Out Alliance Announces Plans for 2020 Pride Festival Amid COVID-19 Concerns

OUT ALLIANCE IN TALKS WITH CITY OF ROCHESTER TO SECURE POSTPONEMENT DATES FOR 2020 ROC PRIDE PARADE AND FESTIVAL. Like nearly every other event scheduled to take place the Summer of 2020, Out Alliance and ROC Pride organizers are working to ensure the very important celebration of LGBTQ+ Rochester life and culture can still happen while ensuring the safety of its guests, vendors and participants is top priority. The celebration typically stretches over the course of a week to 10 days in mid-July. Based on recommendations by the NYSDOH, CDC, County and City of Rochester it has been determined that it still may not be safe for festival go-ers to participate in an event of that size at that time. It is part of the Out Alliance’s mission as an agency to be protective and thoughtful about the health of the LGBTQ+ community as it is already especially vulnerable and experiences significant health disparities that could lead to increased COVID-19 exposure risk and transmission. Out Alliance is currently in talks with the City of Rochester to secure a postponement date for 2020 ROC Pride Parade and Festival and the new dates will be released to the public upon that date being secured.

Please stay tuned to Out Alliance website and social media outlets for more information as it becomes available.

A Pioneer Risk Taker’s Journey: From a Small Town to the National Stage of LGBTQ+ Rights

Emily Jones was born in Canton, New York, a small town of 20,000 in the 1940’s.  She came to Rochester in 1975 after accepting a position with Eastman Kodak Company as a nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopist in the Analytical Technology Laboratory. Even though Stonewall had happened, Emily did not know anything about Stonewall when she came to Rochester.  In 1988, Emily was the only woman leader in her division, first woman Assistant to the Director, divorced, and a single mom.  By now “ PIONEER, RISK TAKER” were in her blood.  Her first lesbian relationship was long-distance, taking her to Kodak LogoBoston regularly. As she volunteered in response to the AIDS crisis, Emily witnessed the impact of discrimination on the rights of gay and lesbian communities. In 1990, as a member of the World Chorus at the Gay Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, she met a fellow Kodak employee, Chuck Collins.  As a result of this new friendship, and with the help of a senior HR Kodak executive, two Kodak employee groups that wanted to form a gay and lesbian employee resource group were united.  In 1992, David Kozel, Gary Gray, Dan Sapper, Kathryn Rivers, Chuck Collins, and Emily successfully launched The Lambda Network at Kodak a Kodak Employee Resource Group. The Lambda Network would educate leadership on the unique work needs of their LGBT employees.  In 1995, along with Kathryn Rivers, Emily co-chaired the First Educational Event for Senior Management on LGBT Issues at Kodak. This event marked the first of its kind for a Fortune 500 company. As a result of this work, she was invited to help write the curriculum and attend First Business Executive Program for LGBT leaders at UCLA.  In 1998, Emily received the Vicki Cup, in honor of Vicki Russo, an employee of Arnie Pegish at the Bachelor Forum.  The Vicki Cup is presented to a woman who has given outstanding service, whether paid or volunteer, to the general community including the gay and lesbian community.Out Alliance Logo

Emily was named Co-Director of New Imaging Materials Research in 1999. She was responsible for leading long-term research for coatable media and materials. Building on the core competencies in chemistry, polymer chemistry, coating technology and small particle technology coupled with deposition of electronic materials she lead research programs that would secure Eastman Kodak as a significant leader in the area of flexible display technology until she retired in January of 2006.

Out&EqualAfter completing 29 years of service in the R&D community in 2005, Emily continued her “Pioneer Risk Taking” modus operandi.  Emily was a President and Co-President of the Board of the Out Alliance (formerly the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley of Rochester, NY). Emily was a board member of the Rochester Chapter of GLSEN, a co-chair in 2008 and 2009 of the Empire State Pride Agenda Spring Dinner Committees, first chair of the Finger Lakes Out & Equal chapter board, co-chair of the national Out & Equal Regional Affiliates, and co-chair of the 2011 North East Regional Out and Equal Summit. Emily HRC Corporate Equality Indexpresented at the national Out&Equal Conferences on how to effect change in public policy through changes in corporate policy and on the business benefits of marketing to the LGBT Community. In 2006, she received the Outie Trailblazer Award at the Out and Equal Conference in Chicago.  Her proudest legacy continues to be creating workplace equality for all workers across the Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. At the National Level she served for 10 years on the Business Council of the Human Rights Campaign, HRC, where as Co-Chair with Wes Combs she initiated and championed the most respected measure of LGBT diversity in the workplace, the Corporate Equality Index.  Co-writing the first HRC guide for individuals transitioning in the workplace remains one of her proudest accomplishments.

