World AIDS Day 2018: How Far We Have Come
It’s World AIDS Day 2018 and I’m torn between running from my grief about the loved ones that have gone on, dampening my anger about the stigma and downright hatefulness of some politicians, church folks and family members and celebrating the resilience and survival of so many that I love.
I also mourn the loss of the leaders, prophets, artists – an entire generation of folks – who didn’t get to be elders. We lost so much by not having the presence of their wisdom with us.
There have been many positive strides and I’m grateful for them – and especially grateful to the people who have shown up to do trials and tests and have risked it all to find a way to live more fully or to ensure that someone else does.
Those of us who came into adulthood in the pre-pandemic era must continue to share what it was like -how important it was to share life and love, how engaged we became because the threat was outside of our bodies - in pulpits, behind badges and waiting at home. We need to share what it meant to be sexual beings and embodied fully, sometimes/often challenging notions of “conventional” relationships.
I remember one weekend that stands out in my memory. It started with partying at Griffith Park. Dozens of people of all genders, many skin tones, several languages – sharing music, libations and “party favors”, slipping into nature to explore one another. And it ended at a bar, I don’t remember the name of it now. It was on the corner of Santa Monica and N. Poinsettia, I believe, sandwiched in the middle of the hustler bars to the east and the pretty boy bars and 2 lesbian clubs to the west. The drinks were strong, the music loud and the walls were sweating. Leather studs, fan dancers, the young and the old found their spots and let the stress of whatever was at home wash away. Sylvester pulled us into an embrace of ourselves and each other. We had no idea that all of it would change and that in a year, many of us would be gone.
I remind myself of the joy and the pain – to live through the early years of GRIDS/AIDS is to count who is still with us more easily than we can those that we lost sooner than we could understand.
In my most solemn times, I remember that I said I’d try to live for them. Every success is theirs too. They gave me courage and they grew me up. They told me their secrets and I kept hateful hands away after their deaths. We are bonded beyond time and breath.
This World AIDS Day, I embrace that the world is in some ways a better place and in some ways even more heartless. But my life will be forever enriched by the memories of those with whom I danced free before the plague.
Rev Louis Mitchell