AIDS set back the fight for LGBT rights almost overnight. The academic Yuval Noah Harari writes in his history of the human race Sapiens that ‘if you want to keep any human group isolated — women, Jews, Roma, gays, blacks — the best way to do it is convince everyone that these people are a source of pollution.’ The British tabloids gleefully went about this, with The Sun running a 1983 front page naming AIDS a…
I do very much agree with you, having been there to observe, that the AIDS crisis set us back immediately and significantly.
I also believe, however, that ultimately that crisis helped our fight for rights more than it hurt us.
First, AIDS spawned dedicated activists, two generations of us. It spawned the sort of dedicated movement that only true crisis can produce.
Second, and I think more significantly, AIDS forced so many of us out of the closet. Once out, we were reluctant to step back inside, and we saw that our friends and loved ones would accept us for who we were.
Our coming out sparked a fire, a chain reaction of coming out that eventually fostered a chain reaction of acceptance.
None of that was foreseeable in the bad old days when it looked like AIDS was blocking out progress, and when it actually did block our progress in measurable, harmful ways for several years.
I’d be willing to bet, however, not that there’s any way to know, that we’re better off today because of AIDS, not worse off.
Considering all the friends and comrades I lost to the virus, I’d sure like to believe that this is true.
It helps me assign meaning to their suffering.