I was a teenager in the late seventies, an awkward girl who didn’t know her own worth. My best friend was my gay cousin. Oh was he so lucky to be in a family who embraced him in those days! He took me by the hand as he said I was “just waiting to bloom”, and helped me out of my shell. We’d dance to Donna Summer, at the original location of the first “City Nightclub” here in Portland, the first all ages gay club in the US. His friends embraced me, and encouraged me. I was so in awe of these people. So free. We all graduated high school and stayed in town for various schools and trades. So many talents. We danced the nights away, then we’d go to Quality Pie on 23rd.
They’re gone now. My cousin, the many friends I made. But it didn’t stop there. I’m in my late fifties and to this day, I’ve lost many to this disease. I have also a precious few who survived those horrible days who I hold close, yet many have a sadness because they not only lost their friends and a generation of people, but because they never prepared for their future as they were told they wouldn’t survive. Going into 2020, it’s still there. 28% of people 18-25 polled, have said they wouldn’t hug, be friends with, or talk to someone with HIV.
We still have a long way to go. Sad. But true. Stigma is there still. Strides have been made for a vaccine or cure. But we still have people who suffer and are shunned.