Tag Archives: discrimination

Gay History: 18 Anti-Gay Groups And Their Propaganda

This article and listing is from 2010, so some have possibly disappeared, and new groups appeared. I think this is an important part of our history, a constant reminder that there has always been, and will continue to be, groups whose sole purpose is to discriminate, demoralise, spread misinformation, and use hate-speech against the LGBT community. We could add our own local groups like the so-called Australian Christian Lobby, and Family First. These groups like to glorify the word “family” with no nod or acknowledgement to the changing faces of “family” in today’s world. Mind you, these are the same groups who suggest that, if you are the victim of domestic abuse, you should just suffer it for the sake of your “family”. Says it all, really!

A small coterie of groups now comprise the hard core of the anti-gay movement

Even as some well-known anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family moderate their views, a hard core of smaller groups, most of them religiously motivated, have continued to pump out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities. These groups’ influence reaches far beyond what their size would suggest, because the “facts” they disseminate about homosexuality are often amplified by certain politicians, other groups and even news organizations. Of the 18 groups profiled below, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will be listing 13 next year as hate groups, reflecting further research into their views; those are each marked with an asterisk. Generally, the SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.

*Abiding Truth Ministries
Springfield, Mass.

Abiding Truth Ministries serves mainly as a launching pad for an international anti-gay campaign. Its founder, Scott Lively, is also responsible for a book, widely cited by gay-bashers, accusing homosexuals of running the Nazi Party.

Lively first emerged as an anti-gay activist when he became communications director for the Oregon Citizens Alliance, which was backing that state’s notorious Measure 9 vote in 1992. The measure, which failed, would have added language to the state constitution listing homosexuality, along with pedophilia and masochism, as “abnormal behavior.” Lively later served as California director of the American Family Association, another particularly hard-line anti-gay group (see below).

Lively is best known for co-authoring, with Kevin Abrams, The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party. The book makes a series of claims that virtually no serious historian agrees with: that Hitler was gay, that “the Nazi Party was entirely controlled by militaristic homosexuals,” and that gays were especially selected for the SS because of their innate brutality. The claims are entirely false; in fact, the Nazis murdered significant numbers of gays and made homosexuality a death penalty offense in 1942. In the foreword, Abrams adds that homosexuality is “primarily a predatory addiction striving to take the weak and unsuspecting down with it. … They have no idea of how to act in the best interests of their country… . Their intention is to serve none but themselves.”

Lively has taken his message abroad to Eastern Europe (see Watchmen on the Walls, below), Africa and Russia. In a 2007 open letter to the Russian people, he asserted that “homosexuality is a personality disorder that involves various, often dangerous sexual addictions and aggressive, anti-social impulses.” In 2009, he went to Uganda to speak at a major conference on the evils of homosexuality, saying, among other things: “The gay movement is an evil institution. The goal of the gay movement is to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.” He also met with Ugandan lawmakers. A month after Lively left the country, a bill was introduced that called for the death penalty for certain homosexual acts and prison for those who fail to disclose gays’ identities.

In 2008, Lively started the Redemption Gate Mission Society, a church that seeks to “re-Christianize” the city of Springfield, Mass., where he lives.

Anti-Gay Scott Lively Closing Down ‘Hate Group’ Abiding Truth Ministries

*American Family Association

Methodist minister Donald E. Wildmon formed the National Federation for Decency in 1977, changing its name to the American Family Association (AFA) in 1988. Today, the group, which was taken over by Tim Wildmon after his father’s 2010 retirement, claims a remarkable 2 million online supporters and 180,000 subscribers to its AFA Journal. It also broadcasts over nearly 200 radio stations.

The AFA seeks to support “traditional moral values,” but in recent years it has seemed to specialize in “combating the homosexual agenda.” In 2009, it hired Bryan Fischer, the former executive director of the Idaho Values Alliance, as its director of analysis for government and policy. Taking a page from the anti-gay fabulist Scott Lively (see Abiding Truth Ministries, above), Fischer claimed in a blog post last May 27 that “[h]omosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.” (Ironically, the elder Wildmon was widely denounced as an anti-Semite after suggesting that Jews control the media, which the AFA says “shows a genuine hostility towards Christians.”) Fischer has described Hitler as “an active homosexual” who sought out gays “because he could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough.” He proposed criminalizing homosexual behavior in another 2010 blog post and has advocated forcing gays into “reparative” therapy. In a 2010 “action alert,” the AFA warned that if homosexuals are allowed to openly serve in the military, “your son or daughter may be forced to share military showers and barracks with active and open homosexuals.”

Gays aren’t the AFA’s only enemies. In late 2009, Fischer suggested that all Muslims should be banned from joining the U.S. military. “Islam is a totalitarian political ideology,” Fischer added in August 2010. “It is as racist as the KKK. … Allowing a mosque to be built in town is fundamentally no different that granting a building permit to a KKK cultural center built in honor of some King Kleagle.” A little later, according to the Huffington Post, Fischer said that whatever the government does to “to make it unthinkable for America’s youth to join a white supremacist group,” it should also do “to make it as unthinkable for a resident of America  to embrace Islam.” Around the same time, the Huffington Post said, he blogged that Muslim values are “grossly incompatible with American values,” and therefore no place in America should allow a mosque to be built.

And then there are the promiscuous. On his May 26, 2010, radio show, Fischer recounted the biblical story of Phineas, who used a spear to kill a man and a woman who were having sex. Citing the nation’s “rampant sexual immorality,” Fischer said, “God is obviously looking for more Phineases in our day.”

Right-wing radio host Bryan Fischer is being mocked online after he said that gay men won’t get into heaven for their parts in a “homosexual liaison.”

*Americans for Truth About Homosexuality

Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) was formed as a part-time venture in 1996 by long-time gay-basher Peter LaBarbera, who reorganized it in 2006 as a much more serious and influential, if often vicious, operation.

A one-time reporter for the conservative Washington Times, LaBarbera has been an energetic campaigner against “the radical homosexual agenda” since at least 1993, when he launched The Lambda Report, which claimed to do first-hand reporting to expose its gay enemies. Over the years, he has been an official with Accuracy in Media, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council and the Illinois Family Institute (see below for the last three). He left the Illinois Family Institute, where he’d been executive director, in 2006.

AFTAH is notable for its posting of the utterly discredited work of Paul Cameron (of the Family Research Institute; see below), who has claimed that gays and lesbians live vastly shorter lives than heterosexuals. Among the Cameron propaganda published by AFTAH are 2007 claims that gays and lesbians in Norway and Denmark live 24 fewer years than heterosexuals. Reviewing that claim, Danish epidemiologist Morten Frisch found that it had no scientific basis. LaBarbera himself, in 2002, compared the alleged dangers of homosexuality to those of “smoking, alcohol and drug abuse.” Similarly, AFTAH’s website carries essays describing homosexuality as a “lethal behavior addiction,” a “dangerous” practice that is “neither normal nor benign.”

In 2007, LaBarbera claimed there was “a disproportionate incidence of pedophilia” among gay men — yet another false assertion. The same year, he posted an open letter to the Lithuanian people from long-time gay-basher Scott Lively (see Abiding Truth Ministries, above), who has made a series of false claims about gays running the German Nazi Party. In the piece posted to the AFTAH website, Lively said homosexuals are trying to take away free speech from all opponents of gays and to silence all religious opinions on the matter.

The AFTAH site repeats bogus claims like the idea that a proposed bill in California would “promote cross-dressing, sex-change operations, bisexuality and homosexuality” to kindergartners and other children. And it ran an essay that falsely asserted that hate crime laws would “restrict our speech.”

Peter LaBarbera of the anti-gay group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, organized the Pride Week news conference. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

*American Vision

Led since 1986 by Gary DeMar, American Vision is one of the primary exponents of the doctrine of “Christian Reconstruction” — the idea that the U.S. was founded as a “Christian nation” and that its democracy should be replaced with a theocratic government based on Old Testament law. As a practical matter, that means American Vision, which describes its goal as “restor[ing] America’s Biblical foundation,” backs the death penalty for practicing homosexuals.

DeMar has modified that dictum slightly in the past, saying that homosexuals wouldn’t all be executed under a “reconstructed” government, but that he did believe that the occasional execution of “sodomites” would serve society well because “the law that requires the death penalty for homosexual acts effectively drives the perversion of homosexuality underground, back into the closet.” More recently, while hosting American Vision’s “The Gary DeMar Show” in December 2009, Joel McDurmon, the group’s research director, agreed that the Bible does call for killing homosexuals. And, he said, “when most of a society is Christian, is biblical, then it [execution of gays] is perfectly normal; it should definitely be in place.”

In April 2009, DeMar said: “Homosexuals aren’t content with only having the bedroom. They have taken their perversion into the classrooms, teaching that such practices are normal. There is nothing normal about what homosexuals do.”

DeMar, who was closely allied with the late D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries (see below), is a central figure in Reconstruction theology, which was founded by R.J. Rushdoony (see Chalcedon Foundation, below). He is co-author of Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t with Gary North.

DeMar has also said that a “long-term goal” should be “the execution of abortionists and their parents.” Islam is another enemy, he said in August 2010: “The long-term goal of Islam is the abolition of our constitutional freedoms.”

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, center, announces “Operation One Million Voices” to promote Senate Bill 6, the so-called bathroom bill, on March 6, 2017. The effort is being lead by Vision America and the Family Research Council, two groups with long histories of opposing LGBT rights. (Eric Gay / AP)

*Chalcedon Foundation
Vallecito, Calif.

The Chalcedon Foundation, named after a 451 A.D. council that proclaimed the state’s subservience to God, was started in 1965 by Rousas John Rushdoony, who is known as “father of Christian Reconstruction” theology. Led by Rushdoony’s son, Mark, since the elder Rushdoony’s death in 2001, the foundation continues to push for the imposition of Old Testament law on America and the world.

Reconstruction, as described in R.J. Rushdoony’s foundational 1973 book The Institutes of Biblical Law, is opposed to modern notions of equality, democracy or tolerance — instead, it embraces the most draconian of religious views. Rushdoony supported the death penalty for homosexuals, among other “abominators.” He also opposed what he called “unequal yoking” — interracial marriage — and “enforced integration,” insisting that “[a]ll men are NOT created equal before God” (the Bible, he explained, “recognizes that some people are by nature slaves”). Rushdoony also denied the Holocaust, saying the murder of 6 million Jews was “false witness.”

Rushdoony’s Reconstruction is indeed radical, even including “incorrigible children” among those deserving death. And virtually all of his works remain for sale on the Chalcedon Foundation website.

Today, most fundamentalist leaders deny holding such views. But a Who’s Who of the religious right — including Tim and Beverly LaHaye (see Concerned Women for America, below), Donald Wildmon (American Family Association, above), and the late D. James Kennedy (Coral Ridge Ministries, below) — once served alongside the elder Rushdoony on the Coalition for Revival, a group formed in 1984 to “reclaim America.” Rushdoony reportedly was also a member of the secretive Council of National Policy, a group of archconservative leaders.

The Chalcedon Foundation is a think tank founded by Reconstructionist, Rousas Jouh Rushdoony in 1965. Rushdooney is the guru of the Dominionist realm. The Foundation publishes books, newsletters and reports which are all geared toward advancing the theological teachings of the Reconstructionist movement. The role of influence of this Foundation of Christianity on politics is staggering.

Christian Anti-Defamation Commission
Vista, Calif.

Originally incorporated in 1999 by retired Army Gen. William Hollis, the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission (CADC) says its goal is to serve as a “first line of response to anti-Christian defamation, bigotry and discrimination.” It was largely inactive until 2007, when it brought in as its new leader the Rev. Gary Cass, who claims that Christian-bashing, “the last acceptable form of bigotry in America, is alive and well and growing more intense and hysterical by the day.”

The CADC is heavily focused on the alleged evils of homosexuality. It has called the idea of allowing gays to serve openly in the military “evil”; opposed hate crimes legislation (which many religious-right groups falsely assert would make it easy to send pastors to prison for condemning homosexuality); and raged against a judge’s overturning of California’s Proposition 8, which had invalidated same-sex marriages. With regard to that last, it said: “Homosexuals have turned away from humbly worshipping the true and living God and his transcendent moral order in order to make an idol out of their sexual perversion and chaos.”

The group also has protested a lawsuit seeking to end public use of the motto, “In God We Trust”; encouraged the IRS to investigate the anti-theocratic Americans United for Separation of Church and State; and opposed a proposed Islamic center in New York City, saying Muslims “are exploiting the liberty we afford them to honor a murderous ideology that denies religious liberty every where [sic] it can.”

Although it is somewhat benign by comparison, the CADC has an advisory board that includes some of the country’s most hard-line anti-gay activists: Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition (see below); Donald Wildmon, the founder of the American Family Association (above); and O’Neal Dozier, a pastor who wrote in his 2008 book that “[h]omosexuality not only spreads disease and neutralizes God’s command,” but also “destroys families.” The board also includes Carmen Mercer, a former top official of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a now-defunct nativist group that once ran its own armed civilian border patrols.

