|World with a red ribbon attached.|
One was a cook.
One was a bartender.
Each made a contribution.
Today is World AIDS day. Today we will speak of loss. Oh, we will speak of other things. Battles yet to be fought. Barriers yet to be scaled. We will speak of science and we will speak of money and we will speak of political will. We will see graphs, we will hear interviews, we will struggle to understand why the wrong person always get blamed. We will do those things.
But. We will speak of loss.
It is impossible to speak of AIDS without remembering the thousands upon thousands lost. It's as if AIDS, the very word, has become scented with mourning. I can picture, coming north on Church Street to our home on Alexander, seeing him across the street. Hair the colour of warm honey, a smile flashing in the sun as he ran towards us. He was bursting with news. He had been well for a long while and plans something, in the carpentry shop in his mind, he'd stopped making. But he was enthused about going back to his work, his passion.
He was a decorator.
He was an artist.
He was the head of a small company.
He was all these things.
He is also gone.
As I grow older, a luxury denied so many of my tribe, I now think differently of these men. Those I knew were all men. I think they would resent how AIDS and loss have come to define their lives. I think they would be angered at the fact that the focus is on what they didn't have time to do. I think they would scream. I WAS HERE. I LIVED A LIFE. I HAD ACCOMPLISHMENTS. REMEMBER WHO I WAS DON'T SIMPLY MOURN WHO I DIDN'T HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME. It's possible to miss me without erasing me.
AIDS is like any serial killer - it gets noticed, those it murders get forgotten. Who remembers the names of Jeffery Dalhmer's victims? AIDS is the name of a disease. But these men also had names. These men had lives. These men lived, intensely lived, their lives. They made things. They made love. They made friends. They made families. They made memories. They gave. They contributed. They were here.
To remember them thusly, makes the crimes of inaction and of apathy, as they are - horrific. These men who lived, and worked, and contributed, who were flesh and blood and passion, who were fire and ice and stone - these men were slaughtered, where they stood by the decisions of those who didn't care, who didn't see value in gay lives, who could wish us away with an unsigned memo.
One was a policy maker.
One was a janitor.
One was an actor.
The could have, but didn't, respond.
And real, living, people, died.
I mourn the loss of those not here but I celebrate who they were, what they did and how they lived. This is a generation who lost their future but who had a past. A past that honours them and condemns those who thought that a gay disease was a fine idea.