In 2011, she was one of the speakers for the Empire State Pride Agenda’s Business Supports Marriage Equality group in New York, working with Ross Levi, ESPA President, representatives from Xerox and Kodak and the Mayor of Rochester to gain business support for the passage of Marriage Equality in NYS.  Emily worked to engage business support for ENDA, the Tax Equity Act, the Pension Act and Marriage Equality. She served on the ESPA Board as Vice-Chair until its dissolution in 2016. Emily continues to be a community advocate and friend of Trillium Health and Chair of the HCR Cares Board, the philanthropic Board of HCR HOME Care. Working with long-time LGBTQ education partner, Kathryn Rivers, they educated both the medical and mental health communities on the unique needs of the LGBTQ patient through a series of “Can We Talk” workshops.

The adoring grandmother of Maya and Logan, Emily enjoys watching her grandchildren grow and mature. Five years ago her son and grandson were diagnosed with an incurable rare disease, Myotonic Dystrophy. Once again, needing to know more and help physicians understand the needs of this unknown and misunderstood disease formed the Finger Lakes Myotonic Dystrophy Support Group.  Along with her son, they have met with key congressional leaders on Capitol Hill to gain support for research on this disease in the Department of Defense budget.  She and her partner Deborah Hughes, President and CEO of the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House whom she married in June 2012, enjoy spending time with family and each other celebrating holidays, birthdays and anniversaries and sailing on their boat, Tradewinds.

Emily Jones at the Susan B. Anthony MuseumIn recent years Emily began another chapter in her “Pioneer Risk Taking” journey.  Emily admits, “I’m really involved with the Susan B. Anthony Museum, not only because of the history of women’s suffrage, but because it has taken on rejuvenating a city neighborhood. They have an after school program for the young girls in the neighborhood. A young gay man from the neighborhood, whom they have “adopted”, is now going to college. With the help of the docents and staff, he has created a new life with a purpose and a hope. They also work with women in transition. That’s why the House appeals to me. It has everything to do with re-shaping a community and a neighborhood to create purpose and hope.”

In 2020 Emily’s journey continues with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, Susan B. Anthony’s 200th birthday and the Anthony Museum’s 75th Anniversary as she organizes the Suffrage City Parade celebrating the Hope, Courage and Change women have made and will make in the years to come. It is only right, that in 2020 The Year of The LGBTQ Woman, Shoulders to Stand On recognizes Emily Jones, a woman who has carried the legacy of Susan B. into the present.  I personally have known Emily for 20+ years.  She is a woman of integrity, a woman committed to fighting for equality and justice for all, a woman who is wise who shares her spirit of hope.  I value her friendship, listening ear and mentoring.  Emily’s has re-shaped her own life many times, and has helped organizations and individuals to do the same including me.

Emily JonesEmily was a member of the Shoulders To stand On Committee for 10 years, and she and Bruce Gorman planned the premier screening of the documentary on Rochester’s LGBTQ history at the Dryden in September 2013.  In the video tape interview that Kevin Indovino did with Emily, he asked, “ Years from now, many, many years, how do you want history to reflect on this and the commitments that you have made for whatever gay cause you addressed over the years?”

This tribute ends with Emily’s response, “It’s pretty simple.  I followed my heart and I followed my passion.  And I allowed change to happen where needed.  And just appreciate that you have to live into your risk. Know you’re going to face rejection.  But in all cases, try to be resilient.”

