh-so-earnest people urging me and mine to avoid the death-plague. And yes it comes with a side order of lots of advice, lots of instructions and not a little amount of shaming. There’s a distinct undertone of “this is still a problem!” “why are you still doing this!?!” “ZOMG why can’t you see how terribad this is!?” and a fair few lectures on all the things we don’t understand and really should know.

From my tone you can probably guess that I’m not overly thrilled by this turn of events. And it’s not just because of what I posted last week. It’s not even because of the number of straight people who saw an event like “Gay men’s AIDS/HIV Awareness day” and decided that they totally have something to say (though that annoys me).

What annoys me is the history behind the AIDS pandemic, especially when it comes to gay men.

See, once upon a time, there was no such thing as AIDS. There was a disease called GRID. You may have heard the acronym, some of the hate groups still use it today. It stands for “Gay Related Immune Deficiency”. Because, of course, at the time it was considered a disease only gay men could suffer from – hey, a surprisingly huge number of clueless Straight people still think that. And who can blame them with the hate groups saying it and blood services across the world endorsing it? It’s an ignorance that is still leading to straight folk being infected.

But I digress, as I was saying, AIDS, or GRID was a disease that infected gay men. Oh, they nodded towards Sub-Saharan Africa as well, but the common thread is that no-one who could do anything, no-one who had any real power, actually gave a damn about these lives and these deaths. So nothing was done. More, because our deaths were generally seen as a good thing by straightness, they were cheered, they were hailed. The more of us died the more that dear ol’ god up there was showing what an angry angry person he was and the more righteous the holy were in their hatred. Our deaths were proof of how right they were to hate us. You can hear it now, it’s not like the tune has changed over much, it just may, may not be sung in as many places.

So AIDS was ignored and a lot of gay men were infected and a whole lot of us died – and no-one cared for a very long time and over a very large number of bodies. And, of course, the hatred just pushed the disease up higher – and still does. Homophobia forces people into the shadows, into hidden lives and illicit encounters even when that’s not someone’s inclination. Having to remain closeted stops people reaching out – for testing, for treatment, for advice, for protection, for help. Homophobia gives us packages of self-hatred, low self-esteem, suicidal and reckless behaviour that stops people caring. It lowers self-worth and makes people vulnerable to manipulation, coercion, bullying, exploitation – and it all forces the rate up. The homophobia pushed more of us to infection and, in the past, death.

Ignorance was also encouraged. See, demonising gay people, making it the “Gay Disease”, and generally being homophobic arseholes and attacking us was far more important to so much of straightness than trying to tackle a growing epidemic – and then pandemic. It still is. It’s more important to push “righteousness”  or condemn or attack our dreadful “sin” than it is to actually fight this plague. Hate matters more than lives.

Then more and more straight folks became infected. Oh, then people cared, now it mattered because people who mattered were dying. Suddenly it was worth paying attention to, something to worry about, something worth time and resources and research and fear. But there was a new plank of homophobia still to come.

Because now it was OUR FAULT. Again, this is a thread that continues even today. Infected blood supply because of inadequate screening? Definitely gay men’s fault. AIDS rates growing among straight women? It’s bisexual men! Or gay men on the down low! Curse those GB men lurking in the shadows infecting decent straight people with our evil dirty, perverse disease! Because straight people could never ever catch HIV/AIDS any other way, right? Yes, the disease that killed so many of us because of homophobia, because of straight callousness, because of straight inattention, because of straight righteousness – is now blamed on us.

The story HIV/AIDS is a story of bigotry, hatred and people who are considered non-humans by the powers that be.

So, all in all, I don’t want to hear it. With this history of ignoring our deaths, driving us to our deaths, cheering our deaths and then scapegoating us for the consequences of ignoring a pandemic, I’m done. I’m done with straight opinions and straight advice and straight lectures and straight “solidarity” and, frankly, any more straight words on HIV/AIDS in the gay community. Enough, there’s too much unacknowledged blood on straightness’s hands and too much of this fuckery still continuing for this to be a topic straighties get to have an opinion on.