AIDS and Pride
So this week marked the 25th anniversary of the first announcement of a strange new disease identified by the CDC. In 1981, I was 14 years old. We were living in some hick town in Missouri and I'm sure I wasn't aware of it. By the time we moved to Colorado and I was a junior in high school, I knew about it. But knew about it in abstract, disconnected way. I left Colorado and went to the Naval Academy. Reading the Washington Post every day, I became a bit more familiar. But it wasn't until the tender age of 18 when I was on my youngster cruise on board the USS New Jersy for a port visit to Pattaya Beach Thailand that I would really face STDs. There was a big punch bowl of condoms on the quarterdeck for sailors to take as they went ashore to the cheap and easy sex that was offered there. I went out with my running mate (an enlisted guy who was supposed to be my mentor) on the first night who wanted to make sure I had a good time. His definition of a good time was getting "screwed, blewed, and tattooed." But after seeing the "lesbian double dildo" act, I managed to avoid the seamier side of town. At the end of the week long port visit, out of a ship with over 1500 men, the VD line was over 400 men long. A couple hundred of your run of the mill clap, some gonorrhea and herpes thrown in for good measure, and a couple of cases of syphillus. I got the message about safe sex. Hell, I had to teach a class about sexual transmitted diseases when I was on board the ship after I graduated. Our XO on the USS Reeves had a little stamp that we would use before we pulled into port: Wrap that Rascal! Oh, and the big bowl on condoms of course. By the time I realized that I was gay, AIDS was out of control. So being in the Navy, and being scared of catching this lethal disease, I went deep into the closet. And I think it saved my life. When I got out, and when I came out, the safe sex message had been out there for awhile. But I know a lot of people weren't so lucky. You only had to read the papers to hear about the thousands of people sick and dying from this horrible desease. I'm old enough to remember the bad times, but my knowledge of them is very strange. I'm lucky. The strange path of my life meant that I didn't loose any close friends. I didn't have to hold someone's hand as they lay dying in a hospital. I really am lucky. Now that I'm out, I have more gay friends. Some of whom are HIV+. And I truely love them. And I'm so glad that the marvels of modern medicine have helped them. I can't imagine my life without them. I know they are still looking for a cure, and I hope by the time we get to the 50th anniversary we'll have found it and this disease will just be history.
Pride. Yep, it's Pride time. Joe.My.God has the best Pride post I've read yet. Please go read it.
I will say that the best Pride parade I've ever seen is in Sydney Australia as part of their Mardi Gras party. It totally rocked. I'll be heading out later to see DC's parade. No the dykes on bikes don't do anything for me, but I do like to watch. I like to see all of the different groups, the politicians, the gay friendly church groups. It's such a fun and welcoming experience. I did go to bear happy hour last night. But it was packed and I started to get a big claustrophibic. Plus, I'm such an introvert. I just sort of walked around, looked at people, and then nursed the one beer I had. I did manage to talk with a few people I knew, but I was home early and then the week just hit me and I was exhausted. Tonight's options after the parade are either BlowOff, or Nation. Not sure which way I'm leaning on that. And then of course the festival tomorrow. Happy Pride everyone!