Brad’s Story: Bashing Back, Howling at AIDS

Take back the streets! Bash back! Queer Nation!

Just as my friend Brad reaches down and grabs his Pride, his boyfriend delivers devastating news.

This chapter’s a triumphant, tragic flashback. It paints the intense joy of early Queer street protests. And the gut punch of an AIDS diagnosis that’s almost a guaranteed death sentence.

Read the chapter —

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Capturing the emotional intensity, which sometimes approached ecstasy, of early Queer Nation actions is very difficult. While I was not in the Uncle Charlie’s Zap, I did participate in several that came after. I’m told the earliest ones were the most spiritually powerful.

But even later, the sense of profound catharsis and release was often electric. The joy was dionysian in many ways. I hope I can manage to paint some of that accurately without going purple.

Overshadowing it all, of course, what the ongoing AIDS crisis. These events happened in 1990. An actual AIDS diagnosis at that time, as opposed to testing positive for HIV, was normally (but not always) followed by death within a year or two.

More on that in the next chapter.

I’m building a tag list to include people who’ve told me they want updates on this series or who have read the first chapters. If you don’t want a tag, please just let me know in a comment or email me at I’ll cheerfully remove you from the list.

— Jim

Phil Stevens, Gurpreet Dhariwal, Saryn, Donald Robb, Chris Cohlmeyer, Left Wisdom, Ronald C. Flores-Gunkle, KM Bernard, Bjoern-Erik Hartsfvang, Chris Hedges, David Wade Chambers, clell tamayo, Karen Latham Everson, Carla Post, BFoundAPen, Josh, Greg Burns, Stephen Sovie, James Knight, xmastree, Brindusa-Katalin Poenaru, Corey Raley, Artemis Shishir, neil chapman, Brian Fehler, Esther Spurrill-Jones, Gutbloom, Carl Rebeiro, Catherine Caruso, Guérin-Kairu Asante, Fred Shirley, Bernd Weiser, Adam, Diabetic Cyborg, Michael Kupperberg, Andrew Sykes, Phoenix, monica d’auria, Elle Beau ❇︎, Alyssa Ferguson, Judy McLain, Jonathan | sex & theology, Paul Holzapfel, Ron Nelson, Rattasat khongthinthan, Sadie Seroxcat, Sherrye Richardson, Andrea Linn, Gigi J Wolf, John Westphalen,

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot.