Looking Back—AIDS in the Time of COVID

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I listened with interest to the recent online discussion Reflections on the AIDS Crisis in the Time of COVID-19 hosted by BAMMER with Eric Sawyer and leading AIDS physician Howard Grossman, as they described the history I lived through as a straight medical student and resident in the early 1980s.

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Comparing the AIDS Crisis to COVID-19: AIDS Veterans Weigh-in

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BAMMER hosted its first Zoom webcast “Reflections on the AIDS Crisis in the Age of COVID-19” on Saturday evening, May 9th, with close to 100 participants signed up from all around the world.

Self-Acceptance and a Queer Life in India

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The colors of life, love and pride

My name is Rahul. I was born in a small town in Tripura state in North-Eastern India where I spent my first 18 years.

My earliest memories are of how much I loved my sister’s colourful dresses and dancing in front of the television. Neither of these were the typical masculine traits expected of young boys in the conservative patriarchal society of countryside India in which I was raised. As I grew older, I started to recognize my attraction to men, but I couldn’t share those feelings with anyone. Little me somehow sensed that these feelings were unusual and generally unacceptable to those around me. By that time, I was already dealing with discouraging comments from family members about my body language and my love of dance. I didn’t dare add another trait which would surely have made me the subject of the highest level of bullying.

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BAMMER: Cliff Morrison, The World’s First AIDS Ward, Pt. 2

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PODCAST: Interviews by baby-boomer LGBTQ historian Mike Balaban, with a diverse guest list, covering issues and themes from the global LGBTQ community.

EPISODE 14: Cliff Morrison talks about forming the first AIDS ward in San Francisco General Hospital in 1983 as well as his recent involvement in the making of “5B”, an award-winning documentary about that experience (now available on Amazon).

Looking Back

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Indiana Shores, Lake Michigan (1981): Rick Angulo (rear left), Brian Riley (rear center), and Rick Lomanto (front right) all died from AIDS late in the ’80s. Jeff (front left) has been celibate for 32 years, a less visible victim of the disease.

Two recent developments refocused my attention on all the friends I lost to AIDS in the 80s and 90s.

Recently, Peter Gorobetz, a teammate from my Gotham Volleyball League days in NYC in the early 90s, came to a BAMMER meet-up in Ft. Lauderdale, where he and his partner now reside. While reminiscing about the good old days, Peter and I discussed Dan O’Connor (Pic #8 here), my cabin mate on the RSVP Caribbean cruise I took in 1991, who was also the volleyball league Commissioner that year.

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What “Ordinary People” Thought About Gays – 200 Years Ago

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We can change the past by what we choose to remember. Too often historical narrative is controlled by the status quo, those in power, those with money. In this remarkable discovery of a personal diary from the early 1800s, we see the acceptance of homosexuals (and by extension, all those who do not fit in) by a common person that is probably more indicative of the thinking in those times than we’ve been led to believe by mainstream historians. And this is why we must write!

From BBC.com:

Historians from Oxford University have been taken aback to discover that Matthew Tomlinson’s diary from 1810 contains such open-minded views about same-sex attraction being a “natural” human tendency.

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BAMMER and Me: Jacob Tobia—A Coming-of-Age Gender Story

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PODCAST: Interviews by baby-boomer LGBTQ historian Mike Balaban, with a diverse guest list, covering issues and themes from the global LGBTQ community.

EPISODE 13: Jacob Tobia is a gender-nonconforming Los Angeleno who’s on a roll. Three years ago, they landed a job as an executive assistant on the hit Amazon series Transparent.

From My Past: Obsession—John Duka, The Passion of Fashion

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“One of the requisite skills for sitting at a fashion show is being able to roll your eyes, talk to the person behind you, chew mints and say, ‘Yves Saint Laurent did it better years ago,’ all at once.” —John Duka, “Notes on Fashion”

As a young gay man in New York in the early 1970s, despite my leftist, revolutionary political leanings, I was crazy about style and clothes. That is, genuine clothes, not the throw-away H&M dreck we have now. My whole generation was. Young gay boys landing in New York wanted to work in fashion and be the next Calvin Klein, the way that they now want to be the next Tim Cook. Clothes were total sex, sometimes even better than sex, which to me is saying eons. Clothes went with nightclubbing, disco, drugs, gorgeous women, and the men who buzzed around them, and, of course, buzzed around each another.

Voluntarily Celibate: Life as an Asexual Gay Man

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Ever since I could remember, there’s always been something strange about me. When my peers were swooning over the most recent pop star to grace their phone screens, I was freaking out over metal bands I liked that were releasing new albums. When my friends were out having their first drinks, I stayed at home deciding to tattoo myself. If there’s been one constant in my life, it’s that no matter what group I’ve been in, I’ve always been the strange one.

Busted!

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A young me in 1996

In The Fall of 1996, I was twenty years old and had just moved into my own apartment in LA. I was going to school, working full time, and was dead broke.

My one free day was Thursday. On one particular Thursday, my friend Joey invited me to the movies. Joey was Lebanese and very effeminate. What would now be called “a blouse.” His parents were beyond strict and thought I was a bad influence because I was gay. They never for a moment considered that he was, which shocked me, as his eyebrows were waxed like Christy Turlington’s; he practiced the catwalk incessantly; and all of his friends were girls. But, I was the gay one?