Talk T w/ Zariah: Zariah sits down with Christopher L. McKenzie Jr. of the Lion King

The majestic and amazing Lion King production is coming to the RBTL Auditorium Theatre 885 E. Main St.  December 19- January 5 and our very own Zariah Williamson sat down with Christopher McKenzie Jr., a member of the cast to learn more about him and this year’s production.

ZW:     What is your name?

CM:     Christopher L. Mc Kenzie, Jr.

 

ZW:     Where did you go to school?

CM:     New World School of the Arts College

 

ZW:     How long you been doing theater?

CM:     About 12 years now. I’ve always been into theater, but it took a second to actually do it.

 

ZW:     What’s your favorite thing about theater?

CM:     The continuous inspiration no matter the age, race, gender, etc.

 

ZW:     Who is your character in the Musical?

CM:     I am the Dance Captain which means I help in assisting our Resident Dance Supervisor teach the show and I also cover all of the male ensemble tracks. I’m also the Fight Captain of the show which means I assist in all fight scenes and make sure the maintenance is pure.

 

ZW:     How long is the show going to be traveling for?

CM:     We have dates that go all the way through 2020.

 

ZW:     What’s your favorite song and Why?

CM:     One by One because the entire song is sung in different languages and it alerts the audience. We are also throughout the audience singing and spinning beautiful bird kites and the audience can clearly see that this song means a lot and it very celebratory.

 

ZW:     What is your favorite part in the musical?

CM:     Circle of Life because this amazing opening not only sets the tone but creates a genuine emotion for the audience.

 

ZW:     What advice do you have for the audience watching the musical?

CM:     Open your hearts and allow yourself to explore with Lion King as we take you on a journey of finding courage, overcoming hardships, and embracing who we really are.

 

ZW:     Words of wisdom/advice for young and new theater individuals?

CM:     Being honest with yourself has some of the most amazing benefits known to man. This phenomenon of a production will be worth ever second!!!

 

Thank You Christopher & Thank You RBTL!!

Tickets are still available!! Visit https://www.rbtl.org/events/disneys-the-lion-king/ to get you yours!!

 

Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus presents, “Treasured Traditions”

Gather with your friends at the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus as we prepare for the most wonderful time of the year, when we present our annual holiday concert; Treasured Traditions. The concert will take place at the Hochstein School of Music on Saturday December 7 at 7:30pm and Sunday December 8 at 3:00pm.

Treasured Traditions will be a mix of contemporary and classical holiday songs, blended with the warmth and fun audiences have come to cherish from the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus. The concert will feature songs such as; A Holly Jolly Christmas, I Saw Three Ships, The Twelve Days After Christmas and more.

Joining the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus for this concert will be our dance troupe, The Rochettes. As well as the Flower City Pride Band. The concert will also feature a community sing a long as well as a post-concert cookie social after each concert.

Tickets to Treasured Traditions are $20.00 and can be purchased from members of the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus, Equal Grounds, Parkleigh or on our website www.thergmc.org. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for $25.00. Please join us for this Treasured Tradition.

Gnaw Rocs: I can’t taste the heat

By: Reilly Hirst

 

Khong Thai Cuisine

260 Winton Road North,

Rochester, NY 14610

 

 

My lunch companion looks at me and says in mild disgust, “American Thai.”  She’s not wrong. But I also ask if really there is much better Thai she’s had here in Rochester.  We go through the litany. Neither of us like the King and I; her experience of Thai Mii Up was better food and worse service than mine.  I like Yellow Elephant in Fairport; Sak’s is apparently run by the same team as here. Churi’s is the only one on our list that we wonder could compete.  My companion values that warm enveloped feeling in a restaurant and less Americanized décor. I lean towards food over environment; but also appreciate more intimate authentic spaces.

 We walked into Khong Thai on a Monday, that nefarious day when fewer restaurants are open for lunch.  We shared the spring rolls (vegetarian), the papaya salad and the Panang Curry with Chicken. I had the Thai Iced Coffee, she the Lemongrass tea. I can say honestly that this was better Thai food than many I’ve had in ROC.  Is it Toronto level? No, not even Buffalo or Syracuse for that matter. My companion was put off by the lack of heat. In contrast, some other restaurants make their dishes hot with a warning and if you don’t like heat, stay out of the kitchen or at least that dish.  That lack of compromise is best for truly experiencing the food and, therefore, the culture of other countries.

