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In June 1994, the Gay Games were coming to New York City, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of Stonewall, and we were all bracing for the descent of upward of half a million screaming gay tourists from around the world. Based on the advance propaganda for both events, many thinking people felt like they were in for a week that would ignore or sweep under the rug the very real problems that gay people face, like AIDS in particular. It was decided to do a tract...something that would look like an officially sanctioned brochure but would blow the out-of-towners' minds when they actually read it. ___
_ Welcome to New York
by Avram Finkelstein
STONEWALL 25, 1994
SEE QUICKTIME MOVIE _ (length of clip 5:30)
We are here to
join with millions of lesbians and gays to salute our potential
and to signify your solidarity.
We are here to remember the Stonewall uprising which breathed life into the struggle for our rights and will propel us well into the next century. We are here to celebrate the spirit of rebellion that sent beaten and harassed bull dykes and drag queens out into the night on a three-day rampage of resistance. We are here to celebrate the fact that lesbians and gays are freedom fighters - and that we have committed ourselves to justice time and time again.
We are funny and smart and talented and queer. We care when someone is punished or persecuted for being themselves because we have all experienced it. We care because we are sensitive to exclusion. We care because we are queer.
These are reasons for great pride.
We are here to celebrate great pride in the fact that lesbians and gays have made a difference in our own lives by being out and outspoken, committed to justice and sensitive to the sufferings of others.
But the celebration will end tomorrow.
It will end and you will go back home with your memories of your time in New York.
But remember, when you are back home, the brave legacy of the rebellious queens and dykes who sometimes embarrass you when you see our marches on television.
Remember that nothing has ever been given to our community. It has always been taken in our name by the courageous and the radical.
Remember that all the suffering of lesbians and gays will end only when we fight for it to end.
And remember, above all else, that you have just spent 10 days in the American epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. More than two hundred thousand have already died of AIDS - and it has barely been mentioned this week.
200,000 dead. That means 14,580 tons of bone and flesh; 630,000 pounds of brain matter; 197,000 gallons of blood and 84,929,300 years of life that will never be lived.
Throughout your visit, AIDS was an afterthought. An afterthought to the Games, to the March, to the posters, the parties, the queer press and all of the souvenir guides. Sure, AIDS received an occasional mention and some proceeds from the gate, but it was effectively locked out of hearts and minds. Why?
Apparently, some organizers feel that AIDS doesn't belong at this celebration of our potential and our future. It should not continue to overshadow our every accomplishment, hovering like a ghostly reminder that too many backs were turned for too long. Our struggle encompasses other things besides AIDS, and maybe it is time to move on.
It was barely mentioned at the March on Washington. It is rarely mentioned by the White House or by our National Leadership, except in passing. It is treated as one of the many unchanging facts of life, a subject we're obliged to mention because it won't go away, a subject that no one can do anything about.
AIDS is here to stay. But only because we have invited it to. We have provided it with a welcome future by shutting down and giving up.
We tell ourselves, "It's a chronic, manageable condition," even though there's nothing manageable about it.
We tell each other, "You can't hurry science," and carry on as usual, half-watching the growing death toll and hoping that someone, somewhere is actually doing something about it.
We tell the world that our community is not just a graveyard, that it also stands for Life and Liberty...all the while overlooking the hundreds of thousands of dead every time we do.
MEANWHILE, THE SECOND DECADE OF AIDS IS HALF OVER.
Everyone of us is accountable for the fact that AIDS still rages because we have forgotten.
We have forgotten that any good accomplished during the AIDS epidemic had to be fought for and won.
We have forgotten that anything that can change for the better can easily be changed back.
We have forgotten our dead.
Instead of fighting for our lives, we "celebrate" life by dancing at benefits to raise funds for AIDS research, never questioning what is researched, who is doing it, or how it is going. Instead of demanding accountability from AIDS organizations, we follow them blindly into check-book activism, as if money alone could cure AIDS. And we assume that every avenue of research is being thoroughly considered.
AIDS is everywhere, hiding in plain sight. It is everywhere, yet it is nowhere. We acknowledge it with a solemn, knowing nod or a check in the mail or a moment of silence. It has slid into the background, regaining its former position in our lives... one of denial.
Denial helps us cope with loss. It is an appropriate personal response to AIDS. Denial is not an appropriate community response to AIDS.
AIDS is not a Cause or a Fund-raiser or a Dance For Life. It is not a Chronic, Manageable Condition. It is not Angels, or Ribbons or T-shirts. It is not a Learning Experience.
AIDS is a heaping pile of bodies, bodies of people. People we have loved, people we would have died for.
AIDS has not peaked. It is not declining, it is not going away, it is not disappearing.
We have quite simply allowed it to become normal.
Normal is fucked.
Thank you for coming to New York City, the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic.
Thank you for remembering the brave and the dead that have proceed you.
Thank you for taking these memories back home, and mobilizing some form of action to stop AIDS.
Thank you for fighting in the memory of all of our dead lovers, brothers, sisters, parent and children. Fight in their honor, and for those that are still living.
Remember to celebrate the rage that finally drove desperate queers into the streets in front of Stonewall. Honor their memory by joining the fight against AIDS. Be brave enough to confront a heartless America over the continuing suffering and carnage in our communities around the world.
The AIDS crisis is only beginning.
Will you come back to New York to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the AIDS crisis?
by Avram Finkelstein
see also Kiki Mason's "By Any Means Necessary"