Chapter Excerpts for World AIDS Day 2014

artist-unknown-1990-photo-by-abigail-garner
Unknown artist, 1990. Wellesley, MA.

Read the excerpts:

Introduction

On World AIDS Day in 1990, I was a first-year at Wellesley College.  The college had a display officially observing the day, which felt so brave and bold after my high school experience, where the topic of AIDS only came up in the context of cruel jokes and teasing.

Hearing about this World AIDS Day display on campus, I went to see it for myself.  I was the only person in the corridor where the closed art gallery had various art pieces draped with black cloth — a symbolic recognition of the lives and creativity cut short because of the epidemic. The visual impact was extremely profound for me, since the majority of those who had died or were dying from my family’s extended circle were indeed artists.

When I was working on the manuscript for Families Like Mine, every step of the way, the chapter about AIDS was on the chopping block. I was told it “didn’t fit” with the rest of the book, and some reviewers have made similar comments. I am able to see their perspective, that it feels more historical than the overall forward-thinking tone of the book. (Or to put it more bluntly, for readers who are prospective parents, it’s a buzz-kill.) I continued to advocate for keeping this chapter because it is a significant part of queerspawn history and it is exactly that framework — that there is no room for AIDS in the politics of LGBT family rights — that keeps these stories in the dark, which is why the chapter needed to be included.

Ten years after publication, I continue to feel driven to document and remember. That’s why I’ve chosen to post excerpts from the chapter about AIDS entitled, “Silent Panic” on World AIDS Day as my way to honor sons and daughters who have been affected by HIV/AIDS.

Also part of display at Wellesley was a donation box with the option to choose from a collection of small, free-form creations made by students. The piece I picked was a tiny 2″ x 2″ ink painting: No Art.

With every new home I have moved to over the past 24 years, this tiny piece of anonymous art has come with me. I count it among my most precious things. This image of a figure gazing at “no art” has been comforting reminder that while histories may be hidden and truths may be re-written, this loss, this grief matters.

If you have or had parents with HIV/AIDS I hope there is comfort in reading reflections from other people who have gone through what you went though or are going through right now.

You are not alone. You don’t have to be silent. Your loss, your grief matters.

Read the excerpts:


 

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