Browsing: Thirty Years of HIV, Part II

May – June, 2011

Double Play: The Hidden Passions behind the Double Assassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk by Mike Weiss
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Mike Weiss was a reporter at the trial of Dan White, the city supervisor who killed Harvey Milk along with Mayor George Moscone. After being interviewed by Randy Shilts, he decided to turn his notes into a book. Double Play was first published in 1984 with the subtitle “The San Francisco City Hall Killings.” This choice of words was deliberate. Dan White confessed to the shootings, but as a result of a successful “diminished capacity” defense, he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, not murder. White was given an amazingly light sentence and served only five years in prison. Less than two years after his release, he committed suicide.

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IN THE PERIOD of the first reports of the new syndrome of immune deficiency (1981 to 1985), before we were certain about the primary role of HIV in the epidemic, sides were taken about putative cause(s), and about what the future held for the epidemic, gay sexual life, and the gay community in general. The range of viewpoints fell into several discernible camps.

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Holding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall
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“YOU PROBABLY like to imagine your death the way it should be: You are old. By old, you mean ready to die. Resolved. You are in bed, with your mind intact and loved ones encircling you. Your regrets are few; your pain minimal. Your last words: golden.” So opens a novel that is both timeless and contemporary, set in Toronto. If you suspect that this beginning does not foreshadow a serenely predictable death, you’d be right. This is a novel in which there’s always the possibility of violence and sudden endings.

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IN THE LATE 1960’s, America’s youth and thought leaders burst free from the confines of a staid conformist culture, demanding an end to the Vietnam War and racism, and, among a new generation of women, liberation and equality. But in the post-military draft and post-Watergate era and the height of disco-mania, former nun and lesbian political activist Virginia Apuzzo learned a very hard lesson: not all feminists are your sisters.

Having left the Bronx-based Sisters of Charity after Stonewall to fight for gay and lesbian rights, Apuzzo, a teacher at Brooklyn College with a master’s degree in urban education, found herself in 1976 arguing with leaders in the women’s movement over the inclusion of a gay rights plank in the Democratic National Committee Platform. …

It was Apuzzo who first put AIDS into the context of a larger health issue related to racism, homelessness, and drug addiction. She became one of the most prominent spokespeople on AIDS, testifying at the first congressional hearing on the subject, where she wasn’t shy about criticizing the government for its laggard response, following up with a request for the extraordinary sum of $100 million to research and fight the disease. She continued to testify at congressional hearings about the burgeoning epidemic-as well as joining other activists in street protests. …

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From the Closet to the Courtroom: Five LGBT Rights Lawsuits that Have Changed Our Nation by Carlos A. Ball
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In From the Closet to the Courtroom, Carlos Ball personalizes the history of the GLBT legal rights movement of the last thirty years by providing a lively narrative account of five extraordinary court cases and the ordinary people behind them.

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GREAT EMPIRES may come and go, but, like the tides, they leave behind a tangled assortment of treasures and trash. In the case of the British Empire, this included much that one might admire, but also a British Protestant morality that was codified in laws that persist to this day. Section 377 of the colonial Penal Code is a striking example. It classed consensual oral and anal sex as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and made it a crime punishable with imprisonment for life. When the British administrators withdrew, they took their soldiers, but left their law books behind. Section 377 was recently repealed in India, but it is still very much on the books in Bangladesh.

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SINCE THEIR CREATION in the 1980’s as a parallel social service system to serve HIV-positive gay men, AIDS service organizations (ASOs) have wrestled with questions of what they are and who they serve. But never in their five distinct “identity crises” have ASOs been less certain than they are today of their very survival as freestanding community-based agencies. Beginning with the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy (haart, better known as “combination treatment” or “the cocktail”), ASOs have struggled to stay relevant as single-disease entities. As the HIV epidemic in America continues to shift from middle-class gay men to lower-income people of color—largely gay and bisexual men—it has become harder to justify the need for agencies focused only on those with HIV when clients’ needs have more to do with their income than with their HIV status.

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Salt and Paper: 65 Candles by Janell Moon
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JANELL MOON’S latest novel is one of those books about which it’s easier to say what it isn’t than what it is. Salt and Paper: 65 Candles is presented as a journal, and it does have ascending dates as the year passes, offering a day-by-day record of Janell Moon’s 65th year.

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