December 02, 2024

World AIDS Day Is Over: Whew, Back to Tweaking My Xmas List

Yesterday was World AIDS Day. Aaron put up a post on how HIV or AIDS has entered his own life. These instances include reading Ryan White's autobiography, finding out a cousin he had never met had died of AIDS in the 80s, watching movies like Angels in America and Philadelphia, and living with an HIV positive man who never once mentioned the fact.

I'm sorry, but these are not instances of the disease entering your life. These are representations of the disease, fashioned out of nostalgia, or simply silences--a lump in the throat, or a missed opportunity, or a black sheep in the family. I'm not trying to beat up on Aaron, because I've got no answers here and my own "experiences" with the disease are similar. I got nothing. I think a lot of us ain't got nothing. And some of us were thankful to Aaron for reminding us it was World AIDS Day. We took some time out from tweaking our Christmas lists (or just simply tweaking) to pop in And the Band Played On so we could dab at our eyes and say, "powerful, moving...we must never forget" just so that we could forget, because really, we got nothing.

Posted by jason at December 2, 2024 07:56 AM

You are right in that I haven't wiped the ass of a lover dying of AIDS. Nor have I sat by a friend's bedside and cleaned the lesions on their skin.

I'm not an "expert" and never claimed to be. You judge too quickly.

The ways I've seen the effects of AIDS are significant because they are insignificant. It's a disease that, growing up in the '80s, was on the very periphery. It was spoken of with whispers and mystery. Though family members died of the disease, I knew nothing of that. I learned of AIDS not through personal experience, but through media portrayals two decades after the disease first appeared. Roommates and friends who are HIV positive rarely talk about the disease. I have been insulated from the reality of the disease, which, though disease freaks me out, I don't think is good. Not because I'm nostalgic, or because I have a "lump in my throat," but because I think much of the gay community is oblivious to the disease, thinking it doesn't really affect them. We have been insulated from the disease by parents and communities that don't recognize it as a true social problem. And as gay men, we have insulated ourselves from it because we don't want to deal with the stuff. As you said, we'd rather tweak our Christmas lists.

A few weeks ago I posted a Christmas list for fun. Does that mean it's all I think about? No. I spend at least one night a week at the Minnesota AIDS Project. Those inexperiences -- those people who live silently with HIV, those who have died without teaching me a damn thing about their life or the cause of their death, those media portrayals that were the only available means of learning about AIDS -- may have been insignificant, but they were enough to get me to do something instead of just bitching that I don't REALLY understand the disease or have any REAL experiences with it. And honestly, I hope I never have to really experience it, though I suppose the statistics are not in favor of that. Someday I will likely watch a friend, lover of family member die of AIDS. I don't think I have to wait until then, though, to say that the disease has affected my life, even by its apparent absence.

Posted by: Aaron at December 2, 2024 01:37 PM

Yeah, you're right...I was trying to make a more general point through your post, and it ended up sounding like I was criticizing you. My point is exactly that the significance of these instances are that they're insignificant (I've posted my own list of insignificants before [ ]).

I didn't say that you were nostalgic. But the dominant films and books that circulate among our community on the subject of AIDS create a false link between us, here and now, and the past, colored with a golden, bittersweet glow of Hollywood, a link that's fabricated from nostalgia. I take issue with those who watch And the Band Played On once in a while and think that they've grasped any kind of sense of "what its really like." In a way, World AIDS Day does the same thing, it sets aside one day where we can post missives on our blogs, and then post comments on others' blogs thanking them for touching us so deeply, and then move on thinking that we've grasped something.

Your comment above moved me more than your original post. But that's just me...

Posted by: jason at December 2, 2024 02:03 PM

Agreed. Bloggers -- unless they build their reputation on criticism -- tend to pat each other on the back often. I'm glad you offer challenges. I do frequently generalize.

Makeup makeout this weekend?

Posted by: Aaron at December 2, 2024 02:31 PM

yeah, makeup makeout would be cool.

Posted by: jason at December 2, 2024 02:34 PM

yeah but remember that scene in Philadelphia? With the red lights, the opera music and all those crazy camera angles?! And then that tragic Bruce Springsteen song? I, like, totally thought I had AIDS. I did! But like all those other gay filmsólike Bent, Trick and Return of the KingóI just don't think it told MY story...

Posted by: soon to have a BA at December 2, 2024 11:08 PM

thanks for this post. as someone who struggles trying to gauge my response to this disease, it is helpful to know others are thinking about people like me who have had direct experience with it. raw, painful, lonely, angry experiences.

Posted by: johnny at December 4, 2024 06:55 PM