Folks, I'm having a hard time processing what Hillary Clinton said today about the Reagans and HIV/AIDS. So I just need to put some stuff down.
Today is tough. Right now is tough.
I haven't rage cried in a long-ass time. I've forgotten how rage tears give me a migraine and that my burning eyes and forehead ignite the tears on my face.
I won't be able to sleep tonight.
“It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s, Because of both president and Mrs. Reagan, in particular Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation when before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it, and that, too, is something that I really appreciate. With her very effective, low-key advocacy … it penetrated the public conscience and people began to say: ‘Hey, we have to do something about this too.’”
Nancy Reagan's death immediately brought up memories of friends I've lost. Memories of my days as an AIDS Activist. Memories of rage, of death, of fear and ignorance. Everything was a fight. EVERYTHING. WAS. A. FIGHT.
Me giving my mom a reason to pray the rosary.
We were in the streets, in the local government offices fighting against city ordinances.
We were in the statehouses, fighting legislation.
When businesses, both small and corporate, wanted to fire People with AIDS (PWAs), we fought back.
When the American Medical Association (AMA) wanted to institute mandatory HIV testing for anyone seeking medical treatment, we fought them and we won.
When the only form of treatment was a failed cancer drug, we fought the FDA and got new treatment options. And we fought the hardest against our president who let people die from ignorance rather than publicly say the word AIDS.
So when Hillary Clinton praised the Reagan's advocacy, I thought of my friends. I remembered how they gave their lives for this fight. When their immune systems were obliterated, they still showed up at protests. When their faces were covered with Karposi's Sarcoma, they volunteered to be our media spokespeople.
THEY were brave.
THEY deserve to be remembered for their advocacy.
THEY started the national conversation by screaming in the faces of the Reagans and the Bushes and the Clintons.
Hillary Clinton issued a tweet saying she misspoke about the subject and she apologized.
An entire generation is gone. Hillary, you dishonored those fallen warriors and those of us who survived. We'll never know what we could have been had that generation lived. But we do know what we lost. We feel it everyday.
Because of you, not only did we feel the pain of loosing them all over again, we felt the rage.
Sorry didn't work then and it doesn't work now.
ACT UP teaching me how to channel my rage into action
As the conference nears, this will move to the front of my thinking until the plan takes off, until it lands, until I check into my hotel room.
I've started doing things like walking stairs at work, not to get myself in shape or to be healthy, but so I won't be out of breath when I enter a conference room. I'll also carry a handkerchief to wipe my face because I don't want to be the fat sweaty guy.
Once in the conference room I'll look at the small seats and wonder if this will be the exact moment when one of those chairs, which has held bigger people than me, will break. Then everyone will look at the fat guy who broke a chair. I also try to be cognizant of my breathing because at some point, I'll get a dirty look from someone who doesn't want to hear a fat guy breathe.
I'll also have to figure out which clothes to pack -- ones that won't fight with me and that have some semblance of professionalism. I'll pack an extra belt just in case the one I'm wearing breaks. I'll shower at least twice a day because if there's a strange smell, people always look at the fat guy first.
This just part of what it's like for me to go to a conference.
There's a lot of reasons I'm fat and they are mine to examine. Yet whether it's travel or conferences or everyday life, I do my best not to let my size negatively impact or even harm on others.
Unfortunately, similar intentions are not always returned.