My friend - correction, my former friend - Simon Watney has been responsible for some of that work, notably with Policing the Media, one of the first books to catalogue how the virus, and homosexual men, were demonised. All honour to him.
Simon Watney is also responsible for the following, recently published in the essay collection Outlooks: "These attitudes [to cut a long paragraph short, namely ignoring the plight of those with Aids] are also reflected in the wannabe Julie Burchill school of post-gay and anti-gay journalism which flourishes in publications such as Time Out and The Independent which are, only too predictably, happy to publish post-gay or queer journalists attacking the very idea ... of community values of any kind
Much of the above is (ho hum) a matter of opinion. Opinion is permitted. It is possible that I am a Burchill wannabe. It is possible I am post- gay, anti-gay or queer (I accept each label and recognise none). I don't understand the gay community line - you'd have to actually produce a community before I could attack it - but again I concede whatever point there is intended. What I will not, repeat, will not, be told is that I have "been happily spared the full impact of disease and death". This is not opinion, but repellent ideological one-upmanship; a lofty, outrageously inhuman way of saying that insufficient numbers of my friends have croaked for me to know true suffering. Is Simon Watney an activist or an accountant? How many losses - two? three? four? - before the unworthy are allowed revelation? Who knows? What is clear, however, is that from true suffering flows the "unbearable reality" that I have rejected and that Watney so obviously, so unflinchingly, represents.
The moral superiority suggested - less to do with politics, more to do with turning prophet - is an occupational hazard with the second sort of Aids professional. Yet that increasingly tyrannical band refuses to recognise - it's called denial - that accumulated grief, not to mention a career devoted to contemplating death, has perhaps, at the minimum, reduced their vision to tunnel dimensions, and, possibly, at the maximum, driven them a touch mad.
For grief can have you howling that AZT be released untested, and then screaming "assassin" at the "establishment" when toxic side-effects occur. Grief means you will routinely denounce heterosexuals for writing books about "our disease", though heterosexuals must, you ritually, piously add, learn that they are at high risk too. Grief makes you Act-Up, Outraged, persuades you of covert genocide, tells you to wave placards announcing that Nick Partridge, head of the Terrence Higgins Trust, is a murderer. Grief makes you write that those who disagree with your theories will be personally responsible for thousands of deaths. Grief even makes you play dirty for the copyright of a shiny red ribbon. Grief blinds you to your own anger, and to the agony of others. And it's all perfectly, painfully understandable - a cliche wrought by a Holocaust.
What grief does not allow you, though, is arrogance, nor the privilege of fundamentalism as practised by Watney and the likes of Larry Kramer, author of The Normal Heart. Neither shares the other's views, but each preaches from the same holy place, standing atop a mountain of corpses, waving away criticism not with argument, but with a shroud, making the doubting feel small - feel like heretics - for questioning what the messiahs have decided is Aids dogma. The outside world asks that you justify your love, and they demand more. That you justify the manner and meaning of your death, as if mighty - but not Almighty - contributions to raising issues, funds and consciousness were finally no more than campaigns to render their every Word sacrosanct. Yet I can think of nothing, absolutely nothing, that would entitle anyone to judge mine or anyone else's hurt. (Can you?) I assume that having so much respect for the dead - happily the silent dead - leaves little left for the living.
Still, I may be railing at gods belonging to an era already going, going, gone. The latest "inhibitors" - three drugs shown to reduce the viral load in infected blood - may mean that Aids will soon be made manageable, a disease on a par with, perhaps, diabetes. Tests have shown that the triple therapy can, for the time being, remove the virus from the body. Which has potentially enormous implications. For the black hole that sucked us in and tore us apart also, in very sick ways, glued us together, and gave us a rallying point. Indeed, I might even be so cruel as to suggest that I know some people who might even, well, miss Aids.
Sorry. I didn't mean that. I mean, I didn't mean know. I meant knew.Reuse content