I have been working on this post for the last 2 hours. It’s not especially elegant, but some things need to be put plainly:
Growing up, coming of age, and coming out in San Francisco during The Plague Years (I was born in 1983 to hippie parents with a lot of queer friends, and I came out young in 1994) profoundly shaped my relationships with death, sex, desire, notions of “safety” and safer sex, chronic illness, queerness, perversion, politics, communities of care, and my body. I am still puzzling all of these lessons out today, at 30, when the political and social landscape of both queerness and HIV is very different indeed from what it was in the late 80s and early 90s.
I am also thinking about Trans Day of Remembrance just a few days ago, and International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers coming up later in December. There is a lot of overlap between these three days — TDOR, World AIDS Day, and Day to End Violence — for me. I’m pretty damn sure I’m not the only person with that experience.
I am also thinking about the (mostly) older queer men (both cis and trans) who were my pervert mentors when I came out into kink in my late teens and early 20s. About the rich and under-valued and often ignored history of dykes & fags in queer s/m communities crossing orientation lines to play and fuck and love and, above all, fight for and take care of each other during awful times. About the self-described “Old Faggot” friend (and at the time, fuckbuddy) who I used to organize safer sex parties with, who taught me most of what I know about modelling safer sexual behavior and standards in community. And who said to me: “It just… changed how I approach death, Gina. After my 100th funeral in a row, something inside me shifted. It had to!”
I’m grieving the friends and family members I’ve lost to AIDS today (my Uncle Dennis in particular, who passed when I was 9). I am very thankful that my friends who are positive have, for the most part, access to baseline decent care and better options than what was available even a decade ago, let alone 20 or 30 years ago. I’m thankful that an HIV diagnosis is no longer an automatic death sentence, that many people with HIV live very, very long lives in 2013.
That said: AIDS is as much a political disease as it is a disease of the body. Institutionalized homophobia and transphobia and racism, stigma against sex workers, and stigma against injection drug users still run rampant, still do damage. This fight isn’t over. And I don’t want any of us to ever have to go to a 100 funerals in a row again.