Tag Archives: ACT UP

Mr. Jones

“Because you know something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?” – Bob Dylan, from The Ballad of a Thin Man

Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Inn, Christopher St.

My parents managed to miss the 1960’s. We lived in the city, but we might as well have lived in Podunk. My parents were as conventional as Ward and June Cleaver in Leave It To Beaver, except that they were Jewish and lived in a small apartment.

My parents didn’t listen to Bob Dylan or The Rolling Stones. They listened to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme sing the classic American songbook. They liked the 1950’s, when everyone knew their place and stayed there. They tried to keep up with the Joneses, but they couldn’t afford to.

Once a year my parents took me and my brother to the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit. We gawked at the hippies, listened to the folk singers, looked at the paintings, kept an eye out for the homosexuals, and had Italian Ices.

I wasn’t told much about homosexuals (as my parents referred to them) except that they lived in “The Village”, and did things that were illegal and unnatural. Any man who didn’t get married was suspect, including my mother’s cousin, who didn’t get married until he was in his late thirties. He remained suspect.

There were men on TV who wore dresses as a joke. My parents loved Milton Berle and Flip Wilson. Cross-dressing was hilarious, as long as it was clear that it was a man in a dress. A daughter who insisted on dressing like her brother was not funny. I vaguely knew about Christine Jorgensen; the most famous transsexual in the U.S.  I read about Renee Richards when she came out in 1976. It didn’t occur to me that someone could transition the other way. Continue reading

Why We Fight

On January 14, 2014, I participated in the panel “How to ACT UP” at the New York Public Library. In keeping with the title, I unexpectedly outed myself as trans. In front of several hundred people.

March on Washington - 1987

ACT UP at the March on Washington, 1987

I spent seven years in ACT UP (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). We demonstrated by marching in the streets, disrupting FDA hearings, and throwing the ashes of our loved ones over the White House fence. We were trying to save lives and the government wasn’t paying attention. The drug companies were overcharging for ineffective drugs. My buddies were dying. We were consumed with anger.

I was one of many activists who burned out. When I left ACT UP I lost contact with most of my activist friends. I went back to my normal life. I became unmoored. I was not the only member who suffered from loneliness and the loss of meaning in my life. We started talking to each other again after Spencer Cox’s death. We did not want to lose another comrade. Continue reading