Has Activism About Marriage Pushed AIDS to the Curb?
As gays and lesbians push for marriage equality and other rights, some say they are neglecting another important issue. Are same-sex marriage and AIDS activism mutually incompatible?
On the surface, that may seem to be the case. After all, one goal of the LGBT movement is to be treated like straight people. Gays and lesbians want to enjoy the rights and responsibilities of marriage and raise children, their own or adopted. Sex doesn’t enter the conversation, except among opponents.
HIV is all about sex. On the 30th anniversary of the epidemic, as many as 20 percent of young men who have sex with men in major urban areas of the U.S. are HIV positive. Many don’t know they are.
A recent story in the Village Voice by EDGE contributor Joe Erbentraut asks: When was the last time you heard about a large contingent of young queers taking part in a street action about AIDS?
"For them to talk about HIV as a gay disease or a disease that predominately impacts the LGBT community sort of flies against the sort of narrative behind the marriage equality movement," activist Kenyon Farrow is quoted as saying about the leaders of gay organizations. "They are situating gay people as ’normal’ and middle class and white, like they are just like everybody else."
But that may be an oversimplification.
Are Changing Epidemic Demographics the Reason?
Sean Strub, longtime AIDS activist and founder of Poz magazine, acknowledged in an e-mail to EDGE that the LGBT community isn’t as engaged in the epidemic as it used to be, but the reasons vary.
It’s not just the preoccupation with marriage equality and other hot-button issues. Part of it has to do with race and class, Strub contends.
"As the epidemic settled into communities of color and communities of poverty it became less urgent," he said. "Unfortunately, our LGBT community isn’t immune to racism and economic elitism."