The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission has released its ‘Top 10 list of Anti-Christian Acts of 2009’ and they point the finger at Larry David, Obama, the Department of Homeland Security, but mostly at gays, and the oh-so-scary gay marching band that participated in the inauguration.

Concerned Women for America
Washington, D.C
.

San Diego, Calif., activist Beverly LaHaye, whose husband Tim would go on to become famous as co-author of the Left Behind novels depicting the end times, started Concerned Women for America (CWA) in 1979 to create an anti-feminist group that matched the power of the National Organization for Women. Today, CWA claims more than 500,000 members organized into state chapters, a radio program that reaches more than 1 million listeners, and a cadre of attorneys and researchers devoted to the group’s mission of promoting biblical values.

LaHaye has blamed gay people for a “radical leftist crusade” in America and, over the years, has occasionally equated homosexuality with pedophilia. In 2001, she hired prominent anti-gay propagandists Robert Knight (now with Coral Ridge Ministries; see below) and Peter LaBarbera (now with Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, above) to launch CWA’s Culture and Family Institute. Matt Barber was CWA’s policy director for cultural issues in 2007 and 2008 before moving on to similar work with the Liberty Counsel (below).

While at CWA, on April 12, 2007, Barber suggested against all the evidence that there were only a “miniscule number” of anti-gay hate crimes and most of those “may very well be rooted in fraudulent reports.” In comments that have since disappeared from CWA’s website, Barber demanded a federal probe of “homosexual activists” for their alleged fabrications of hate crime reports.

CWA long relied on and displayed Knight’s articles and talking points, including claims that “homosexuality carries enormous physical and mental health risks” and “gay marriage entices children to experiment with homosexuality.” Most remarkably, Knight cited the utterly discredited work of Paul Cameron (see Family Research Institute, below) to bolster claims that homosexuality is harmful.

Today, CWA continues to make arguments against homosexuality on the basis of dubious claims. President Wendy Wright said this August that gay activists were using same-sex marriage “to indoctrinate children in schools to reject their parents’ values and to harass, sue and punish people who disagree.” Last year, CWA accused the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a group that works to stop anti-gay bullying in schools, of using that mission as a cover to promote homosexuality in schools, adding that “teaching students from a young age that the homosexual lifestyle is perfectly natural … will [cause them to] develop into adults who are desensitized to the harmful, immoral reality of sexual deviance.”

The group has pushed a plethora of Christian right causes over the years, including criminalizing abortion, banning same-sex marriage, and rolling back sex education for students.

Coral Ridge Ministries
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The late Rev. D. James Kennedy started turning fundamentalist Coral Ridge Presbyterian into a mega-church in the 1960s, adding Coral Ridge Ministries (CRM) as its action arm in 1974 and claiming some 10,000 members by the 1990s. During the fiscal year ending in June 2009, CRM raised almost $18 million and spent more than $6 million of that on television and radio outreach efforts.

Over the years, Kennedy emphasized anti-gay rhetoric, particularly in his TV ministry. He recommended as “essential” the virulent work of R.J. Rushdoony (see Chalcedon Foundation, above), who believed practicing gays should be executed. In an especially nasty 1989 edition of a CRM newsletter, Kennedy ran photographs of children along with the tagline, “Sex With Children? Homosexuals Say Yes!”

After Kennedy died in 2007, Coral Ridge Presbyterian seemed to change course, merging in 2009 with New City Presbyterian Church under its pastor, Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham. Tchividjian began to move the church away from divisive social issues; some 500 members of Coral Ridge, including Kennedy’s daughter, left as a result. Today, Tchividjian says that the church, with 2,400 congregants, is entirely separate from CRM.

CRM, however, has continued its hard-line course. In 2009, it hired anti-gay activist Robert Knight as a senior writer and Washington, D.C., correspondent. Knight has used the work of discredited researcher Paul Cameron (see Family Research Institute, below). In one recent essay on the CRM website, he argued against allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military, saying that “Bible-believing Christians would quickly find themselves unwelcome in Barney Frank’s new pansexual, cross-dressing military.” (Hector Padron, CRM’s executive vice president, wrote last May that such a change would post a “grave threat to the military.”)

In 2002, before joining CRM, Knight wrote that gay marriage “entices children to experiment with homosexuality” and that accepting homosexuality leads to “a loss of stability in communities, with a rise in crime, sexually transmitted diseases and other social pathologies. Still another is a shortage of employable, stable people.”

After decades of being known as Coral Ridge Ministries, the ministry Dr. D. James Kennedy founded is now called Truth in Action Ministries

*Dove World Outreach Center
Gainesville, Fla.

The Dove World Outreach Center was founded in 1986 by Don Northrup and described itself as a “total concept church” in which all would be served. But Northrup died in 1996, and his successor brought in long-time Northrup associate Terry Jones as Dove’s leader in 2001. Since then, Jones has spouted increasingly vicious attacks on gays and Muslims, culminating in a plan that drew worldwide condemnation this September to hold an “International Burn a Koran Day.”

Jones and his family had spent some 20 years in Cologne, Germany, running a church that was allied with Dove. When he was asked to take over the Gainesville church, he apparently divided his time between the two until 2008, when the Cologne church was closed amid criticism of Jones by its congregants.

Jones pushed himself into the headlines last March, when he surrounded Dove with signs aimed at Craig Lowe, a Gainesville city commissioner who was running for mayor, that said “No Homo Mayor.” After an electioneering complaint was filed with the IRS (nonprofit churches cannot intervene in political campaigns), Jones had the signs shortened to the more generic “No Homo.” At one point, Jones and 30 of his congregants joined an anti-gay rally by the Westboro Baptist Church, which runs the Godhatesfags.com website and regularly pickets the funerals of U.S. soldiers, saying God is killing soldiers because America is a “fag-enabling” nation.

Jones is also the author of a book entitled Islam is of the Devil, and he has used that phrase on another set of signs posted around his church and sent his followers’ children to school in T-shirts bearing that slogan. (The school refused to let the children wear the shirts, and the ACLU filed suit against it as a result.) He regularly repeats the phrase on his “Braveheart Show,” an Internet video program where he asserted last April that “[h]omosexuality makes God throw up.”

Jones and his tiny congregation became momentarily famous this September, when he said he would burn Korans to protest Islam, which he describes as “an evil religion.” The threat drew public condemnation from Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and several leading members of the Obama Administration, and sparked anti-U.S. rallies in Muslim countries. In the end, Jones withdrew his threat and rapidly sank back into political obscurity.

Close to 100 protester showed with signs and chanted slogans in opposition the Dove World Outreach Center and their leader Terry Jones in Gainesville, Florida September 11, 2010. UPI/Mark Wallheiser

*Faithful Word Baptist Church
Tempe, Ariz.

Steven Anderson, formerly affiliated with Sacramento, Calif.-based Regency Baptist Church, started Faithful Word Baptist Church in Arizona on Christmas Day 2005 as a “totally independent” organization. With “well over a hundred chapters of the Bible memorized word-for-word,” Anderson quickly led his congregation into a series of extremely radical stands.

Much of his venom was aimed at homosexuals, who he suggests should be killed (“The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers but not for homosexuals”). In an August 2009 sermon, he attacked the United Methodist Church, saying “10% of their preachers are queers” and adding, “they got a dyke and a faggot behind the pulpit.” He has described gays as “sodomites” who “recruit through rape” and “recruit through molestation.”

Anderson is also a virulent government hater. As operator of the True Sons of Liberty website, the pastor calls for abolishing the IRS, the Federal Reserve, Social Security and Child Protective Services state agencies. In April 2009, he refused to get out of his car or answer questions from Border Patrol agents at the California-Arizona border. Agents broke his window and tased him as a result.

Anderson brought his church national notoriety in August 2009, when a member of his congregation, Christopher Broughton, went to an Obama appearance in Phoenix legally carrying an assault rifle and a pistol. It turned out that Anderson had preached a day earlier to Broughton and others that he “hates Obama” and would “pray that he dies and goes to hell.” Two weeks later, he told openly gay columnist Michelangelo Signorile that he “would not judge or condemn” anyone who killed the president. Then, for good measure, he told Signorile at the end of the interview, “If you’re a homosexual, I hope you get brain cancer and die like Ted Kennedy.”

*Family Research Council
Washington, D.C.

Started as a small think tank in 1983, the Family Research Council (FRC) merged in 1988 with the much larger religious-right group Focus on the Family in 1988, and brought on Gary Bauer, former U.S. undersecretary of education under Ronald Reagan, as president. In 1992, the two groups legally separated to protect Focus on the Family’s tax-exempt status, although Focus founder James Dobson and two other Focus officials were placed on the FRC’s newly independent board. By that time, FRC had become a powerful group on its own.

Headed since 2003 by former Louisiana State Rep. Tony Perkins, the FRC has been a font of anti-gay propaganda throughout its history. It relies on the work of Robert Knight, who also worked at Concerned Women for America but now is at Coral Ridge Ministries (see above for both), along with that of FRC senior research fellows Tim Dailey (hired in 1999) and Peter Sprigg (2001). Both Dailey and Sprigg have pushed false accusations linking gay men to pedophilia: Sprigg has written that most men who engage in same-sex child molestation “identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual,” and Dailey and Sprigg devoted an entire chapter of their 2004 book Getting It Straight to similar material. The men claimed that “homosexuals are overrepresented in child sex offenses” and similarly asserted that “homosexuals are attracted in inordinate numbers to boys.”

That’s the least of it. In a 1999 publication (Homosexual Behavior and Pedophilia) that has since disappeared from its website, the FRC claimed that “one of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order,” according to unrefuted research by AMERICAblog. The same publication argued that “homosexual activists publicly disassociate themselves from pedophiles as part of a public relations strategy.” FRC offered no evidence for these remarkable assertions, and has never publicly retracted the allegations. (The American Psychological Association, among others, has concluded that “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.”)

In fact, in a Nov. 30, 2010, debate on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” between Perkins and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok, Perkins defended FRC’s association of gay men with pedophilia, saying: “If you look at the American College of Pediatricians, they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children. So Mark is wrong. He needs to go back and do his own research.” In fact, the college, despite its hifalutin name, is a tiny, explicitly religious-right breakaway group from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the 60,000-member association of the profession. Publications of the American College of Pediatricians, which has some 200 members, have been roundly attacked by leading scientific authorities who say they are baseless and accuse the college of distorting and misrepresenting their work.

Elsewhere, according to AMERICAblog, Knight, while working at the FRC, claimed that “[t]here is a strong current of pedophilia in the homosexual subculture. … [T]hey want to promote a promiscuous society.” AMERICAblog also reported that then-FRC official Yvette Cantu, in an interview published on Americans for Truth About Homosexuality’s website, said, “If they [gays and lesbians] had children, what would happen when they were too busy having their sex parties?”

More recently, in March 2008, Sprigg, responding to a question about uniting gay partners during the immigration process, said: “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them.” He later apologized, but then went on, last February, to tell MSNBC host Chris Matthews, “I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions on homosexual behavior.” “So we should outlaw gay behavior?” Matthews asked. “Yes,” Sprigg replied. At around the same time, Sprigg claimed that allowing gay people to serve openly in the military would lead to an increase in gay-on-straight sexual assaults.

Perkins has his own unusual history. In 1996, while managing the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican State Rep. Louis “Woody” Jenkins of Louisiana, Perkins paid $82,500 to use the mailing list of former Klan chieftain David Duke. The campaign was fined $3,000 (reduced from $82,500) after Perkins and Jenkins filed false disclosure forms in a bid to hide the link to Duke. Five years later, on May 17, 2001, Perkins gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that has described black people as a “retrograde species of humanity.” Perkins claimed not to know the group’s ideology at the time, but it had been widely publicized in Louisiana and the nation. In 1999, after Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was embroiled in a national scandal over his ties to the group, GOP chairman Jim Nicholson urged Republicans to quit the CCC because of its “racist views.” That statement and the nationally publicized Lott controversy came two years before Perkins’ 2001 speech.

The Family Research Council has chosen to celebrate Humanism as a way to advance its agenda of hate against LGBT persons.

*Family Research Institute
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Started in 1987 by psychologist Paul Cameron, the Family Research Institute (FRI) has become the anti-gay movement’s main source for what Cameron claims is “cutting-edge research” — but is, in fact, completely discredited junk science pushed out by a man who has been condemned by three professional organizations.

Over nearly three decades, Cameron has published “research studies” (though almost never in peer-reviewed journals) that suggest that homosexuals are predatory and diseased perverts who victimize children. Among his more recent defamations was an FRI pamphlet asserting the primary activity of the gay rights movement is “seeking to legitimize child-adult homosexual sex.” In another, he claimed that with “the rise of the gay rights movement, homosexual rape of men appears to have increased.” In yet another, he wrote, “Homosexuals were three times more likely to admit to having made an obscene phone call” and “a third more apt to report a traffic ticket or traffic accident in the past 5 years.”

