It seems to me that Good Friday is the right moment to get this email:
In one of the most tragic ironies in recent social history, this greater knowledge of gay people was accelerated by the AIDS epidemic. Our deaths remade our lives. I wonder if, without such a catastrophe – three times as many young Americans died of AIDS than died in Vietnam over a similar period of time – we would still be decades behind where we are.
My partner George first got sick in 1986. He died in 1990.
Yes, it totally remade our lives. It changed everything. I will never forget hospital staff who wouldn't even bring food trays into the room, but would leave them on the floor outside the door. So many of us came out and demanded action and change. We demanded that the good people we knew or worked with acknowledge what was going on.
I'll never forget a meeting with my boss, telling him that I needed to be home to mix and administer IVs to my partner, and that I didn't know when I would be back to work. I think he was totally blindsided and was totally lost as to what to say or do. It was clear that I wasn't asking for any approval – I had to do it, and to be honest, I was so focused on what I needed to do for George, I hadn't really thought through the fact that I could be fired. You do what you have to do, and then you deal with the results.
I was very lucky. He totally covered for me. I'm pretty sure I was (suddenly) the first openly gay person he had ever dealt with. Multiply that by thousands.
I think we all just felt that we had to be open about it – then and forever. We had to do what we had to do for the people we loved. And people needed to know what was happening.
And, yes, the world changed enormously. Bit by bit. Marriage? No one I knew then would have ever thought that was coming. And yet, here we are. Amazing and hard to believe, sometimes.
It's so very painfully sad that so many people had to die for the rest of us to get here.
I think of the Leonard Cohen lyric:
It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
(Photo: Thousands of people gather to view the AIDS Memorial Quilt on display on the Washington Monument grounds 10 October, 1992 in Washington, DC. The Quilt contains more than 20,000 panels with the names of people who have died of AIDS. By Renaud Giroux/AFP/Getty Images.)