As a GERD sufferer I do find myself at odds.  I ate hot spicy foods for years; now, it’s at my own risk- including potential hospital stays and esophageal cancer.  Am I always good about this? No, I could say I risk it for you the reader, but really I risk it for me, the eater. Even by my new wimp standards, Khong doesn’t bring the heat, any heat.  The Papaya salad was too mild; it had flavor, but from the pungency of vinegar. The Panang was soupier than either of us were used to, though it had flavor, just not the right one. The Spring rolls were fresh and crunchy: the cabbage, super crisp and fresh, but the rolls lackluster in flavor.  It needed what was absent: enough Cilantro and some Avocado. (This must be more than just our meal as a Yelp picture matches almost exactly the rolls we got.) The Thai Iced Coffee was good just as it was; the Lemongrass Tea full of actual lemongrass. I would seek out Khong again. The décor was nice enough: modern, clean and for the limited space well managed. My companion would not seek it out but would eat there.  Next visit I am intending to get the Curry Puffs, maybe the Satay, and the Num Tok Nuer, or Beef Salad, all favorite dishes. I also may want to try the Tom Yum, Tom Ka, or the Pad See Eiw which is more than enough to keep me coming back in an attempt to go through them all. I am expecting them to rank as the other dishes did: decent Thai, American not at all spicy Thai. Walk, don’t run, but at least you can eat Thai now.

What I did for PRIDE

By: Lawrence Lam

Growing up in a traditional family in the Far East was like living in the Bible Belt in the U.S. where being adventurous or different was not acceptable. As a male person, I had to set my goal to become a doctor or an engineer or an astronaut. That was why at school I had to excel in mathematics and science because literature and history were for girls. I had to play soccer with the boys and be good at track and field. There was only one life for me to look forward to and that was to get married one day, have children and raise a family.
Everything changed when my female cousins took me to attend their ballet classes. I was allured to a world of graceful movements, fairy tale ballets and the fascination of show business. I gradually found out I was attracted to other male persons even though at that time I did not have any sexual experience or desire. I stared at the priest in ethics classes at school and dreamed of holding his hand for a walk in the garden. I was young and innocent and of course I was a virgin then!
At that time I also started to come across strange experiences. One day a male guest teacher corrected my dance positions in the locker room while I was almost naked. The boy who danced as the prince in the ballet always got flowers from some men after the performances. A choreographer thought my dancing was outstanding and invited me to have a drink with him to see what role was suitable for me in the production. I danced on stage in my white tights and got a bouquet of red roses waiting for me in the changing room. The roses were from an older man.
There was only one known gay bar in town and everyone talked about it like it was a very secretive place. I never went there because the police were said to have raided the place and blacklisted everyone inside. I could never afford to get into trouble with the police because I had an uncle who held a pretty high rank in the police force. Through some friends of my own age I began to socialize with a group of gay older men who had younger live-in boyfriends. I began to be known as “the other woman” among the gay couples and I was invited to many parties. Settling down with a man to live a life of sin was not for me….a thought embedded in me from my days at school.
Thank goodness that my parents were not very old fashioned and by that time in my life they had already emigrated to the U.S. When I finally joined them in New York it was the time when everyone was scared to death with the AIDS epidemic. I remained a celibate for many years until I met a dear friend who happened to be gay too. He gradually introduced me to his circle of friends and I began to accept myself as a gay person. I never thought it was necessary to come out to my parents or my family or anyone because being gay was a very private matter and I did not believe I needed to “advertise” it.
Living in New York City exposed me to the gay culture and gay history. I was never an activist but I began to support gay movements, attend gay gatherings and go to gay parades. I donated money and counselled any young gay man who crossed my path. I understood why group like Act Up needed to be aggressive and why the gay community was fighting with everything it had for acceptance and equal rights. I made a lot of gay friends but unfortunately some died young with AIDS or other complications.
Over the years since the Stonewall riots in 1969, many things have changed in New York. Federal and State governments do not discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation. Sexual activity between consenting adults was decriminalized in 1980. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2011. Hate Crime law started to cover the gay community in 2001. Discrimination legal protections were extended to gender identity or expression this year. And so on.
I’m very proud of the achievements we, the gay community, have made through the years. Because of that, life as a gay person is a lot easier these days. There are still many gay-related rights and issues to fight for before we can have complete equality. We need to build a strong foundation for our younger generations to move forward and succeed. I am living in upstate New York now. For me, I’m proud of being a good son, a wonderful brother, a productive worker, a supportive friend, a considerate neighbor, a member of the Rochester community, etc.….who happens to be gay.

Gay Pride Month To Feature a PBS Special, The Lavender Scare By Merle Exit

Award-winning, timely documentary The Lavender Scare had its PBS premiere nationwide on June 18 at 9:00PM, re-airing throughout June on digital channels. (For more details check local listings or pbs.org) Produced and Directed by Josh Howard, the documentary is based on the acclaimed book by David K. Johnson and narrated by Glenn Close featuring the voices of: Cynthia Nixon, Zachary Quinto, T.R. Knight and David Hyde Pierce.

Dr. Franklin E. Kameny writes, “Dear Mother, I received your very welcomed letter last Sunday. I hadn’t told you about my work situation because I didn’t want you to worry. The fact is, I was fired not because of a judgement upon me as an individual, but an entire judgement of a group of people. I’m certain you would agree that every American citizen has right to be considered on the basis of his own personal merit. I am a homosexual American citizen. Before I leave this earth I assure you that I will see to it that the second and third words of that phrase–American citizen–, are no longer ignored to people like me.” 

The Lavender Scare focuses on one of President Eisenhower’s first official actions, signing an executive order that said that sexual perverts cannot work for the federal government and sexual perverts specifically meant homosexuals. And so witch-hunts began and not just the federal government but jobs everywhere. 

Over the next four decades, during the longest witch-hunt in American history, tens of thousands of government workers would lose their jobs for no reason other than their sexual orientation.

In one interview of those effected, Joan Cassidy had to give up the chance to be the first female Admiral of the Navy Reserve due to the chance that the government would expose her because she wouldn’t be able to hide her being a lesbian. 

Kameny, who was set on becoming an astronomer, was the first to fight back with politics and activism to make a change via the Mattachine Society of Washington saying that it was not about national security or blackmail but about civil rights. 

The documentary includes the raids at Stonewall with photos of the gay community refusing to “not take it anymore.”  

It was not until 1995 that President Clinton signed an executive order barring the federal government from excluding gays and lesbians from holding security clearances. 

During his term in office President Obama acknowledged Kameny for the protest that he lead in 1965 as act if courage.  Today, Kameny is recognized as the Grandfather of the Gay Right Movement. Born on May 21, 1995, he died on October 11, 2011.  

I conducted radio interview with Josh Howard on the following link where he emphasized being able to have the documentary shown in schools throughout the nation.  www.blogtalkradio.com/merleswhirls/2019/06/19/whirl-with-merle

Pride with Purpose By Stephanie R.C. Harageones

By: Stephanie R.C. Harageones

What’s better than treating yourself to sweet gear for Pride this month? Buying awesome gear and having the proceeds go to charities that help the community! Pride is hitting Rochester this month and you’ll be ready to roll, or even to sport all year round! 

Mostly it’s clothing and some of it is more high-end ($100 for a sweet pair of Converse) to the more pocket-friendly places like Target and H&M. Below, here are the awesome thing you can buy (in alphabetical order by retailer), and a brief description of who they’re donating to and what each group does.

 

Brand: American Eagle

The classic staple for Americana gear is going all-in on its pride collection! 100% of their profits from the Pride collection go to the It Gets Better Project. It Gets Better is dedicated to “uplift, empower and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the globe.” They began in 2010 in response to recent teen suicides of LGBTQ+ youth, with the vision of older LGBTQ+  people giving teens everywhere some well-deserved insight and hope.