Some of Cameron’s more infamous claims include the idea that homosexuals molest children at far higher rates than heterosexuals and that homosexuals have extremely short lives. Last February, he wrote on FRI’s website that “[i]f homosexuals are allowed to serve in the military, they will be recruiting in showers, having sex in the barracks… . Before long, the U.S. may be defended by the sex-obsessed and those who can tolerate kowtowing to them.” After all, writes Cameron — a man who proposes that parents promote teen heterosexual activity to keep kids straight — “homosexual sex overwhelms rationality [and] overwhelms the desire to serve.”

Cameron’s colleagues have condemned him repeatedly. In 1983, he was thrown out of the American Psychological Association for ethical violations.  In 1984, the Nebraska Psychological Association disassociated itself from Cameron’s statements about sexuality. In 1985, the American Sociological Association adopted a resolution saying Cameron “has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented sociological research on sexuality” and “repeatedly campaigned for the abrogation of the civil rights of lesbians and gay men”; the following year, the same group formally condemned Cameron for that misrepresentation of research.

In late 2010, reacting to reports that his group had once again been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, Cameron told The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette that he believed homosexuality should be criminalized in America and that he was fine with a proposed bill in Uganda that would punish some gay sexual acts with death (“Whatever they decide, I’m OK with”). He also proposed heavily taxing gays and single adults because of their failure to produce children. And he suggested that gays and lesbians undergo a “public shaming” of some kind.

Despite all this — and the fact that Cameron’s propaganda is widely known to be false or misleading — many groups have continued to use his claims, though often without citing their source. They include the American Family Association, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Concerned Women for America, Coral Ridge Ministries, the Family Research Council (see above for all five) and, until recently, the Illinois Family Institute (see below).

*Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment
Downers Grove, Ill.

Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (HOME) was founded by 62-year-old Wayne Lela, a former Catholic who now describes himself as an agnostic. Until recently, the 20-year-old group has had a fairly low profile.

The group, which is entirely focused on the alleged evils of homosexuality, attacks gay people on a wide variety of levels. But it keeps coming back to the idea that gay sexual activity should be illegal. “[P]enalizing people for engaging in homosexual behavior is clearly not discrimination, just like penalizing people for exhibitionism or incest is not discrimination,” HOME’s website says. In a second website comment, it adds, “[H]eterosexual activity is not illegalizeable … while homosexual activity is definitely illegalizeable.” And in a third, it insists that “legalizing homosexual deviations” leads to a “confused and sick society.”

HOME doesn’t stop there. It says that gays should apologize “for all the STDs [sexually transmitted diseases] they’ve spread, and all the money those STDs have cost, and especially for setting bad moral examples for our children.” It accuses homosexuals of having a “pathological attitude” toward the opposite sex. It says homosexuality shouldn’t have been removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders. It says gays threaten free speech because they seek hate crime law protections. It argues that gay film directors are working to “condition men to bond with other men at the expense of women.” And it claims that pedophilia and necrophilia are a sexual orientations like homosexuality, going on to suggest that they could therefore be legalized.

And then there’s this: Freemasonry may be connected to “the homosexual movement,” with members evidently engaging in sodomy and “homosexual orgies.” Thus, HOME says, there is a “very real possibility that this group is using its influence to try to impose pro-homosexual ‘values’ on the public.”

*Illinois Family Institute
Carol Stream, Ill.

The Illinois Family Institute (IFI), which says it dedicates itself to issues surrounding “marriage, family, life and liberty,” is heavily focused on attacking gay people and homosexuality in general. It maintains “working partnerships” with other hard-line groups including the Family Research Council (see above) and the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal center based in Phoenix. In early 2010, it launched Illinois Family Action as a political-action sister organization.

In 2006, then-Executive Director Peter LaBarbera (see Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, above), told a religious-right gathering hosted by Vision America that homosexuality was “disgusting” and demanded the closing down of all “homosexual establishments.” He called for the repeal of all “sexual orientation laws” — laws that ban discrimination against gays — and spoke of the “need to find ways to bring back shame to those practicing homosexual behavior.”

Over the years, the group also has occasionally embraced the groundless propaganda of Paul Cameron (see Family Research Institute, above). Until 2009, it carried an article on Cameron — “New Study Shows that Homosexuals Live 20 Fewer Years” — preceded by a full-throated endorsement LaBarbera. “Paul Cameron’s work has been targeted for ridicule by homosexual activists, and he’s been demonized by the left,” LaBarbera wrote in his introduction, “but that should not discount his findings.” IFI also posted a video attacking school anti-bullying programs that claimed, based on Cameron, that gay men’s median age of death is 42. Both were removed in response to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2009 listing of IFI as a hate group, which was largely based on its use of Cameron.

That response, however, hardly indicated that the IFI was backing down on its hard-line position. This year, Focus on the Family — for years, the powerhouse of anti-gay religious organizations in America — moderated its position markedly after founder James Dobson retired and pastor Jim Daly took over. In April, Daly told an interviewer: “I will continue to defend traditional marriage, but I’m not going to demean human beings in the process. It’s not about being highly confrontational.” The response of Laurie Higgins, IFI’s belligerent director of school advocacy, was that Daly was showing “surprising naïveté,” using the same language as pro-gay “homosexualists,” and failing to confront “the pro-homosexual juggernaut.”

In 2009, Higgins compared homosexuality to Nazism, likening the German Evangelical Church’s weak response to fascism to the “American church’s failure to respond appropriately to the spread of radical, heretical, destructive views of homosexuality.” Elsewhere, Higgins has pined for the days when gays were in the closet. “There was something profoundly good for society about the prior stigmatization of homosexual practice… . [W]hen homosexuals were ‘in the closet,’ (along with fornicators, polyamorists, cross-dressers, and ‘transexuals’), they weren’t acquiring and raising children.” She’s also said that McDonald’s, because it ran a gay-friendly TV ad, is “hell bent on using its resources to promote subversive moral, social, and political views about homosexuality to our children.”

Liberty Counsel
Orlando, Fla.

Created in 1989, Liberty Counsel is affiliated with Liberty University Law School in Lynchburg, Va., a legacy of the late conservative icon Jerry Falwell. It was founded and is still chaired by Mathew (Mat) Staver, who also serves as director of the Liberty Center for Law and Policy at Liberty University, and provides legal assistance with regard to religious liberty, abortion and the family.

The organization may be best known for its campaigns to ensure that “public displays of religion” are maintained during the Christmas holiday, and it has adopted broad right-wing views, including the allegation that the Obama Administration has a “socialist liberal agenda.” But it also has focused heavily on anti-gay activism.

In 2009, J. Matt Barber, formerly with Concerned Women for America and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (see above for both), joined Liberty Counsel as director of cultural affairs (also becoming Liberty University’s associate dean for career and professional development). A year earlier, Barber had argued that given “medical evidence about the dangers of homosexuality,” it should be considered “criminally reckless for educators to teach children that homosexual conduct is a normal, safe and perfectly acceptable alternative.”

The Counsel also has been active in battling same-sex marriage, saying it would destroy the “bedrock of society.” In 2005, the group’s blog said: “People who … support the radical homosexual agenda will not rest until marriage has become completely devalued. Children will suffer most from this debauchery.” A 2007 blog posting said same-sex marriage would “severely impact future generations.”

Like other anti-gay groups, Liberty Counsel argues that hate crime laws are “actually ‘thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom and of conscience” — an opinion rejected by the Supreme Court. In fact, the laws raise penalties for crimes already on the books — assault, murder and so on — that were motivated by hatred of people based on their sexual orientation. They do not, and could not under the Constitution, punish people for voicing opinions.

Since 2006, Liberty Counsel has also run its “Change is Possible” campaign with Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays to protect people who say they’ve changed from gay to straight from “discrimination” by “intolerant homosexuals.”

*MassResistance

MassResistance, “the leading pro-family grassroots activist group in Massachusetts,” began life in 1995 as the Parents’ Rights Coalition, became the Article 8 Alliance in 2003, and took on its current name in 2006. Its leader, Brian Camenker, is a programmer who was an official of the Article 8 Alliance and also headed the Newton, Mass., chapter of the National Taxpayers’ Association.

As president of yet another group, the Interfaith Coalition of Massachusetts, Camenker spearheaded the drafting of a bill that passed in 1996 and required that parents be notified of any sex education in their children’s schools. That same year, Camenker claimed that suicide prevention programs aimed at gay youth actually were “put together by homosexual activists to normalize homosexuality.” Later, MassResistance charged that groups like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which support school anti-bullying programs, actually want to lure children into homosexuality and, very possibly, sadomasochism.

At a 2006 religious right gathering in Washington, D.C., Camenker insisted that gays were trying to get legislation passed to allow sex with animals. “One bill in Massachusetts takes away all the penalties for bestiality,” he claimed. “This is where this [homosexual] agenda is going.” A little later, he added, “They [gays and lesbians] are pushing perversion on our kids.”

In 2006-2007, Mass-Resistance pushed for an amendment of the 1996 statute that would have required that parents be notified of any discussion of gay or lesbian issues in the schools. The group proposed language that lumped sexual orientation (which includes heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality) in with criminal behaviors like bestiality and polygamy. During legislative testimony supporting the amendment, Camenker falsely claimed that no homosexuals died in the Holocaust and that the pink triangle the Nazis forced imprisoned gays to wear actually signified Catholic priests. The amendment did not pass.

Camenker, who has long focused on the purported “homosexual agenda” in the schools and frequently claimed gays are dangerous to kids, has repeatedly cited discredited claims from organizations like the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality that link homosexuality and pedophilia.

In 2008, Camenker made another accusation for which there was no supporting evidence at all — the claim that the state of Massachusetts had had to spend more money every year since same-sex marriage became legal in that state. That, he said, was because of “skyrocketing homosexual domestic violence” and because of the “extreme dysfunctional nature of homosexual relationships.”

This year, MassResistance called Boston Gay Pride events a “depraved” display that featured “a great deal of obviously disturbed, dysfunctional, and extremely self-centered people whose aim was to push their agenda.”

National Organization for Marriage
Princeton, N.J.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which is dedicated to fighting same-sex marriage in state legislatures, was organized in 2007 by conservative syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher and Princeton University politics professor Robert George. George is an influential Christian thinker who co-authored the 2009 “Manhattan Declaration,” a manifesto developed after a New York meeting of conservative church leaders that “promises resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same sex marriage.”

NOM’s first public campaign was in 2008, supporting California’s Proposition 8, which sought to invalidate same-sex marriage in that state. It was widely mocked, including in a parody by satirist Stephen Colbert, for the “Gathering Storm” video ad it produced at the time. Set to somber music and a dark and stormy background, the ad had actors expressing fears that gay activism would “take away” their rights, change their lifestyle, and force homosexuality on their kids.

The group, whose president is now former executive director Brian Brown, has become considerably more sophisticated since then, emphasizing its respect for homosexuals. “Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose,” NOM says on its website, “[but] they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

For a time, NOM’s name was used by a bus driver named Louis Marinelli, who drove a van for NOM’s “Summer for Marriage Tour” this year. Marinelli called himself a “NOM strategist” and sent out electronic messages under the NOM logo that repeated falsehoods about homosexuals being pedophiles and gay men having extremely short lifespans. In homemade videos posted on his own YouTube page, he said same-sex marriage would lead to “prostitution, pedophilia and polygamy.” But this July, NOM said it was not associated with Marinelli.

*Traditional Values Coalition
Anaheim, Calif.

Former Presbyterian minister Lou Sheldon has been warning Americans about the “gay threat” since 1980, when he founded the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), which also is concerned with abortion and national security and takes on liberal activists on a range of issues. The TVC, which today claims to speak for 43,000 churches, lobbies Congress and also mobilizes churches to oppose legislation that it disagrees with. Sheldon’s daughter Andrea Lafferty, a former Reagan Administration official, serves as executive director of the organization.

The group has at times enjoyed remarkable access to the halls of power — during the George W. Bush Administration, Sheldon and Lafferty visited the White House a combined 69 times, meeting personally with Bush in eight of the visits. But that does not mean that it has not long had a record of extreme gay-bashing.

In 1985, Sheldon suggested forcing AIDS victims into “cities of refuge.” In 1992, columnist Jimmy Breslin said that Sheldon told him that “homosexuals are dangerous. They proselytize. They come to the door, and if your son answers and nobody is there to stop it, they grab the son and run off with him. They steal him. They take him away and turn him into a homosexual.” Sheldon later denied that he made the comments, but his website today includes strikingly similar language: “[S]ince homosexuals can’t reproduce, they will simply go after your children for seduction and conversion to homosexuality.” Elsewhere, it claims that “[t]he effort to push adult/child sex … is part of the overall homosexual movement.”

The TVC also asserts that “it is evident that homosexuals molest children at a far greater rate than do their heterosexual counterparts”  — a falsehood based on conflating male-male molestation with homosexuality. Gays, it says, molest children at “epidemic rates,” adding: “As homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality. Many of them will die in that world.” With regard to LGBT teen suicides, TVC, under the headline “Homosexual Urban Legends,” claims that “[t]he cold, hard fact is that teens who are struggling with homosexual feelings are more likely to be sexually molested by a homosexual school counselor or teacher than to commit suicide over their feelings of despair.”

