In the mid-nineties, I was a naive 21 y.o. young man, full of fear about my budding homosexual orientation. Coming out was not an option, given the environment I grew up in. Costa Rica is a Latin American country loaded with machismo and with a heavy religious heritage embedded in its mostly traditional and very conservative families. My family was no exception.
The Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality took place this past weekend and was a spirited, enlivening, cultural melting pot comprising 50,000 enthusiastic participants, the ending of which was unfortunately marred by momentary police violence, somehow very fitting on the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that happened only a few hundred yards away.
Because of the arrival of COVID-19 this spring, annual LGBT Pride festivities around the world had been canceled. But, as health conditions improved in NYC a month ago and the importance and visibility of Black Lives Matter grew after the murder of George Floyd, a consensus developed that NYC needed a march and it had to be centered on the movement for Black lives. Fortunately, Reclaim Pride, a scrappy do-it-yourself LGBTQ activist group formed in 2018 in reaction to the inflexibility of Heritage of Pride, the traditional NYC Pride March organizing body, took over and made it happen.
As we approach this year’s LGBTQ Pride commemoration on Sunday, thefocus in most locations will be on supporting the Black community and opposingpolice brutality, two very important initiatives that have belatedlybeen embraced by a majority of people in the U.S., as well as many globally.
I listened with interest to the recent online discussion Reflections on the AIDS Crisis in the Time of COVID-19 hosted by BAMMER with Eric Sawyer and leading AIDS physician Howard Grossman, as they described the history I lived through as a straight medical student and resident in the early 1980s.
My name is Rahul. I was born in a small town in Tripura state in North-Eastern India where I spent my first 18 years.
My earliest memories are of how much I loved my sister’s colourful dresses and dancing in front of the television. Neither of these were the typical masculine traits expected of young boys in the conservative patriarchal society of countryside India in which I was raised. As I grew older, I started to recognize my attraction to men, but I couldn’t share those feelings with anyone. Little me somehow sensed that these feelings were unusual and generally unacceptable to those around me. By that time, I was already dealing with discouraging comments from family members about my body language and my love of dance. I didn’t dare add another trait which would surely have made me the subject of the highest level of bullying.
PODCAST: Interviews by baby-boomer LGBTQ historian Mike Balaban, with a diverse guest list, covering issues and themes from the global LGBTQ community.
EPISODE 14: Cliff Morrison talks about forming the first AIDS ward in San Francisco General Hospital in 1983 as well as his recent involvement in the making of “5B”, an award-winning documentary about that experience (now available on Amazon).
Two recent developments refocused my attention on all the friends I lost to AIDS in the 80s and 90s.
Recently, Peter Gorobetz, a teammate from my Gotham Volleyball League days in NYC in the early 90s, came to a BAMMER meet-up in Ft. Lauderdale, where he and his partner now reside. While reminiscing about the good old days, Peter and I discussed Dan O’Connor (Pic #8 here), my cabin mate on the RSVP Caribbean cruise I took in 1991, who was also the volleyball league Commissioner that year.
We can change the past by what we choose to remember. Too often historical narrative is controlled by the status quo, those in power, those with money. In this remarkable discovery of a personal diary from the early 1800s, we see the acceptance of homosexuals (and by extension, all those who do not fit in) by a common person that is probably more indicative of the thinking in those times than we’ve been led to believe by mainstream historians. And this is why we must write!
Historians from Oxford University have been taken aback to discover that Matthew Tomlinson’s diary from 1810 contains such open-minded views about same-sex attraction being a “natural” human tendency.