 

Top picks:

1) We start with an awesome 70s vibe; a mesh tank top. dark blue with yellow lining, a cool rainbow stripe across the chest and emblazoned with a small, but meaningful seal on the left which reads: “Playing for all sides, and proud”.

2) A subtle, yet inspiring grey t-shirt: “Love is the future” it proudly declares, in rainbow colors and adorned with stars.

3) And if you want to be extra loud and proud, there’s a tank top reading “SUPER GAY” with a sort of superhero whoosh behind them, rocked by both a male and female model nailing the look. So delightfully camp!

 

Brand: Converse

 

Everyone’s favorite sneaker brand is at it again! In the past, they’ve teamed up with Miley Cyrus, who started her own charity for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, The Happy Hippie Foundation. This year their profits are supporting the It Gets Better Project and OUT MetroWest. Out MetroWest, among other things, “builds communities where LGBTQ+ youth thrive” plus they also work towards “Affirming LGBTQ+ identities through positive role modeling” and “Creating supportive spaces where LGBTQ+ youth can be themselves.”

1) First up is a brand new piece: their first trans pride design: the Chuck 70 Pride Hi-top

2) Next we have a black T-shirt called Pride pocket which is where there is a rainbow stripe along the chest but the pocket state is black as a way to sort of cut into the design. it’s listed as a men’s t-shirt but certainly looks like it could be unisex.

3)Last but not least is a Chuck Taylor All-Star Pride low-top which is a simple black sneaker with rainbow design on the laces and the perimeter of the sole of the shoe. Low-key, cute & matches anything!

 

Brand: Disney

Yes, even the legendary family-friendly brand/media empire is going progressive! 10% of the profits for the Rainbow Disney Collection will go to GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network who strive to “create safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” It was founded back in 1990!

Top Picks:

 

  1. Rainbow Mickey Ears: the classic Mickey symbol given a fun upgrade! Cute rainbow colors. Also, a Minnie Mouse version eng a rainbow bow!
  2. Rainbow Disney collection Mickey mouse pin set is a super cute set of pins, one featuring Mickey mouse in his classic pose with a rainbow stripe across his middle and the other one a rainbow heart with the Mickey design in the sensor. Adorable and great to share with friends!

 

3)  Rainbow Disney Collection Mickey Mouse light-up necklace. Here’s a fun one that is absolutely ready for the streets! It’s a cute necklace with the classic Mickey mouse symbol in all different rainbow colors around a choker necklace and they all light right up. Super cute and lots of fun!

 

Brand: H&M

 

Since the early 2000s, H&M has been a staple in the US for cute, well-priced clothes and accessories. Their “Stay True, Stay You” line is no exception! 10% of each sale will be donated to the United Nations Free & Equal Campaign, which “champions for equal rights and fair treatment of the worldwide LGBTQ community.” Here’s the best of the best.

 

Top Picks:

 

1)First up is a top that you can frankly wear all Pride month long it has their quote of “Stay true stay you” in rainbow letters on a white crop top. Simple, but adorable.

2)If you’re looking for something with that’s a little more subtle, it’s a basic black tank top that appears to be unisex that simply says “proud” in white lowercase letters and only has rainbow design along the sides.

3)One of the quirkiest and most interesting ones is a black bodysuit with a pride cape in the back that looks sort of like butterfly wings with of course of rainbow design it’s all kinds of awesome!

 

Brand: Target

 

Target is one of the most well-known retailers of the 2000s and they have a range of products this year for Pride with their #TakePride line, with options for adults, kids and accessories too! They’re donating $100,000 to GLSEN.

 

Top Picks:

1)Here’s one for you animal lovers out there: it’s a light blue ringer T-shirt with dark blue trim and it has a cat on the front with a rainbow overlay, & it’s purr-fect for Pride! (Sorry for the obvious cat pun…)

2)This next pick is actually a children’s shirt. It’s a simple light brown t-shirt that says “Love Changes The World” and “changes” is in rainbow letters. It’s cute and it’s wonderful they have something in case you want your kids to wear something fun for Pride too!

3) Last but certainly not least is a super-cute pride accessory: a trans Pride bandana that’s a great way to stay cool all summer long! It has the pride flag colors striped on it and comes with a simple bandana that you can use to accessorize.