The TVC also makes assertions on its website about disproportionate homosexual pedophilia and attacks the idea that people are born gay and the claim that gays want the right to marry for the same reasons that heterosexuals do — the TVC suggests the real purpose of marriage equality is to destroy the concept of marriage and ultimately replace it altogether with group sex and polygamy.

Reference

Gay History: Mitt Romney’s Teen Years: A Time of Homosexual Panic in America

Whether or not what Mitt Romney did as a teenager matters now, the way some conservatives are defending him, you’d think homosexuals didn’t exist until Halston, Calvin Klein, and Liza were discovered dancing at Studio 54 circa 1978.

“For those to the premises more recently arrived, a quick primer on 1965, when this occurred,” wrote syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, responding to critics who’ve described Romney’s forcible cutting of the dyed-blond hair of a nonconforming student as anti-gay bullying. “Nobody knew who was or wasn’t ‘gay,’ a word that wasn’t yet in popular circulation as a noun and generally meant ‘merry.’ Homosexuality wasn’t on most high-school kids’ radar, period. If anything, Romney may not have liked Lauber’s ‘hippie’ locks, which is the more likely case given the era.”

Really? Check out the synopsis for the 1956 film by a much earlier Minnelli, Liza’s dad Vincente. Tea and Sympathy was adapted from the popular 1953 Broadway play of the same name, and Romney and his prep school buddies might as well have been acting out the plot: “Tom Robinson Lee, a 17-year old student at a boy’s prep school, is at odds with the other boys who like sports, talking about girls, and listening to pop music. Tom prefers classical music, reads books, can sew, goes to the theater, and generally seems to be more at ease in the company of women. The other boys torment him for his ‘unmanly’ qualities and call him ‘sister boy.’”

I don’t know what kind of sheltered life Kathleen Parker led, but homosexuality has been on high-school kids’ radars — particularly the radars of high-school boys — for as long as masculinity has been on their radars, which in Western culture would take us back to the ancient Greeks and the Roman gladiators, I imagine. But even if we don’t want to go back that far, suffice it to say that queer boys were defined in American culture surely since Oscar Wilde was carted off to prison for being a “sodomite” in 1895.

While there were times in the early part of the 20th century when homosexuality was more accepted in some cities (as historian George Chuancey describes in Gay New York, in which he also shows that the word “gay” most certainly existed then), the 1950s saw a homosexual panic that gripped American politics, media, and culture. In 1950 Sen. Joseph McCarthy began his investigations that led to the purging of alleged Communists and homosexuals from the government. In 1951 a popular book called Washington Confidential, co-written by New York Mirror columnist Lee Mortimer, captured the tenor of the time in a chapter titled, “A Garden of Pansies”:

If you’re wondering where your wandering semi-boy is tonight, he’s probably in Washington. The good people shook their heads in disbelief at the revelation that over 90 twisted twerps in trousers had been swished out of the state department. Fly commentators seized on it for gags about fags, whimsy with overtones of Kinsey and the odor of lavender. We pursued the subject and found that there are at least 6000 homosexuals on the government payroll, most of them known, and these comprise only a fraction of the total of their kind in the city.

Tea and Sympathy premiered on Broadway and was made into a film in the midst of that panic. (And you can read all about the context in this paper by film historian David Gerstner, who also happens to be my partner). The McCarthy era and the targeting of homosexuals spurred the first gay and lesbian activists, like the recently deceased pioneer Frank Kameny, who was ejected from the Army Map Service for being gay in 1957.

That first brave but tepid organizing only escalated the panic, which continued well into the 1960s. In 1963, two years before Romney’s prep school “prank,” the anti-gay metro editor of The New York Times, Abe Rosenthal, became alarmed after returning from overseas and seeing so many gay men on the streets of Manhattan. In response he commissioned a piece that was put on the front page of the paper of record, which blared with this headline: “Growth of Overt Homosexuality in City Provokes Wide Concern.”

Those years, the mid-‘60s, were in fact a critical time for the gay-rights movement: It was going to either burst forth, as it eventually did in 1969, with the Stonewall riots, or be suppressed further by the kind of attitudes that empowered high-school boys of the time to hold down a kid perceived as gay and forcibly cut his hair.

It matters today what Mitt Romney did then, even as a high-school student, because the country has moved on from that time of panic into a different place. It would tell us a lot about him, and the kind of leader he would be, if, rather than denying it or suppressing it, he were able to explain how he moved on and, as others have said, if he were able to use his story to shed some light on the anti-gay bullying we still see today.

Reference

Gay History: Born Free, Killed By Hate – The Price Of Being Gay In South Africa

Betty Melamu is still waiting.

She prays that one day she will face the people who killed her daughter and find out why they did it.

“I want to know, that’s the point,” she says. “I want those who did this thing to my child to be arrested, all of them.”

Almost 4 months after Pasca was murdered, no-one has been arrested.

For many LGBTI people and their families in South Africa, safety, justice, and the promise of a truly rainbow nation still feel a long way off.

South Africa’s constitution was the first in the world to protect people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation. The country was also the first in Africa to legalise same-sex marriage. But after a spate of murders, gay people say more needs to be done to stop hate crimes.

Betty Melamu sits on a brown leather sofa in her living room in the township of Evaton, just south of Johannesburg. She’s cradling a framed picture of her daughter Motshidisi Pascalina, known as Pasca.

In a quiet, wavering voice, she sings Pasca’s favourite song.

“Whenever she would listen to radio or go to church she would sing that song,” she remembers.

When I ask if Pasca was a good singer she says, “Yes,” and laughs – apparently Pasca was more spirited than talented, constantly switching between parts as she sang.

She loved football too, studied hard at school and wanted to be a politician.

“She wanted to do something good,” says Melamu with pride.

But the laughter and happy memories are fleeting, and sadness is etched in her thin, drawn face. Pasca was a lesbian, something her family knew and accepted. She had just turned 21 and completed her final high school exams when she went to a party in December.

“I don’t know what happened after the party,” says Melamu. “But she didn’t come back.”

Two days later Pasca’s body was found in a field in a neighbouring township. She had been beaten and mutilated. At the morgue her family couldn’t recognise her face and could only identify her by a tattoo on her leg.

“At that time I was strong,” Melamu remembers. “But after that I feel like I am crazy woman.”

And as we talk, she repeats one question, over and over.

“Why? Why did this happen to my child?”

Pasca was was born in 1994, the year apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela was elected president – she was one of the first of South Africa’s so-called born free generation.

In his inauguration speech, Mandela promised to “build a society in which all South Africans will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts… a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

But 21 years later, this promise remains largely unfulfilled for the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

In a country where crime rates in general are high, black lesbians in poor townships face particular risks and often suffer the most violent crimes.

As women, they’re vulnerable in a country with one of the highest rates of rape in the world. As lesbians in an often homophobic and patriarchal society, they face a further danger – the idea that they can be “changed” and “made into women” through what is known as “corrective rape”.

It’s suspected this may have happened to Pasca, although the post-mortem was unable to determine this.

And when crimes happen, there’s no guarantee that the response will be adequate. Victims say they often face secondary harassment by police or health care workers.

Pasca’s case was assigned to a police officer who was on leave at the time, only returning to work two and a half weeks later.

Frustrated at the delay in this and two other rape cases, in January activists took to the streets of Evaton with rainbow flags and banners. Chanting “Pasca is our sister,” they marched to the local police station to demand justice.

“The police are not doing anything,” Lindiwe Nhlapo told me several weeks later. She’s part of Vaal LGBTI, one of the groups that organised the march. “The police are failing us big time.”

Since then, the police have tried to address concerns about the investigation into Pasca’s death, but frustration with the justice system is a common story.

Lindiwe Nhlapo wants justice for Pasca

In the nearby township of KwaThema, silver drapes and rainbow flags adorn the living room of the small house that’s the headquarters of the Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC).

There’s also a bar down one end and a sign on the wall – Divas and Dykes Lounge. Day or night, this is a safe place for gay and transgender people to socialise.

“I can’t walk with my partner on the street and hold their hand,” says Bontle Kahlo, from EPOC. “I can’t go out at night and say ‘I’m going to dance somewhere,’ because I’m not safe. I might get killed because of who I am, because of who I love.”

Bontle Kahlo (right) with her partner Ntsupe Mohapi

She points to a frame on the wall containing photos of dozens of LGBTI men and women.

“This is our memory wall,” she says. Some of them died of natural causes, but many of the lesbians in the pictures were murdered because of their sexual orientation.

“Women are less than men,” says Kahlo. “If you’re a black woman, you are even less, and if you’re a black lesbian woman you are basically nothing in this country.”

Among the faces on the wall is Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24-year-old lesbian who was raped, mutilated and murdered in 2011.

Noxolo Nogwaza’s photo is top left – she is wearing a baseball cap and white top

But five years later, no-one has been prosecuted.

“The feeling we got from the police is that they expected us to do all the work for them,” says Kahlo.

“It’s very tiring to be an activist but to also be a police officer and to try as hard as you can, and to have a government which is not supportive.”

Her partner and fellow campaigner Ntuspe Mohapi nods in agreement.

“They’re good at talking but not at acting,” she says.

When they heard about Pasca’s murder, there was a familiar sadness.

“I think it’s getting worse,” Mohapi says. “And these are just the cases of murder that we are talking about. We haven’t started with rape, or hate speech, and the bullying in schools, and the suicides of gay teenagers.”

South African law doesn’t classify hate crimes differently from other crimes, so there are no official statistics to turn to.

The organisation Iranti-org is funded by the EU to document violence against LGBTI people – it has counted more than 30 murders and rapes in the country since 2012.

Pasca was just one of three LGBTI people killed in South Africa during a six week period late last year. The deaths barely received a mention in the mainstream media.

There hasn’t always been a lack of interest though. After the murder of Noxolo Nogwaza and several other lesbians in 2011, there was a global outcry. 170,000 people signed a petition calling on the government to act.

In response, the government set up a National Task Team and drew up a National Intervention Strategy to reduce hate crimes.

It also established a Rapid Response Team to make sure that hate crimes are properly investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted. This has had some success in clearing a backlog of murders and other crimes.

Mpaseka “Steve” Letsike says more should be done to change attitudes

But the government is not doing enough says Mpaseka “Steve” Letsike, co-chairwoman of the National Task Team and head of LGBTI organisation Access Chapter 2.

“We are not getting it right. There’s a huge gap. We need to invest our energies into prevention, into conversations, into dialogues.”

The government is doing some of this – funding awareness campaigns and training police and health workers. But “it’s still a drop in the ocean,” says Letsike.

To get a sense of the challenge South Africa faces, I travel to the Johannesburg suburb of Yeoville. It’s home to many migrants from more traditional, rural parts of the country.

In a tiny room, barely big enough for a bed and a fridge, I perch on an upturned bucket and speak to two men. The elder of the two speaks softly, but has a fearsome clarity when our conversation turns to homosexuality.

“Homosexuality is a taboo to us,” he says. “I’ll go back to African traditions, there’s no word for that in our language.”

I ask what would happen if one of his daughters told him she was a lesbian.

“I might kill her myself. That thing is unnatural, it’s awkward, so I cannot accept something that is awkward in my house.

“If someone said choose between keeping this child or killing it, I would kill it.”

His views reflect the gap between the law and the attitude of many South Africans. It shows that the government has failed to create a truly rainbow nation, say activists.

“Conditions for LGBTI people in South Africa have improved substantially since 1994,” says John Jeffery, deputy minister of justice and constitutional development. His department is responsible for the National Intervention Strategy.

“We are trying to educate people about LGBTI rights, that gay rights are human rights,” he says, and adds that he is frustrated with the criticism.

“There’s no use complaining outside that government is not doing enough,” he says. “I unfortunately have not heard proposals from civil society organisations about things we should be doing that we’re not doing. They need to tell us where they think we should be improving.”

While open to suggestions, he says there are limits to what he can do.

“More could be done, but the extent to which we can run awareness programmes would depend on budget and what money we’ve got, and unfortunately government is facing budget cuts.”

The government is currently in the process of preparing legislation to outlaw hate crimes and hate speech, which should allow better monitoring of crimes and, it’s hoped, reduce homophobic abuse.

“There’s no magic solution, it’s a process and that process takes time,” says Jeffery.

Betty Melamu is still waiting.

She prays that one day she will face the people who killed her daughter and find out why they did it.

“I want to know, that’s the point,” she says. “I want those who did this thing to my child to be arrested, all of them.”

Almost 4 months after Pasca was murdered, no-one has been arrested.

For many LGBTI people and their families in South Africa, safety, justice, and the promise of a truly rainbow nation still feel a long way off.

