Becky Says...

December 2004

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December 1

It's World AIDS Day. And although this year's emphasis is on women, I'm going instead to discuss history. Before I go there, though, I'll suggest you go to this site for more information.

Inspiration for this entry comes from something Nels wrote last month. He was, in this beautifully written, thoughtful entry on the election's aftermath, speaking of politics in a broader sense, too. He said, "Of course, it's not like I do not have political opinions. I am a gay man who grew up as AIDS was tearing the world apart."

And I'm not. I'm older than that, straight, and female. So it was that I came to know of AIDS early on in the epidemic. I've said before that I knew people who were doing AIDS research. Many of those I knew during the early and middle years of the 1980s were physicians and researchers involved with Non-Profit Agency #2.

A series of news articles at the time in The Charlotte Observer dealt with the illness and death of one young man in Chapel Hill. I did not know the man. I did know many of his caregivers and many of his friends. And AIDS hit home and became a reality in my life (moreso than a disease against which one should take precautions) because people I cared about were grieving.

And another bit of history that is more pleasant, and only touches the subject of AIDS at its end. A few years later I was involved in a rather odd situation. To keep me from wearing myself out with pronouns, I'm going to call the two people Friend and FriendMom. Friend was from my hometown, and is a few years younger than I.

He got in touch with me to tell me he was going home that weekend to tell his mother, FriendMom, that he was gay. No illness involved in this, but Friend had fallen in love and wanted to be able to tell his mother. I had long known of my friend's orientation, and was pretty sure FriendMom would be okay with the news.

FriendMom is also a friend of mine, so the week after Friend had told her his news and had gone back to his home, I called her. I wanted, among other things, to make sure she wasn't upset that I had helped keep the secret. She wasn't, but she did have a question for me. She said, "Becky, I grew up Southern Baptist, and I don't know how to reconcile in my mind the things I was taught and the fact this is my beloved son and I will not believe my child is evil. Can you help me with that?"

I told her what I thought on the subject, (which you can find here), then asked her to give me a few days to talk with some clergy friends. One of my clergy friends handed me a pamphlet (which, I am sad to say, is out of print and unfindable just now) that had been written about all those passages in the Bible that people use to condemn homosexuality. The writers, after careful research, refuted the modern-day literalists' interpretations, point by point.

I sent the pamphlet on to FriendMom, and between that and some other references, she came to the conclusion that she needed to help with education issues. She did two things (in addition, of course, to making sure her son and his beloved knew she loved them). One, she got involved with PFLAG. Second, she signed up for one night a week as the volunteer answering telephone calls for the local AIDS Hotline.

It is precisely because I know FriendMom, and many others like her, that I will not let the recent election results convince me that the moves forward society has made in the last thirty years or so will do anything but continue on their forward journey.

As I told Nels when I wrote to him about that thoughtful essay of his, what I'm doing about helping those moves forward to continue is remembering that one of the reasons I have an online journal is to speak my mind, in as reasonable a way as possible.

And I fervently hope that one of these days World AIDS Day will be the day in which victory over AIDS is celebrated. Toward that end, I will remind all of you, no matter your sexual orientation, to be safe.

Text copyright 2000-2004 Becky