This post is based on a thread I did on Bluesky yesterday, which became much longer than I had intended. I only planned to write about AIDS day and WHO’s campaign. And then I started thinking. Remembering how it was for me as a young teenager when AIDS started. Many more thoughts appeared and words just came out of my brain and into my hands. I therefore decided to write a blog post and add some things that are not as easy to add on Bluesky. This is the long post that came from that.
Yesterday was World AIDS Day and WHO celebrate the role of communities in driving progress towards ending aids. This would not be possible without communities.
Today most people can live with HIV if they get the right medications – and if it is discovered early enough. Please go get tested if you have a suspicion that you might be infected.
There is research going on about how to cure it. The research that developed the medication for HIV patients have helped in other areas as well. You can read more about AIDS and HIV here or watch a video with an NHS speciality doctor in HIV.
I recall the 80s, when AIDS was a deadly disease – to begin with no-one even knew about HIV and it was difficult to figure out what the disease was all about; we were afraid to be infected with touch, some even after scientist found out it only infected through bodily fluids.
Many healthcare professionals were afraid to help treat people in the beginning- well to touch people; and some did not want to help as it seemed to only hit gay men. It was late 80s before all started get help. Well almost all in the Western world that is.
I still remember the picture of Princess Diana holding hands with an HIV patient; she gave them hugs as well; she did this to comfort and to show that it was not dangerous to touch patients. And because they needed it. We all need care.
HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it. What’s more, you can share their homes, their workplaces, and their playgrounds and toys.Princess Diana of Wales, 1987
Princess Diana’s role modelling changed the narrative and remove (some of) the stigma. She remained an HIV activist till her death.
As a young teenager it was somewhat scary, but didn’t feel super relevant to me.
I recall that gay people had it, but I didn’t know anyone except my cousin, who I lost touch with when he moved to Copenhagen. He ended up dying from aids after having been sick for 4 years.
My cousin was disowned by his dad as soon as he told him that he was gay. Furthermore he forbad his wife to see their son ever again. She was not even allowed to go see him when he was sick and dying from HIV. I never talked to my uncle again even when we were in the same room. This was the first time I encountered homophobia, and even then in my early teens I could not grok how anyone could disown their own kids just because they love people of their own gender. I still don’t understand it.
In the 1980s I did not see what was going on in the gay community. I was young, not sexually active, and not gay, so my information was mainly from the news, which I did not watch very much. It was not until later that I learned my cousin had died from HIV.
In school we got this cute little comic in 1989 with two young people meeting at a disco, having sex with a condom and talking about how AIDS spreads and does not spread. A very mild way of learning about AIDS and condoms. No fear, just a fun little comic.
So back then I did not see what really happened to the gay community. Aids had spread there first and it was killing people in large numbers; some say that the gay community lost a whole generation. People died at first because no-one knew what was happening; then they died because it was a “not important” minority group. The already exiting homophobia grew.
My friend @the-qa-guy.bsky.social shared this article with me about San Francisco Men Chorus ; they lost many members to AIDS and created a very powerful picture illustrating just how many did. It gives me the chills. It really shows how the gay community suffered from this and how many lives was lost. Shocking. And then the harassment is not even mentioned. It is like it is forgotten somehow.
Bare with me with the following, you will see the context soon: I saw a mini-series “Des” a week ago about a serial killer. The series shows the time from the killer getting caught until the trial and prison, showing how the police tried to identify victims and collect evidence while being shocked about the case. The killer killed 15-16 young men 1978-1983 until he was caught because he clogged a drain with human remains – only 8 were ever identified. He picked the victims that no-one would miss; those living on the streets; hungry people; young gay men who had run away from home. At that time many people went missing in London and few were found.
The series was scary but well presented, and I wanted to know more, so I found three different documentaries. All of them showed how homophobia had allowed the killer to kill without being discovered for so long. Afterwards the press had main focus on the killer and not the victims. They were just gays (or worse terms); even if not all victims were gay, there were put in that box, and there was nothing interesting to write about. No interest in how it could have gone this badly.
At least four young men had escaped the killer and reported it to the police, but it was pushed aside as lovers’ quarrel and nothing was done. Not all police was homophobic, but it was widespread.