Reference

Gay History:, 25 Violent Attacks at Gay Bars That Preceded Orlando’s Horrific Nightclub Massacre

This litany of gay hate, murder and violence goes on everywhere in the world. Here in Australia alone there are, in Sydney, about 80 unsolved gay murders from the 80s alone. It is not a pleasant subject, but it’s a reality, and whether we like it or not, like war, it is part of our history. This article only goes up to June 2016 – it would be frightening to know the further extent of this awful violence since that date. It is a constant reminder to us that even in what we consider gay-safe spaces…we are not safe!

When a radiant President Obama declared June LGBTQ Pride month, he told the American people that “despite the extraordinary progress of the past few years, LGBT Americans still face discrimination simply for being who they are.” Nobody could have imagined how that statement would take on a tragic enormity just days later.

Sunday, Obama addressed the American LGBTQ community and the rest of the nation again to talk about the worst mass shooting in our history. He talked about the unthinkable contrast of the horror that happened in the early hours of Sunday morning in Orlando: “The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.”

Less than two weeks before the country prepares to celebrate one year of marriage equality, the sight of two men kissing on the street is terrifying enough to someone that a hatred-fueled massacre we experienced at the Pulse in Orlando can be the result.

Unfortunately, Orlando is hardly the first major deadly attack against an LGBT bar or landmark.

Photo credit: GlobalGayz/Facebook

Until today, the deadliest attack had been in New Orleans, over 40 years ago. On the week when the LGBT community celebrated its fourth Gay Pride — four years after Stonewall —  an arsonist set fire to the Upstairs Lounge at the French Quarter, killing 32 people on June 24, 1973. No suspect was ever charged.

On Nov. 18, 1980 a man named Ronald K. Crumpley opened fire outside the Ramrod bar in Greenwich Village in New York City. He said he believed gay men were agents of the devil, stalking him and ”trying to steal my soul just by looking at me.” His father, a minister, said in his testimony that Crumpley maybe had a ”a homosexual problem himself.”

On April 28, 1990 at Uncle Charlie’s, another gay bar in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, three men were injured in an explosion possibly caused by a pipe bomb.  The police didn’t immediately arrest anyone for the crime. Five years later, federal prosecutors accused El Sayyid A. Nosair for bombing Uncle Charlie’s, planning to blow up New York City landmarks and killing a rabbi in 1990. They said Nosair, a muslim, attacked the bar because he objected to homosexuality on religious grounds according to report from the New York Times. In 1996, he was convicted of planning to wage a “war of urban terrorism” and was sentenced to life in prison.

Jon Christopher Buice is serving a 45-year sentence for the killing of Paul Broussard in Houston, Texas on July 4, 1991. Buice and nine of his friends tried go into several bars in a gay area of Montrose, but they were refused entry. They then attacked Buice and two other friends with nail-studded wooden planks, a knife, and steel-toed boots outside Heaven, a gay bar in the city’s heavily LGBT Montrose district.

On Feb. 21, 1997 a nail-laden device exploded at the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta. Five people were wounded. Eric Rudoplh confessed to the Otherside Lounge bombing, as well as the Atlanta Olympics bombings, and abortion clinics in Atlanta and Birmingham. “Homosexuality is an aberrant sexual behavior,” he wrote in a statement. “Like other humans suffering from various disabilities homosexuals should not attempt to infect the rest of society with their particular illness.”

Two people were killed and 81 were injured after a bomb exploded in a gay bar in London’s Soho, on April 30, 1999. The blast happened at the busy Admiral Duncan pub in the center of London’s very gay neighborhood at the start of a holiday weekend. Just like the Orlando tragedy, the attack happened in a place where people go to socialize and escape. Peter Tatchell, spokesman for the gay rights group OutRage!, said: “A lot of gay people saw the Old Compton Street area as a safe haven.They felt able to relax and hold hands without fear of attack. This outrage has destroyed that cosy assumption.”

In Roanoke, Virginia on Sept. 22, 2000, a man called Ronald Gay asked directions to a gay bar so he could “shoot some people.” He then walked calmly into the Backstreet Cafe on a Friday night, ordered a beer, and  opened fire. He killed one person and injured six. Gay told police he didn’t like being called Gay. He also said it was his mission to make all gays move to San Francisco, which he thought would end AIDS. “He said he was shooting people to get rid of, in his words, ‘faggots,’” Lieutenant William Althoff of the Roanoke police was quoted as saying. He was sentenced to four life terms.

18-year-old Jacob D. Robida walked into a bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts in the evening of February 2, 2006. He asked the bartender if he was at a gay bar, ordered a couple of beers, and moved to the back of the bar, watching a game of pool briefly before taking out a hatchet — a small ax the size of a hammer. The bartender told CNN the man “started swinging the hatchet on top of this customer’s head”. He also struck a second patron with the hatchet, pulled out a gun and shot the first victim in the face and the second twice in the head, Phillip said. A third person also was shot in the abdomen. He killed himself three days later.

At the San Diego Gay Pride festival in July 30, 2006, six men were attacked with baseball bats and knives after leaving the Pride festival. The attackers used anti-gay slurs as they beat the victims. One almost died. Four men pleaded guilty in connection with the attacks and received prison sentences from two years and 11 months to 11 years.

20-year-old Sean William Kennedy was walking to his car outside Brew’s Bar in Greenville, South Carolina on May 16, 2007 when a car approached him. A young man got out, called him a faggot and punched him in the face so hard that caused his brain to disconnect from his brain stem.The killer, 19-year-old Stephen Moller, left the scene and let Kennedy die from his injury. He was sentenced to five years for involuntary manslaughter, but his sentence was reduced to three, because he was father. His mother said he later “left a message on one of the girl’s phones who knew Sean, saying, ‘You tell your faggot friend that when he wakes up he owes me $500 for my ‘broken hand!’”

Osvan Inácio dos Santos was leaving a gay bar in Arapicara a small city in the Alagoas, Northeast of Brazil with a group of friends, after he won a local ‘Miss Gay’ competition on Sept. 15, 2007. On the way home, he got separated from the group. They tried contacting him, but he didn’t answer. His body was found a day later. He’d been raped and beaten to death. Tedy Marques, president of the Alagoas Gay Group, said that “Homophobia is one of the worst problems Brazil faces. It is unacceptable that every other day in our country a homosexual is brutally murdered.”

Lance Neve was with his boyfriend and another friend at Snuggery’s Bar in Spencerport, New York on March 7, 2008 when a man named Jesse D. Parsons approached the group. He said he wanted to shake Neve’s hand because he had never shaken a gay man’s hand before, but Neve refused. Parsons then beat him up and left him unconscious. He was transported to an area hospital, where he was treated for a fractured skull, nose, left eye socket and upper jaw bone and blood on the brain. During his hearing, he told the court that “while he didn’t mean to hurt Neve as badly as he did, Neve deserved it.” He was sentenced to five years and a half in jail, and was ordered to pay $24,000 for Neve’s medical expenses.  

Tony Randolph Hunter, was beaten outside the Be Bar Nightclub in Washington DC by 19-year-old Robert Hannah. He later died from the injuries on September 7, 2008. Hannah was sentenced to 6 months in jail and ordered to pay $50 in court costs. 

On March 1, 2009, three friends threw concrete blocks at patrons inside Robert’s Lafitte Bar, in Galveston, Texas injuring two men. One of the victims, Marc Bosaw, required 12 staples in his head. One of the three suspects later told police their intent was to target homosexuals, said Galveston Police Department Lt.D.J. Alvarez. The trio also hurled homophobic insults, authorities said.

On April 11, 2009 Justin Goodwin was attacked at a bar in Gloucester, Massachusetts by as many as five people, who were using anti-gay remarks. The bashing left him blind in one eye, and deaf in one year. He committed suicide two years later.

On August 29, 2009 a shooting took place at a LGBT youth center in Tel Aviv. Two people died, 15 were injured. Most of them minors. A man named Hagai Feliciano was indicted for murder and a hate crime in 2013, but the charges were dropped in 2014. While not technically a bar, it is the equivalent for LGBT youth – a place of sanctuary and empowerment.

In New York City, a man named Frederick Giunta was charged and arrested on October 17, 2010 for allegedly attacking and assaulting people in two bars in Greenwich Village: Ty’s Bar on Christopher Street and nearby Julius Bar on W 10th St hurling anti-gay remarks. According to NYPD officials, Giunta has a history of committing crimes by targeting men at gay bars. The attack happened two weeks before the NYPD arrested two men on charges they attacked a patron inside the bathroom at Stonewall Inn. 

In October of 2010, two men were arrested after attacking a man in the bathroom at the iconic Stonewall Inn in New York City. The suspects reportedly told the man, “We don’t like gay bars, and we don’t piss next to faggots” before the assault began. He later refused to apologize to the victim, because he has no regrets. “I’m not going to say sorry, because I don’t know what I should be sorry for,” said Francis, who also insisted he’s not a homophobe. “I don’t hate gay people. I don’t hate anybody.”

On October 25, 2011 a man sprayed 21-year-old Russel Banks with liquid fuel and threw a lit match at him at the Rainbow and Dove gay bar in Leicester City, England. Banks suffered third degree burns to 20 percent of his body.

On the first minutes of New Year’s Day, 2014 a man named Musab Masmari poured gasoline in a stairway to the balcony at the Neighbours Nightclub in Seattle, where 750 had gone to celebrate the New Year. An unidentified informant told the FBI that, in the numerous conversations after their first meeting, Masmari often expressed a “distaste for homosexual people,” and that Masmari “opined that homosexuals should be exterminated.” He was arrested a month later, and sentenced for 10 years in prison.

On June 1, 2014 two friends were killed after they left R Place, a gay club in Seattle. Ali Muhammad Brown confessed to the killings. He contacted the men via a hook-up app like Grindr, met them after they left  the club and then shot them multiple times and killed them. Brown told the police the murders were a “bloody crusade” to punish the U.S. government for its foreign policies.

After months of violent anti-gay attacks, Central Station, Russia’s largest  gay club closed its doors on March 27, 2014. The club was considered one of the only symbols of freedom for Russian’s LGBT community.

On October 1, 2014 a man named Wayne Odegard shot a man at the Salon, a popular gay bar in Minneapolis. He was passing by the bar when he saw two men kissing. He grabbed his gun, yelled “f**cking faggots,” and shot at them, injuring one. Odgegard admitted to police he said ‘faggots’ before the shooting, and said that seeing men kissing pisses him off.” He also recited a passage from Deuteronomy. 

On March 22, 2016 a transgender woman was sexually violated inside a bathroom at the Stonewall Inn. According to the NYPD, she said that a man came into the bathroom claiming he only needed to wash his hands, but then proceeded to grope and rape her. 

On April 8, 2016, an employee of a popular West Hollywood gay bar was attacked as he left the bar walking towards his car on an apparent hate crime. The person who attacked him took his wallet, but never used his credit card.

A few hours after the Pulse massacre in Orlando, on the West Coast the LAPD might have stopped another tragedy before it happened. 20-year-old Wesley Howell, a man from Indiana, was arrested on his way to attend the LA Pride festival, allegedly with an arsenal of weapons. Officials found him in a car with three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to create an explosive device.

These attacks should remind us all that we must remain vigilant while there are still people out there who remain so threatened by the sight of two men having a simple kiss that they will resort to violence to stop it.

References

Gay History: Harvey Milk Debates Sen. John Briggs, September 1978.

Harvey Milk and Republican state Sen. John Briggs of Orange County met in September 1978 for a debate at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek over the Briggs Initiative, a proposition that would have made it mandatory for school boards to fire openly gay and lesbian teachers. The photos were recently found in The San Francisco Chronicle archive by pop culture critic Peter Hartlaub and published for the first time in decades. 📷: John Storey

Sacrilege: Living HIV Outside The Square!

“Sacrilege” may seem like a strange word to use in relationship to ones life. Its religious connotation is “the violation or profanation of anything sacred or held sacred” thus by a very loose expansion of the meaning – a human life, as it is, in many respects, regarded as sacred. Stretching definitions even further – and many would not be surprised that I don’t take it literally – infecting it with HIV could be considered a sacrilege, be it intentional or unintentional. The sacred has been violated! Also, as a HIV+ man, it is expected that I will follow a set of “rules” as dictated by various community groups, doctors and specialists! To totally ignore the expected, and go off down your own path would be considered by many to be sacrilege!

I can’t contemplate continuing to live with HIV without viewing it within the framework of my life! No war is without its battles, without its dark times, yet still seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! If I had to use a word to describe myself, belligerant comes straight to mind – but then I think to myself “That’s a bit harsh!”. Okay…cantankerous is one that has been used by those close to me, so that’s sort of acceptable, and it’s true! Curmudgeonly… a word I love, but I’m not really surly enough! So I’ll just stick with stubborn! I could claim that it’s a Capricornian trait, but it goes deeper than that.

At 12-years-of-age, my stubborn streak was already settling in. Though unrecognised by me at the time, it was a survival mechanism that was to serve me well for most of my life. It is only when I look back to 1965, that I realise what a testing ground it was: my mother left my father; a bitch of a housekeeper who was to forever change our family dynamics; and my father jumping over The Gap with Kevin, my brother – resulting in my brothers death – would have sent a less resilient person into dark depths that they may never have risen from! Considering the lack of psychological & emotional support available at that time, to have come out of that year relatively unscathed had to show a stoicism way beyond that normally expected from one so young. By digging my heels in, ignoring all the negativity around me, and just “getting on with it” – a philosophy I still embrace – I was to set in place a mental tenacity that was to impact my life for decades to come!

There was no love lost between my father & myself! Even prior to Kevin’s death, I had seen – and felt –  a violent streak in his nature; almost a need to punish those who had a life contrary to his. He could be a right royal cunt! The only way I could establish my own independence – which had flowered rapidly after Kev’s death – was open defiance! He told me not to smoke…so I smoked; not to drink…so I drank; to get a trade…I went in every direction but; and to get my hair cut…I left it to grow – despite a threat, after an argument about it, to “knock my block off”! He even denied me a 21st birthday celebration, because he had been at war when his fell due…I organised it myself. My grandmother left me a small inheritance, and just after my 21st, I moved out of home, into my own apartment. After he remarried and moved to Vincentia (on the south coast of NSW), we had little contact. After his suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning in his car in 1978, I never cried a single tear – but just let out a massive sigh of relief! I was free! As the ultimate act of a true prick, he left me nothing in his will – it all went to my step-family! Just to show that they were all tarred with the same brush, directly after his death his sisters indulged themselves in a game of telephone harrassment against my step-mother. I was glad to walk away from them all!

As soon as the old man died, I came out! It is the one time my usual defiance was kept capped. I had seen what he wss capable of with my brother, and my survival instinct whispered to me to be  quiet about this issue. Again, I had witnessed him & his mates yelling “poofter” out of the car window to some poor guy who did nothing more than wear a pink shirt! As I said – they were pricks! Stubbornness does not necessarily equal a death wish! Then, having stepped out of the closet, I megaphoned my life choice to all and sundry, including my employees. No one seemed particularly surprised! There were some in my workplace who were not impressed with my sexual preferences, and made no secret of it! My pure indifference to them was reward enough. My decision to desert the security of a regular job had nothing to do with my detractors…it was based purely on a desire to break free of a life I wanted to leave behind. But the curve balls were to keep coming, with no inkling at that time of the odd parallel path that both being gay, and being HIV+ were going to lead me down!


Even as I was coming out in Melbourne in 1980, snippets about a lethal cancer, that was killing gay men who frequented the saunas in the USA, were appearing in the local press here. I read them, and like many others, though not panicking, was left with a feeling of unease. That unease turned to immense consternation over the next couple of years, as the reports became more alarmist, and HIV crossed the ocean to our shores. By the time they developed a test in 1985, I for one was already stacking the odds – and not in my favour! In retrospect, this may have been a defence mechanism against coming up HIV+…that if I did, I was already prepared for it, and if I didn’t I could just breath a sigh of relief. The former proved to be true!

Back in the day, there was a severe lack of counselling, and given the sheer volume of testing results coming in at that time, was cursory at its best. When I went to get my result – and I don’t know why I made the presumption I did – the positive result was not a shock. These were strange (ethereal?) times, and for those of us admitting to our – then – death sentence, it was almost like belonging to a select club.

There was a two year window given at that time, between diagnosis and the advent of AIDS, leading, so they thought, to an inevitable death. Some didn’t make it to the window period, and my first friend, Andrew Todd, died at the end of 1986. I made it to the two year point…and was still very healthy. By then, the window for those diagnosed in 1985 had been expanded to five years, so the waiting game for many of us continued.  Up to 1990 is a very convoluted journey, and I don’t want to rehash history that has already been covered in many writings, and is really outside the parameters of this article. I decided to make this a useful period, and did a number of trials. It was better than just sitting around and waiting. This was a time when I made my one bad decision regarding my healthcare – I allowed my doctor to – after a najor ethical battle with her – to put me onto AZT! There has been much written about AZT, and its history as a drug…which was not exclusively formulated for use with HIV. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but my thinking on HIV has always been a bit radical, and I, along with others, gravitate to the thinking that HIV and AIDS – despite our use of them as co-joined conditions – are separate illnesses, and HIV doesn’t necessarily lead to AIDS, but AIDS as an independent condition, brought about by the deterioration of the immune system. 

So, I had a diagnosis of HIV, with no related conditions that would have rated a diagnosis of AIDS. Even with a CD4 count on the decline, I still had good health – which admittedly may have been a lot better if I wasn’t knocking myself around by chain-smoking, and chronic abuse of alcohol – until…I started AZT! Many of those still around from that time will acknowledge that the decline in their health status is directly parallel to starting AZT. It wasn’t nicknamed “human Rat-Sac”for nothing. It’s negative affects from then up until now are also well documented. Damaged nerves, liver & kidney problems, the leaching of calcium from bones, and other neurological problems can all be traced back to AZT usage. I wish I had stuck by my guns, and refused to use it! There is no evidence that it saved one single life. I wouldn’t have refused trestment with other drugs that came along shortly after – I didn’t have a suicide wish – but I have no doubt that if I had refused AZT, some ongoing problems I have now would not have happened. I have an undisguised hate of Big Pharma, and its tactics, and lack of ethics where it comes to flogging a drug, and how they went about flogging this incredibly toxic drug to a desperate and unsuspecting demographic is truly horrifying – more on this shortly.

So, dispite heavy smoking, alcohol abuse, long work hours, and a shit diet…I made it to 1990, and with my health still okay. I won’t say I was unscathed, as the relentless list of those who died over this time, with many more to come, was physically, mentally, and emotionally destructive. I am by nature – and experience – a stoic in the face of death. I accept the reality, and inevitability of it – but any sign of the existance of God in this obliteration was missing – no just, loving God would ever allow this! My conversion to Atheism was complete. However, the combination of all that was happening was starting to wear me down, and encountering on-the-job bullying by an Area Manager brought about my decision to leave the workforce in 1993, and go onto disability, and get a housing subsidy. It was a forgone conclusion back then that this was the road to take because – after all – none of us would survive for all that long. At this stage, under the most positive of thinking, I gave myself two more years. 

I actually got to mid-1996 before it all started to come undone. I have written about the circumstances surrounding all the events that happened at this stage, so won’t repeat them here, but will give you an intimate insight into my thinking on my situation when I was finally admitted to Prince Henry Hospital in June, 1996. Given that I was already close to death when admitted, with a plethora of conditions that really should have killed me earlier, and that I really thought I would never leave there any other way than via a wooden box gives a good indication of how serious things were. It was in Mark’s Pavilion there that my stoicism, my acceptance of reality, possibly should have been tested, but instead gave me a calmness, an acceptance of my own potential death that I had pondered about prior to this. I was chronically ill, I was tired and in some respects, if other factors hadn’t intervened, death just seemed like such a pleasant, restful reality, leaving all that was happening behind, joining all those that I had loved and lost over the last 10 years. It was an acceptance of death that I wasn’t expecting to be quite so complete, so easy, so without fear. 

But I picked my moment, didn’t I! Big changes were happening in the treatment of AIDS, and shortly after being admitted, not going down the road of death, that I expected to go down, I walked – well, taxied – out of Prince Henry. I exited that taxi into a world that was in no way prepared for the living dead of HIV. If I ever thought my battles were behind me, I could not have been more wrong. The next couple of years – a long period of recuperation – were intense. There was a seemingly neverending period of specialists, doctors, clinics, pharmacy, counselling, peer support groups, drug compliance groups, massive – and I mean massive – amounts of medication, side effects, dental work, anxiety and panic attacks, and drug trials. It was a time where one wanted to initiate great change in the direction of ones life  – with no one there to assist. Change had to be fought for, had to be forced. All these community groups gathering money and prestige, sitting in meetings and forums, listening to the likes of me yelling about what we needed…and just turning deaf ears! It was a frusteating period where everything was years behind where it needed to be, and if you wanted to get on with your life without being trapped in the system, you had to do it under your own steam! So I did!

Some volunterr work, some work in the community sector, a flowering writing career that demanded and exposed…when I eas “allowed” as one didn’t question the system – led to a brief period of full-time work – that didn’t help my health at all – then onto university & TAFE to experience at last that which gad been denied me in my youth. This led to an interesting period of experiences, from spending 12 years talking about the HIV experience through the Posituve Speakers Bureau, to 15 years writing for “Taljabout” magazine and various other publications, starting several businesses – the most recent of which was destroyed by the GFC, to where I am now – happy, balanced, and reasonably fulfilled.

However, the last few years haven’t been without its challenges, and my mental tenacity, combined with a fairly laud-back approach to life, have seen me get through things without any apparent negativity. I do health care on my own terms these days, because if one just relies on mrdico’s, one would rattle like a pill bottle. I want less pills, not more! About 15 years ago, I halved my HIV medications. I have been waiting for some red-faced, fuming doctor to lecture me about it (has no one realised how rarely I get scripts?) but no one ever has. In the interim, my blood readings get better and better, with CD4s on the rise, and an ongoing undetectable viral load. Okay, I no longer smoke – gave that up in ‘96, drink bugger all, have turned vegetarian, and exercise daily, but nothing else. Big Pharma be fucked! Your drug resistance tests – a farce! You just don’t want people on old drugs! Over-prescribing? You bet you do…big time! I wouldn’t trust you as far as ai could kick you! 

Have I mentioned my shit vision? Whoops…overlooked that. Blind in one eye thanks to CMV (also covered in articles on my blog), and almost blind in the other. The most major decision over the last couple of years? Having my blind eye removed voluntarily, and replaced with a prosthetic. Does it stop me getting around? Not fucking likely! I might be slow, but I get there! I have a white cane (laughingly called my whacking stick), but rarely use it. I walk the dogs, do the shopping, get to gym! It might be done with a slight feeling of nervousness, but it gets done.

I don’t hold any grudges. What has been, has been! In a way, I thank my father for the rough younger years. It gave me a set of survival tools that have served ne well – and still do – throughout my life. Maybe I was born in an auspicious astrological period, or maybe my natural survival instincts are genetic, endowing me with stoicism and mental tenacity! Whatever it is, it has seen me through nicely! Life is to be enjoyed, and despite the occasional downs, it should be lived to its fullest. Just step outside that square, and do it on your own terms!

Tim Alderman (©2017)

Daily (Or When the Mood Takes Me) Gripe: After More Than 30 Years of HIV Knowledge and Experience We STILL Have Stigma!

Please view this video first

https://m.youtube.com/watch?utm_source=GayAussie.co&v=UV5uv0589Ec&utm_term=HIV+Queensland&utm_medium=ga-social-ads&utm_campaign=HIV+FQ+GAY+AUSSIE

I can’t believe stigmatisation and internalised homophobia like this still goes on, and we need to have a dialogue about it! However, my own experiences as a 61 year-old with HIV, and a disability who used (note tense) gay dating sites tells me we do! We no longer have the shared experience of the 80s & 90s, so ignorance keeps on rearing it’s ugly head! Both the gay and HIV communities should be ashamed of themselves. The lessons of the past have quickly been forgotten!

This year I “celebrate” 33 years of being HIV+ (yeah, cheers, thanks). It doesn’t take a brilliant mathematician to work out the percentages – I have spent over half my life with this dubious honour. This is not braggodocio, me looking for a chest to pin a medal on, or leaning my head forward for a pat. This has also included a brush with AIDS – not to be confused with HIV, despite the still incorrectly used AIDS misnomer to describe someone with HIV. For those who think that just because I am walking around it has been an easy road, or similarly think that now, thanks to drugs, my life is a dream…think again. Every single day is a challenge, not so much something I dwell on daily, but certainly live daily.

Over those years I have seen stigma and discrimination of pretty well every variety – reluctance of governments to fund in the early day; religious intolerance, including a call for segregation and for internment camps; hospital staff refusing service to those with HIV; the incident with young Eve van Grafhorst (if you don’t know of it, look it up); social stigma; advertising scare campaigns; HIV denialists (while thousands drop dead around them); the deathly silence of many world leaders (mainly US presidents); ignorance and misinformation on every level. Personally, I have experienced workplace discrimination and bullying both as a gay and a HIV+ man. As the mother in the above video states, if this was cancer you would receive nothing but sympathy and support. But as soon as you say HIV, people back off, and the implication is that you are dirty, a sexual deviant. After all this time, and the misnomer that it is a “gay”disease with its prominent creep into the straight world at about the same time – can’t have them as scapegoats, can we! – one would have thought that all the misconceptions about HIV would have been pretty well eliminated. Well, I’m afraid not!

Even now, on Gay dating sites you eill encounter many instances of people adding labels like “clean” to both their profiles, and sexualpartner  requests! The insinuation is that if you have HIV, uou are domehow “unclean” or “dirty” – and it has nothing to do with me having a shower! Ironically, the profiles making this request don’t seem to think that the same language applies to them. Let’s face it, if I don’t disclose my status, you are going to be none the wiser…no I, for that matter! I have to take your word for it as much as you have to take mine! You haven’t really made any sort of a point, have you!