AIDS Vigil

By: B.A. Whitmore

On Wednesday, July 17, 2019 an AIDS Vigil took place in Highland Park’s AIDS Memorial Garden. The vigil was sponsored by the Victory Alliance; a group representing the HIV/AIDS vaccine trials network at the University of Rochester. To those who participated and attended the vigil, I want to sincerely thank you. The vigil was a means to remember those who have died of AIDS as well to make evident the research still needed and being done at the University and other research facilities around the world. Even though this epidemic has been positively attacked over the decades, it is still a scourge in the U. S. and other countries. I write this to encourage and motivate the LGBTQ community into caring more about this terrible time that impacted our community. We celebrate “gay liberation” every year in the remembrance of Stonewall, but seemingly do little to honor those lives that were lost, and have less desire to find a cure or vaccine. Research and treatments sometimes seem to make the AIDS problem, that the LGBTQ community experienced, just a footnote in our history.

Some facts and history that note the impact that AIDS produced:
● 1981: AIDS first diagnosed and given a name
● During the years of 1981 and 1998 there were over 334 thousands deaths due to AIDS
● Peak of the epidemic was between 1987 and 1996
● 1981 saw the formation of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City, because over 40% of
all AIDS cases were in New York City
● 1985: personalities of Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Magic Johnson, Arthur Ashe
and the death of Rock Hudson brought the need for more compassion and AIDS research
● 1987: The formation of ACT-UP activist group(s)
● 1987: the Ryan White Health Care Act was passed by Congress to provide funding and to try
and end discrimination because of AIDS
● 1987: AZT (the only medication approved) cost between 7 – 10 thousand dollars per year
● In 1995: 1 in 9 gay men was diagnosed with HIV; 1 in 15 gay men had died of AIDS (between the
ages of 20 – 45)
● Fast forward to 1995, the CDC estimates that 67% of all new HIV infections are in the gay and bi-
sexual community
● In Rochester, by 1995 almost 200 people had died of AIDS

When AIDS became apparent in the gay community, gays were jolted by fear, they were shunned, felt great loss, and they were despised and rejected. People with AIDS lost their jobs, rejected by families and friends. Many became homeless, had no medical coverage. There was a true lack of compassion. Even religious leaders called AIDS “God’s punishment”. Confusion and even panic was ever so present.

Eventually, AIDS began to galvanize gay men and women into being more active and visible. It forced the gay community to interact with “the system”.

“AIDS crisis was a catalyst that helped to spur on the modern day movement for LGBTQ rights in the U.S. AIDS politicized the gay community. It created the organizations that became very powerful and political savvy. And in the process ‘it changed the way society looks at gay people’”
David Barr, GLSEN.org

With time people in the medical community began to step up and realize the effect that AIDS was causing. Legal professionals began to have an impact. Our lesbian community rallied in support of their gay male friends. Many in the gay community became nurses, did outreach and became advocates for those who were sick and dying. As a result and determination of the gay community, gays came out of the marginalized shadows and were treated more normally.

“HIV has been devastating but it also created an entrance for LGBTQ work to be done”
Christine Stegling, Exec Dir. ITPC

Being 30+ years into the epidemic we find a gay community, that in some ways, are complacent to their HIV past. There are still new infections (both in the U.S. and worldwide). As well many gays who happened to survive after being diagnosed are now older and suffer from the long term effects of the disease and medications. Long term survivors suffer from mental health issues, treatment fatigue, depression, isolation, lack of social support, some cognitive problems and many have physical appearance changes. With new medications and testing come HIV challenges to even young people. HIV seems distant and less devastating. Many have never known someone with AIDS, have had a friend or partner die of AIDS; let alone see what a person experiences when actually dying of AIDS.

“HIV…..gave us a sort of intensity and drive that the younger generation cannot know because they are lucky enough they have escaped it”

Andrew Sullivan, activist-writer

As a community we can do more. So..yes celebrate Stonewall and be proud. But also do more to celebrate those we lost and be more concerned of the ongoing research which is still so needed. Just once in a while put yourself in the shoes of our gay brothers and sisters who faced this crisis. Ask yourself this question (as they had to):

“If you could take a test that would tell you if you would be alive in two years, would you take it?”

