Every once in a while the universe shows us the way. In my case, it showed me how and why to be gay.
Attending the recent Castro Theatre premiere of We Were Here, a documentary that reflects on the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco, I was reminded why I was essentially “born this way.”
I lost my virginity, discovered the gay dancefloor and learned about a disease called AIDS all in the same year, 1985. Just as I started to appreciate sexual freedom and gay pride, everyone around me started dying and condoms became mandatory.
I felt robbed, and an activist was born.
Growing up in Washington, DC, it was easy to get involved, and while most kids my age were on sports teams and in theater groups, I was volunteering at ACT UP and marshalling the first AIDS Walk. AIDS charities have been a constant in my life, and I remember that just before I realized my lifelong dream of moving to San Francisco, I witnessed the last time the AIDS Memorial Quilt was displayed at the National Monument. It had grown so large that it could no longer fit in a single location.
Taking a look back at our history, it’s amazing what we’ve accomplished. We’ve come so far so fast – with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and marriage equality slowly but surely becoming law – it’s easy to forget the depth of our struggle and loss.
What we can’t forget is that prevention is still the only cure. I worry that this gets lost among the medical and policy victories we’ve gained, and that the generation growing up gay now doesn’t realize that AIDS, for better or for worse, has defined our community and given us reason to rally.
There’s still work to be done, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of the “San Francisco model,” that continues to lead the way. As I celebrate the 2nd anniversary of my monthly fundraiser at The Powerhouse, I’m grateful to have my inspiration and motivation reignited by this poignant film, and I appreciate anew the importance of organizations like AIDS Emergency Fund and Project Inform.
Of the millions of reasons why I love my gays, our dedication to mobilizing our talents and helping our own and giving back to our community top the list. And until there’s a cure, I’ll continue acting up and carrying on, in hopes of honoring those who were here and those who sacrificed their lives along the way.