But apart from the degrading insult, it shows a huge gap in the education of the person posting – almost criminal, if they are Gay! For at keast the last decade or more, it has been pretty well acknowledged that if you are HIV, taking meds, and have an undetectable viral load, you are not going tomoass HIV on. The latest research http://mobile.aidsmap.com/No-one-with-an-undetectable-viral-load-gay-or-heterosexual-transmits-HIV-in-first-two-years-of-PARTNER-study/page/2832748 indicates that after two years into yhe latest study, chances of transmission are, to date, zero!

I hate condoms, and haven’t worn one for decades. Back in my pick- up days, I deliberately seeked other HIV+ guys, as within that circle unprotected sex was a norm, of more recent times I have used sites like BBRT – a barebacking site – for sex. At least on this site there is no foubt about what you get. If I had to ge honest – and the same would apply to the HIVphobes from the other sites – you have a getter chance of picking up a garden-variety STD than HIV…something that is conveniently overlooked! 

Perhaps rather than education – which to-date has got us absolutely nowhere – people just heed to get some manners…and a life!

Tim Alderman (C) 2015

  

Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe: Gay Superficiality!

Please view, then read my commentary below;

http://www.samesame.com.au/news/11585/YouTuber-says-If-youre-over-40-or-not-a-model-youre-pushed-aside

I guess I am just used to being ignored – except for a select few – on gay sex apps. Fuck, I’m over 60, and I have a disability – though in reality that shouldn’t mean anything! Though we don’t live our lives grounded in reality in the gay community, do we! No sir, we don’t!

As Sam Lugi states ” If you are over 40, don’t look like a model or have a disability, you are pushed aside”, and this is, unfortunately, true! Add to that not being “wealthy” and not having a big cock! I got disillusioned with it a long time ago, and ashamed that over the decades the community has never really grown-up, and moved into the real world.

At one stage on the sex apps – I use Grindr, Gaydar and Scruff – I actually found myself putting myself down, as it seemed a way to discourage those frightened off by disabilities…but in reality made me look like a bit of a victim. Then, as an antedate that I became too aggressive which then scared the shit out of people. Now, I try to be comedic and long-winded. I figure if they are willing to read my whole profile, then contact me, they sre worthwhile. However, that doesn’t discount the 15 or 20 others who view my profile and ignore me…many because they are after perfection, so you know automatically by reading their profiles that you are either too old, or because you have an obvious disability. I used to find the same in the bars, so why would the apps be any different!

I hate being dismissed because I’m an older man. I was young once on the scene, and helped to gain many of the rights that the younger ones now enjoy! In many other communities I would be highly respected for that alone. Considering my age, I’m not all that bad looking. I still have all my hair, I’m fit and healthy and can hold a conversation. Puts me way above many others, who can’t get past “Hi” or “Oh yeah”. I regularly quit chars because they never give you anything to feed off. At least the guys who just want to see photos of my cock, or want me to talk dirty while they wank off are usually honest about it.

The gay community really needs a reality check…though who ir what provides it is going to be interesting to see ! In the interim, don’t sell ourself out to the phony, small-minded body fascists! Maintain your dignity and self-respect? But most of all – love yourself!

Bullied

Bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others
Wkipedia

Bullying has become the new social curse, and no one is exempt from its venom. Hardly a week goes by without it rearing its ugly head in the news, or on a current affairs program. Bullying is infecting school yards, work places, committees, sports fields, political arenas . It is anywhere that people, who think it is right to degrade and demean those who can’t or won’t fight back. It is insidious and hateful, performed in dark mould-ridden spaces where it can’t be witnessed by others, it is in a whisper, a slap, a push, a word. The spiteful miscreants delude themselves that they are the strong preying on the weak, when in truth the strength lies with those who bear the brunt of it – at least until pushed too far. This hateful, soul-destroying disease must be wiped out.


As a male who has always been, at least to my way of thinking, obviously gay, I’m surprised I have never encountered much bullying in my lifetime. I was always a popular student in most of the s schools I attended, on deed was often voted in a a class captain or vice-captain. The one time in boarding school when a rather largish – in girth – school bully attempted to take something off me by grabbing and holding onto it, one of the strapping country lads, who fortunately hung out with my circle, took him on and put him in his place. He never harassed me again. The other occasion is outlined below, and was a situation I would not allow to happen again. There is a misconception that bullying only goes on in school yards. Think again! It gies on all around us every day. And adults are not exempt from it. One only has to look at what has been going on in the Australian political landscape in recent times to know that. it is time for it to stop, but that will only happen if good men – and women – step in and say ENOUGH!

This is a brief tale of subtle bullying, revenge of a sorts, and deferred regrets.

As I have often mentioned to friends, as far as being bullied as a gay man goes – and God knows it is obvious enough that I am gay – I have had little more than the occasional ‘poofter’ thrown at me from a passing car’s window over the years. However, when I did encounter the evil beast in its true disguise, it left an indelible mark.

In 1993 I was managing a ‘Liquorland’ store in Darlinghurst. I had started there in 1990 as a senior shop assistant, after managing “Numbers” bookshop for 7 years – just up[stairs from the ‘Liquorland’ store – and badly needing both a change of scenery and a job that was not as monotonous as running a sex shop. It was known when I started at ‘Liquorland’ that I was gay, and HIV+. I made my HIV status known because I worked on a daily basis with glass. Serious accidents are part and parcel of working in that retail environment, and I wanted to ensure workmates were cautious when dealing with severe cuts etc.

The Manager at that time was gay-friendly, as was the Area Manager. In fact, they had a lesbian working as the Assistant Manager, so there were no problems at all…at least at that time. Six months after starting, Diane left and I progressed to Assistant Manager. Then when the Manager was transferred to another store I became Manager. Now, it always seemed an obvious thing to me that the best person to have managing a business in the gay ghetto of Darlinghurst was someone gay, someone who knew the local clientele and could deal with them on a personal basis. Well, obvious to everyone except the new Area Manager who came on board just after my promotion to Manager. I should point out that being a Manager in the Coles/Myer Group at that time held very little in the way of privileges – you were only paid $40 a week more than your Aaistant Manager. Being under contract you lost most of your time off, and were expected to work long, hard hours. Because bonuses were based on store profits you were ridden hard by your Area Manager to get results.

My health was going through one of its tough periods at this time. I was on high levels of what antivirals were available at that time. Not having recovered from a very serious bout of viral pneumonia earlier that year I found myself working long on top of a dreadful diet, and abusing both cigarettes and alcohol. One might say I had the perfect recipe for a health disaster. Add to that a new Area Manager who was not only homophobic but also HIV phobic, and you have real problems. At that time I thought I had about two years of work left in me before departing this mortal coil from something HIV-related – you have to remember that combination therapy was not a option at this time, and wasn’t until 1996. I was seriously starting weighing up my options – did I take a demotion at work back to Assistant Manager – lets face it, the stress would be a lot less – or did I leave and take the Disability Support Pension option. It was a decision that was soon made for me!

I was due to take a fortnights leave in early November of that year, and had given a months notice of taking it. I had also decided to take a demotion, and the Area Manager had coffee with me at this time, ostensibly to discuss my options. I told him that for health reasons, I wished to go back to the position if Assistant Manager, and could it ge arranged at either Darlinghurst or one of the other Eastern Suburbs stores. His suggestion was that if I was going to start having serious health problems, I should consider leaving the organisation altogether, especially considering that I had an illness with a almost pre-determined end result! Not an suspicious attitude! I suggested that my health issues would be resolved by less stress, thus my request for a voluntary demotion. He appeared displeased, but said he would organise things, again reiterating that it was probably time I left the company. I went back to the store feeling that things were not going to get any easier for me, and as it turned out, I was right.

Let the games begin!!

This particular Area Manager had bullied me in subtle ways ever since he started with the the company. It is a difficult situation, as it is always done out of earshot of other staff, and knowing that their is no way for me to back up complaints to head office, he was free to get away with anything. This is typically how bullies operate in the workplace.

The below scenario was prefaced by an event that was to bring home to me just how demeaning and demoralising the tactics of a bully can be. The sister of a Head Office executive was organising a work function at a restaurant in a back street nearby. The wine order,, address and delivery instructions had been entered up in the shop diary for my attention on the day of the function. The morning of the function started with a nightmare in the shop. Arriving to open, I found that the Assistant Manager, who had locked up the night before, had forgotten to hand the keys over to the staff on with him. This meant I had to ring him, then wait outside the shop until he turned up with the keys. On finally opening the store there were deliveries waiting to be unloaded, the float to be put into the register, the previous days takings to be rung through to Head Office, and customers served. It wasn’t until I received a phone call from the restaurant to say the wine hadn’t been delivered that I realised I hadn’t checked the diary, and the wine delivery had been forgotten! As compensation, we invited the entire party to the store to select the same quantity of wine, but with no restriction on price. They appeared happy with that. I apologised to the woman, rang her brother in Head Office, explained what had happened and apologised to him. That should have been the end of it, but no! The Area Manager had to get involved. He must have rung me a dizen times over the next couple of days to berate and belittle me about the mistake, then made me ring the woman again and apologise a second time, then the following day I had to buy her a bunch of flowers, which gad to ge personally delivered to her at her workplace, then I had to ring her a third time to apologise. I don’t know who was more embarrassed by the whole grovelling scenario – myself, or the poor woman. I have no doubt the Area Manager loved every minute of it. I was reminded of the event on every possible future occasion.

So, to my final month with Liquorland.

The first thing the Area Manager did was bring in to the store another staff member to be trained up to my position. I could never quite work this one out, as I already had a very good Assistant Manager who was more than able to take over from me – and in fact deserved the promotion. Not only was a new guy brought in, he was placed on the same pay level as me, despite not actually being a Manager. This, of course, effectively undermined my authority. Because he was on an equal footing with me, staff were answerable to both of us, but as I was about to be moved to another store I was told that he was to have the managerial authority. So, for the next three weeks while training him to take over as manager, he controlled the store and I was left twiddling my thumbs behind the cash register. This was very demoralising, though as I was to find out shortly, there was a method in the Area Managers vindictiveness..

My holidays eventually rolled around, and off I went, thinking that in two weeks I would be starting in a new store as an Assistant Manager. There was an Assistant Manager position available in the Surry Hills Mall store, and I was informed I would be filling tat position. A week before returning to work I still had not had the position confirmed, so rang the Surry Hills store to find out if they had any confirmation of my appointment, and to find out what roster I would be on. The store Manager knew nothing about my being transferred there. He told me he would look into it, and get back to me. By the Thursday of that week I still had heard nothing, and started leaving messages with the Area Manager to contact me so that I knew what I was doing on the Monday when I was due to return to work. Nothing! The Surry Hills Manager still had not heard from him, and had no idea what was going on. I decided to pay a visit to the Darlinghurst store and see if I could pin the Area Manager down. The new guy who was now Manager asked me to come out the back with him for a chat. He told me he felt really badly about the shabby way I had been treated. He had been told by the Area Manager when he started to make my life as uncomfortable as possible in the hopes that I would resign. This hadn’t happened, though he (the area manager) was sure that in the course of my holidays I would resign. The store Manager, in an about face, told me to hang on, as if I resigned, the Area Manager would get a great amount of satisfaction. Also, if I resigned before I returned to work, he could pay me out in lieu of notice,and get me out of his hair. The plan was for me not to return to work from my holidays.

I decided to dig in my heels – after all, he didn’t know that I now knew what he was up to. I kept ringing the Surry Hills store manager, and late on the Friday he got back to me to say that I was to start work there at 8.30am on the following Monday as Assistant Manager. I now had my position confirmed, and a plan in place. At no time did the Area Manager contact me to confirm any of this. At 8.30am on the Monday morning I turned up for work as confirmed – and gave two weeks notice. I believe the Area Manager was furious, but I can’t confirm that, as he totally ignored me for the next two weeks, despite regular visits to the store, and didn’t even bother to wish me luck on the day I left. At least I felt that I had a hand in my own demise – in the end it hadn’t been determined by him. I was talking to another gay Manager from another store in the area just after this, and found out he was encountering the exact same harrassment from the same Area Manager

After several weeks of tossing backwards and forwards whether I should report his conduct to the company or not, I decided to let it drop. My health wasn’t the best at the time, and I had no witnesses to the discrimination. The Darlinghurst store Manager – despite telling me what was going on – wasn’t going to back me up, as it would have put
his job on the line. He had, in fact, asked me not to divulge the information he had given me, and despite the fact that he had treated me like shit, I sort of felt sorry for him. After all, he was stuck with the Area Manager, and I no longer was.

In retrospect now, I regret that decision. It still plays on my mind from time to time, especially when I hear of others encountering bullying, harassment and discrimination in their workplace. I regret not mentioning it to my other staff members at Darlinghurst – none of whom had any issue with a Manager who was gay and HIV+ – and I especially regret not taking it further with the company and possibly onto the Anti-Discrimination Board. As I have mentioned to others, despite having no witnesses, and being in a his-word-against-mine situation (with the odds being stacked on his side, as he was a ‘company man’), at least there would have been a report about it, and I would have, at least, sewn the seeds of doubt. Even back in those days Coles/Myer had anti-discrimination policies, and he may – or may not- have been dragged over the coals. It is a regret that I now have to live with.