Mark King, L.A. activist, 1980’s

As the gay history book is written, we must make sure that the real impact that AIDS presented to the gay community not be relegated to a simple anecdote but should be a deserved and full chapter.

Thank you to all of the community for your thoughts and concerns.

Outlook: Sexuality is Just a Part of Each of Us

By: Randy Fredlund

There used to be parties.  Young debutantes would reach a state of readiness such that their parents would stage a coming out party to introduce them to society.  Perhaps these functions are still going on in communities stuck in the past.  

Since those times, the phrase “coming out” has gained a different meaning, and the connotations are somewhat different.  Someone, somewhere, at some time must have thrown a party for such a revealing event, but the issues associated with the current version of “coming out” usually don’t engender a party atmosphere.  The intense emotions associated with the realization and communication of the fact that one is incapable of conforming to society’s “norm” is anything but celebratory.  

In retrospect, a party may be appropriate, because the act is a major positive step toward becoming who one must be.  But at the time of the announcement to those who matter? The arrangements seem difficult. Maybe a “Remembering Coming Out” party is more appropriate.

But what of the reaction to the announcement?  Though secondary to the turmoil the announcing person is feeling, those on the receiving end are also affected.  A slew of misconceptions are instantly dashed, provided denial does not kick in. For those who can’t handle the truth, the transition to a new understanding is made oh-so-much more difficult or even impossible.  Denial serves no one.

But even for those parents who accept the information and the modified roles, the fact of the matter is often spoken in hushed tones.  That one’s son or daughter is not of the traditional sexual orientation is often treated as if it is a dirty little secret. No one needs to know.  The family “accepts” the situation, but keeps it quiet. The information is communicated on a need-to-know basis. And only if that need-to-know is urgent and held confidential.

Well, that ain’t right.  That’s not really acceptance.   No billboards are necessary, and skywriting is contraindicated, but hushed tones and diversionary tactics are unacceptable. 

In reality, there is more than one coming out day.  

Acknowledgement in the course of normal conversation is the bellwether.  One can only claim true acceptance when the fact of sexual orientation is delivered with the same tone and lack of forethought as the fact he lives in Brooklyn, or that she is an accountant.

It’s quite unlikely it’s the same day.  These things take time. The fact that part of his world is completely foreign and maybe even repulsive to you is irrelevant.  It’s a brave new world.

A parent’s coming out day happens when he or she willingly tells someone who has a need to know, however slight, that your son is gay. When asked, “Who is your son is bringing to the wedding,” let them know it’s Juan and not Juanita.  “I don’t know,” is not allowed when you damn well do. No hedging. Coming out day happens when you admit to yourself and your friends that none of those handsome young men your daughter hangs around with will ever be your son-in-law.    

 

But it goes beyond that.

 

It’s quite probable that your child needs your support at least as much as his or her hetero friends need that of their hetero fathers and mothers.  He or she can’t hetero, ro, ro the same boat. His voyage will not be easy in a world that usually distrusts and often hates differences. She must find her way in less well-charted waters.  Anything you can do to calm the waters will be welcomed, even if it’s only expressing your faith that, “You’ll be OK,” which coincidentally is something than every child needs.  

But don’t stop there.  OK is just, well, OK. Don’t settle for that.  You have to let him know that you are proud of him, not in spite of the reality of his existence, but proud of the whole.  That she is someone you’re glad to know. That those among us who do great things are rarely the result of completely average and uncontroversial situations.

And you need support, too.  From him or her. There is a new culture for you to learn and even enjoy.  And you’ll have the best guide you could possibly have.

Sexuality is just a part of each of us.  It does not define a person. Hugh Hefner, of all people, noted that his magazine was about 10% related to sex, because that’s about the percentage that sex plays in life.  We can argue the percentages, but the fact is that even the Crown Prince of Debauchery realized that sex and sexual orientation is a small portion of the whole. It does not define one’s entire existence, regardless of the oversimplified notions of society.

Nor does it define our relationships with those we love.