It was terrible to watch. I knew that there was a lot of homophobia then, but I was not aware that it was so bad and so ingrained in police, in the press, well in society. Even if it had not been about a killer, it would have been terrible to watch. The way people talked about the gay community as if they were not even humans.
Because of the stigma the police struggled to find witnesses, because people were not willing to be seen as gay in public, or they were terrified. The investigators convinced some of them to be witnesses which helped convict the killer and put him away for life.
One of the documentaries not only showed the stigma and the homophobia in connection with the case, but also how AIDS affected that. The homophobia that was already strong in society grew stronger, and it became even harder to be gay. Papers talked of “the gay plague”, gay papers and bars were burned down etc. And it was seen as a punishment for gay men for their lifestyle.
While I logically knew it was bad for the gay community, I did not know just how horrible it was; I was really just a big kid, but so were some of the people who died then.
Homophobia and other phobias today
Is it better today?
Yes it is; for the most parts gay people are accepted in the Western society; there are actors, football players, politicians, writers who are openly gay. Gay and lesbians can legally marry in a growing amount of countries – latest in Nepal. And not just better for gay people, but for all queers; I hear young people talking about these things as if it is not special; it is one part of people but not their identity. LGBTQIA+ people are visible.
Is it good enough?
This week Russia decided that the “LGBT movement” is an extremist movement. Several countries have death penalties for being gay. Hungary has laws against promoting these “things” to kids (what the rest of us call sexual education).
Yes these are extreme, but even when it is not , there are still hate crimes (some deadly), homophobia, harrassments, homophobs telling horrible stories that are not true about gays. And it seems to get worse – or maybe I am more aware, so I see it more.
I have friends who have to consider if it is safe to hold the hand of the person they are in relationship with, because they might get bullied or worse: beating up or killed.
In Denmark one of the nationalist politicians said that gays and lesbians refugees should be sent back to the countries they come from even if there is death penalty for that. They could just pretend not to be gay and not act it out.
There are libraries that have story time for kids with drag queens, who have had to cancel or get guards because they got so many threats. Last year there was a session planned in a library in Denmark, where the head of the library had to stop answering the phone due to harrassment, and had to tell their staff to never says their last name in case the harassers tried to find them. We are talking about a drag queen reading a story to kids. The excuse for harassing and trying to stop story time is the lie that the drag queens are “grooming the kids”. They are not. They are telling a story- the only ones sexualising the situation are the homophobes.
There are even gay and lesbian communities who go against trans people, which I totally don’t get. Not to mention the discussions on pronouns. Oh I could go on and on.
All the LGBTQIA+ “movement” wants to do is live normal lives, be able to love who they love, be able to walk down the streets without being afraid, be represented in society and just be people.
That is what they are: humans just like us. There are differences but no more than with other people.
Why do I care? I am cis and straight – none of this is relevant for me. I can love and marry who I want (if I can find someone); I can walk safely in so many places in the world. Places where other people cannot.
I care because I believe that you should be allowed to love, who you love, as long as there is consent and all parties are grown-up humans. Love is hard enough to find as it is. I once saw a post saying “You don’t like gay marriage? Don’t marry someone your own gender.” and that is so true.
I care because I have seen what a difference it makes for people to be able to be themselves. These people can be themselves, and we can make a difference for them by seeing them as they are.
We can make a difference for these people even by small things. It can be a bit difficult to learn new pronouns, but it is still a small thing if it helps someone else feel better in their skin. We can see them as they are. We can stand up for them. We can help those less privileged than us no matter what our privilege is.
Mostly I care because LGBTQIA+ are humans. Humans have human rights. Giving them these rights do not hurt us. In fact human kind would be better off if we followed human rights in more places. The world is bad enough as it is.
This blog post started with me just wanting to create a small post about AIDS and how communities help; then my thoughs went into the care and worry I have for the LGBTQIA+ people and I ended up with this post.
Please be kind to other people; we are all humans that deserve respect, acceptance, to love and to live. Also be kind to people that are different than you; especially to people that are different than you. And be kind to yourself.
Know that you all matter and you are loved!