If you are suffering any kind of harrassment or discrimination in your workplace,report it! Your workplace should be somewhere you look forward to going to every day, not somewhere that you sneak to with trepidation, wondering what is in store for you to make your life difficult. Even if you have no witnesses to what is being done to you – the people making life difficult for you will make sure there is none to back up your side of the story (like my being taken out of the store and to a cafe to be told he thought I should get out of the company). It is important both for your confidence and self-respect to ensure that there is at least a report written up about it, and that it goes into the company records, probably through the HR department. There are also community and government organisations who can advise and direct you as to what actions can be taken.

Bullying, harassment, discrimination and prejudice are NEVER to be tolerated – anywhere! By anyone!

ThIs youngster who hit back made headlines. You can only be pushed so far, for so long.

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2013

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Getting On With It! A 33-Year Retrospective of Life with HIV/AIDS

The challenge of writing about 33 years of living with HIV/AIDS isn’t so much to write tomes about what actually was witnessed over that period. That is easy to do, and I could ramble on forever about it. The challenge lies in being objective and succinct, to tone down the schmaltz and sentimentality and cut to the chase. Not as easy as one may think, as these were the most challenging, relentlessly ruthless and heartbreaking period of my life. But if survival is the gauge of ones strength and tenacity, then I have come out at this end of it with flying colours. Indeed, the cup is half full!

So what was it really like in 1982 to be reading snippets in our local gay press about this mysterious illness in The States that seemed to be targeting gay men who frequented the saunas, and quickly killing them? Well, cynicism and disbelief to start with, and the surety that within a short period of time they would find an antibiotic to clear up yet another STD. Soon the snippets were to become columns, then pages as the mysterious and deadly illness leapt from the shores of America and found its way here.

Our response was mixed. The first recorded case of HIV at home was 1982, and the first death in 1983. We had our usual ratbags who yelled and screamed about God’s vengeance on the evil, sick and perverted gay lifestyle (obviously a different God to the compassionate, all-forgiving one that I had heard about), the advocates of hate who demanded quarantine for all infected persons, and those who either quietly or vocally wished that we would all die or just go away. Not that easy folks! Thankfully, common sense prevailed and both the government and the grassroots gay community combined to put both AIDS Councils and NGO programs in place. Our quick response was instrumental in Australia always being at the forefront of HIV/AIDS care. Within 2 years every state had an AIDS Council under the national umbrella of NAPWA (National Association of People with AIDS), and the formation of support organisations such as The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, Community Support Network (CSN) and Ankali. Without these organisations life would have been grim for those infected. In 1985 testing was introduced. It was a bit of a strange affair in the early days. Due to hysteria and discrimination no one wanted their personal details on a database, so you chose a name, and Albion Street Centre issued you with a number that then became your ID. You had a blood test, and waited for two weeks – talk about high anxiety – to get your result. I had a mystery illness in 1982, a flu-type illness that wasn’t the flu, and already suspected that I had sero-converted and was going to come up HIV+. I was right. Counseling? Oh yeah, we had a lot of that back then. “You’ve got about 2 years to live”. Shrug shoulders “Okay”. And off we went knowing the inevitable was rapidly approaching, and it was time to PARTY!!! What else could you do? However there were horror stories. The disgusting treatment of young Eve Van Grafhorst is something for all Australians to be ashamed of. Born in 1982, she was infected with HIV via a blood transfusion. When she attempted to enrol in her Kincumber pre-school in 1985, parents threatened to withdraw their children due to the (supposed) risk of infection. The family was literally hunted out of town, and forced to leave the country and go to NZ. I will never forget the sight of this poor, frail girl on her way to the airport. I, like many others, was horrified that this could happen in Australia. Thankfully, her NZ experience was quite the opposite, and she lived a relatively normal life until her death in 1993 at 11 years of age. Her parents received a letter from Lady Di praising her courage.

Meanwhile, the Australian nightmare was well and truly hitting home. My first close friend, Andrew Todd, died in 1986. At that time there was no dedicated AIDS ward, and Andrew was shifted between wards as beds were needed for other cases. He died on Boxing Day in A&E at St, Vincent’s. I had the sad duty of ringing all my friends at a party to tell them the sad news. Party pooper recognition acknowledged! Ward 17 at St Vincent’s eventually became the dedicated AIDS ward, and for the next 10 years was never empty. Palliative care was through The Sacred Heart Hospice. Hospitals such as Westmead hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons; full contamination clothing for those working with HIV people, rooms not being cleaned, meals left outside doors. Even the poor old mosquito copped a hiding as a means of contamination, along with toothbrushes, glasses, cutlery and crockery. An advertising campaign featuring the Grim Reaper bowling down poor people created an apocalyptic vision of HIV that scared the life out of everyone. It was quickly withdrawn. In the interim, my 2 years became 4, which became 6 followed by 8. My life became a haze of alcohol and cigarettes, not shared alone.

In the 80’s I held a lot of parties with anywhere from 40- 60 friends attending. By 1996, if I had tried to hold a party I would have been lucky to have dug up 10 friends to attend. In the blink of an eye my social circle was effectively wiped off the face of the earth. Hospitals, hospices, funerals and wakes became the dreaded regular events. It was death on a relentless and unforgiving scale. The Quilt Project became the focus of our sorrow, and it’s regular unfoldings and name readings were tear-filled times of remembrance and reminiscence, along with the yearly Candlelight Rally. I attended until I became so empty that I could no longer bear it. I submitted my names but no longer attended. In the early 90’s four friends died close together – two from AIDS, one a heart attack and one cancer. This was a particularly heavy blow as two of these friends had been regular “gutter drag” partners, and that part of my life effectively ended. In a perverse way, it seemed strange that the Big A wasn’t the only thing stalking our lives.

Despite its reputation for being human Ratsac (the Concorde Study in France named it such, after conducting an unethical trial; turns out they were correct!) I started taking AZT when my CD4 count started to take a dive. Hard work, long hours, heavy drinking, chain smoking, a shit diet and emotional turmoil didn’t help. Pub culture became lifestyle. Did several drug trials – D4T, which was sort of successful, though the same class of drug as AZT. Also p24 VLP (Very Light Protein) which proposed that stimulating the p24 antigen may help control HIV. Total waste of my time. It did nothing. We started alternating drugs – 6 months on AZT, 6 on D4T, 6 on DDI, 6 on DDC. Perversely it seemed to keep the wolf from the door. Dosage was huge. Everyone on it ended up with kidney problems and peripheral neuropathy. Prophylactics added to the drug burden. In the meantime there was no HIV dental service and our teeth rotted or fell out due to bouts of candida. I left work in 1993 after being seriously knocked around by viral pneumonia which should have killed me…but didn’t. I was shuffled onto the pension, and given rent subsidised housing by DOH. The subsidy seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, weren’t we all eventually going to be killed by the Big H, so no one would be on it for that long? Famous last words! My alcohol consumption and chain smoking increased, if that was possible! Was losing weight at an alarming rate, and naturally no one noticed because I took to wearing baggy clothes to disguise it. Nothing quite like being delusional. Moved from Darlinghurst to Bondi. Nothing like moving away from the scene to help your health…not! Collapsed in the street, and admitted to St Vincent’s not with PCP as suspected but a collapsed lung. Two weeks later and a change of female GP’s saw me back in the doctor’s rooms while she read my hospital discharge report. Had they tested me for CMV retinitis? No! Was I having trouble with my vision? Yes, but I do wear glasses. Guess what? We’re sending you for a little holiday at Prince Henry Hospital (now closed). I was a little bit sick. Chronic CMV retinitis, chronic candida, chronic anemia, had 10 CD4 cells and weighed 48 kgs. Mmm, prognosis was not good. Well, it had been a good life. I was certainly joining a band of party people. But no! Life hadn’t finished with me yet. Protease Inhibitors had come along at an auspicious time, and within a fortnight I had been stolen from the arms of death. Mind you, that fortnight had been no picnic. Ganciclovir injections into the eye, Deca-Durabolin injections to help put weight back on, blood transfusions, and enough finger prick blood readings to last me the rest of my life. And the problems had just started for this return-to-lifer. Not dying when you are supposed to really fucks up your head space.

So started the next round of therapies. Peer Support groups; counselors; Caleo (a treatment management group who help you maintain the impetus to take the billion pills a day we were taking); clinics; dental care (now up and running); volunteer work (to keep one sane). What started out as volunteer work at the then PLWHA (NSW) Inc (now Positive Life) turned into paid employment as a research assistant. I started writing for “Talkabout” magazine, joined the Positive Speakers. Bureau, and learnt to use a computer. A couple of stints back in full-time employment made me realise that big changes needed to be made with my life. By this time my health was pretty well back together. A couple of nights out pushed home just how few people I knew, however did lead to meeting my current (now ex) partner. A brief encounter with Indinivir sludge in my kidneys (which involved having a stent inserted then removed) also made me aware that for HIV+ people the unexpected can happen at any time. Yet another change of doctor. Self-empowerment had become an important issue, and I wanted a say in my health management, as distinct from being dictated to. Big changes were about to happen.

In 2000 David and I did a big (and expensive) holiday to the Red Centre. It was an amazing experience. Before leaving Sydney I had applied to the University of Technology in Sydney to do my degree in writing. Shortly after arriving back home I was informed that I had been accepted. Ah, the advantages of mature age AND disability. So spent three years doing my Graduate Certificate in Writing, was office- bearer for the Special Needs Collective…in fact I WAS the Special Needs Collective, and discovered I hated having to deal with the moronic “radicals” who called themselves the Student Association and did nothing except rant and rave, and waste student money. I was glad to leave uni. Towards the end of 2004 I decided to get my chef’s credentials from East Sydney TAFE, and crammed a 12-month course into 6 months. As much as I hated uni, I really loved TAFE and found it more grassroots and honest. David and I started Alderman Catering, a top-end catering business though it only lasted about 2 years as I found it very exhausting. I then sort of returned to my retail roots by opening a web site called Alderman Providore to sell Australian made gourmet grocery items. The site proved successful, and within 4 years I was opening my second site, this time specialising in tea, coffee and chocolate products. I got involved in a trial using Goat’s Serum to treat HIV, but again another waste of time. I did manage to get a skin rash from it, and managed to score a $1,000 for participating. In late 2009 the GFC hit, and online shopping took a major hit. After a disastrous Christmas that left me severely out if pocket, I decided to sell the business and put it behind me.

More eye problems followed, this time involving my blind eye. Back to the regular rounds at the Sydney Eye Hospital, and an injection of Avastin into the blind eye to stop it creating new blood supplies to an eye that couldn’t see. By this time, the interior of the bad eye was collapsing, and it took on an unnatural colour. Before this I hadn’t looked blind. Now I did!

The next step, which sort of brings us up to date, was a major move. Plans to move north had been on the agenda for 10 years – in 2011 it finally happened, though we did jump the border which wasn’t in the original plan. Recently my retina detached in my one seeing eye…or rather was pushed off by all the scar tissue present from my original CMV infection. An emergency operation to scrape down the scar tissue, and replace the retina and fluid (called a vitrectomy) has seen my sight degenerate even further and I am now the proud owner of a white cane curtesy of Guide Dogs Queensland. It has become obvious that our two Jack Russell’s are not, despite their best of intentions, good seeing-eye dogs. I can see, though very poorly. A lot of life is a blur these days.

However, I am not going to complain. I have always enjoyed a challenge, and this presents yet another one. I gave up smoking 15 years ago, and drink only lightly and socially these days. My partner and I both adopted a healthy diet and exercise program 8 years ago when we both started getting unattractively over-weight and inactive. We have both turned our lives around by adopting this course of action. In 2013, I obtained my Certificate III in Fitness from Southbank TAFE. It proved both a challenge for me, and for the TAFE, as they had never had a student with severe visual impairment do the course before. And finally, at the beginning if this year, I had my troublesome blind eye removed. I now have a very life-like prosthetic that I dan do drunken party tricks with.

33 years eh! OMG where have those years gone? Despite all the discrimination, stress, anxiety, illness, deaths, survivor guilt and despair, there have been moments of great introspection, illumination, strength and enlightenment. That over-used word “empowerment” springs to mind and that is perhaps the one word that sums all those years up. Victim? No way! Survivor? Not in my words! And I have never been one to wallow in self pity. You just need to grab life by the balls, and get on with it. I trust that is what I have done.

Tim Alderman

Copyright 2012, 2015

AIDS Quilt unfolding in Government Pavilion, Sydney Showground circa 1988. L-R Peter McCarthy, Peter Gilmore, Bevan, Steve Thompson, Tim Alderman
AIDS Quilt unfolding in Government Pavilion, Sydney Showground circa 1988. L-R Peter McCarthy, Peter Gilmore, Bevan, Steve Thompson, Tim Alderman