For the past several years, May 17th has served as International Day Against Homophobia, and this year is no different. All around the world, organizations hold events to squash out homophobia. This year, AIDS New Brunswick, in partnership with the New Brunswick Film Cooperative and Charlotte Street Art Centre, is holding a film screening of We Were Here, a documentary about the HIV outbreak in San Francisco in the 1980s.
As a member of the gay community, I have to admit that for a long time I was afraid to associate HIV with the LGBT community. I felt like the negativity, stigma, stereotyping and discrimination that exists about HIV and the LGBT community was so overt that I would be doing both communities a disservice to perpetuate that relationship. I wasn’t comfortable writing research papers about the topic, and I would go out of my way to remind people that HIV affects everyone. But I was missing something, something really important.
As a community we had barely gotten our feet wet, legalization and human rights speaking when we were kicked in the teeth with HIV. This is what I was missing; the real disservice was ignoring the work that members and allies of the LGBT community had done on addressing the HIV epidemic. These trailblazers started food drives and care programs. They rallied and stormed medical conferences. They refused to go down without a fight. We Were Here tells us that “this is a response that we should be proud of” and it really is.
Today, HIV looks a little different. Today, we know that with the right combination of healthy living, medication (if needed), and positive lifestyle, an HIV positive person may live a long life, our predecessors didn’t have that. Today, we know that HIV can affect everyone, our predecessors didn’t know that. All they knew is that people were dying, and they stood in the face of homophobia, serophobia, and discrimination to help their friends, their family. The HIV epidemic is such a huge part of our history as a community; I would say that it is the quintessential display of anti-homophobia. That is to say that homophobia was certainly present, but the community wasn’t going to let it get in the way. The historical community response to HIV is directly related to where the HIV, and the LGBT movements are today. I’ve changed my tune I would say. I’m proud to be a member of a community that looked death and discrimination in the face and said “I don’t fucking think so.” Take that homophobia!
We Were Here will be screened on May 17th at 7:00pm. Doors open at 6:30 pm at the Charlotte Street Art Centre, 732 Charlotte Street, Fredericton.