This Out Magazine article is #truth. I was an 80s and early 90s Act Up Activist. I was recruited into the civil disobedience-based organization by an out female activist not by a cis-gendered white gay man. The NJ group from which I learned passive resistance and other safe measures for civil protesting was incredibly diverse in its membership and its leadership.
This is the article I read a few days ago. . .
I am glad to see that Out Magazine recognized a problem with other media and wrote about it. I’d been noticing it as well and been a bit irritated by the white and gender-washing of such recent history.
In the words of the famous Act Up poster, “Silence = Death” . . . I am not silent. This is a part of my history from my activist years. (Not that I’m not an activist at heart now, but in a very different manner. In my early 20s, activism was my life and my livelihood.)
I was arrested in 1994 and charged with Petty Disorderly Conduct for my part in a peaceful protest designed to call attention to the NJ Legislature’s failure to act. In 1993 the NJ legislature had commissioned a health study to determine recommendations for actions to help reduce the spread of th illness.
The protest marked the one-year anniversary of the published report. In tgat year, nothing had been done. Not one of the actions had been championed and people were dying. The plan for the day was masterminded by the NJ leadership of Act Up.
Our protest was a combination of inside and outside the Trenton legislature and I was one of 5-6 of us that had volunteered to be the inside crew vs the 100s who were outside. Bottom line, we all knew that we’d likely be arrested and charged with petty disorderly conduct.
We all knew this and we all volunteered anyway. We were not all white men as the documentary and media mentioned in the article have indicated. I think we may have all been cisgender, but we were diverse. We knew we’d likely be corralled and held or arrested. We knew it was also likely that handcuffed to a railing for hours in the Trenton state house basement while we contemplated out fate. We all knew this and we all volunteered anyway.
Why? Because we were tired of the death, the media ignorance, and the general population’s misunderstanding and fear.
This is a part of my history. This is a part of our history. AIDS still persists. The activist organizations of the 80s and 90s have transformed into research and health agencies fighting for health care coverage rather than fighting for policy changes. Statistics now have close to 40 million people living with HIV (including 1.8 million children) globally.
I bring this up because it matters. The current events of what is now an invisible minority struggling to get adequate care and the fact that most media coverage in the US about the epidemic and the history still tells a story of white middle class men that is now under control. This is also not true as women and children in Southern Africa are now the largest population living with HIV.
Silence=Death is still true for millions of people.
I know this is very different from my usual posts. . . but it was a memory and feeling swirling inside of me that had to be written.
291 Days to go.