By Craig Stadler
It occurred to me the other day, just how lucky we are in 2018, not just as a gay community, but as a global society at large. In South Africa specifically, we enjoy an open constitution granting a vast spectrum of rights to all walks of life. Even gays can get married and hold hands in public without too much kerfuffle unless you find yourself in Orania. There are gay clubs where you can shake your ass in a safe environment, newspapers such as Exit, targeted specifically at the LGBTQ community, indeed, there is even a gay village in Cape Town, whether formally designated that way or only in the hearts of the community.
Furthermore, we are allowed to get married and actually call it marriage. We can adopt children if we feel the need to change shitty nappies, we can get life insurance, funeral cover, dread disease cover, hell you can even get medical aid for your Siamese cat. Not the least of these things that we enjoy is the advent of Treatments that have turned HIV/AIDS into a life sentence as opposed to a death sentence. We can also not forget the miracle range of drugs known as PREP or Pre-exposure Prophylactics. Which means that if you meet someone on Grindr who is on the same drug, you can fling your legs apart and get banged like a Salvation Army drum without fear of ever getting sick or diseased with HIV or AIDS. Amazing, right?
We have so much to celebrate and so many wonderful things that we enjoy that perhaps people have become relaxed. Too relaxed. We believe that we are suddenly immune to a disease that killed people at Holocaust levels and was meaner and less caring than Pol Pot, Ghenkis Khan and Adolf Hitler put together. Allegedly. I’m sure they were lovely people. So is Trump. Cough.
We play Russian Roulette with our lives because we believe that we have found a way to avoid that sickness people once spoke about but that is no longer around. Right?
HIV/AIDS is still a very real possibility in major society. And perhaps we have become Flazéda about it because we have forgotten the nightmare that was the 80’s. When people you knew suddenly got a nasty flu that wouldn’t ever clear up. You watched them lose weight and become pasty and suddenly dark lesions would show up on their skin. They stopped coming to parties and you would start hearing rumours that they were in hospital. So, you decided to visit them. Except you couldn’t because they were kept in isolation so that they could not pass on this illness they had. This illness that people called The Gay Flu, or GRID – Gay Related Immune Disease.
But nobody did anything, because what does it matter if a bunch of fags die anyway? More oxygen for everyone else. But don’t expose our society to them. They have sex in the bum, no wonder they are getting sick. Right?
If you haven’t watched it yet, do yourself a favour and get a copy of the movie, The Normal Heart with Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer and Julia Roberts. It’s about as easy to watch as The Passion of The Christ, because it will affect you in ways you did not think possible, but it is worth every moment and is the most poignant depiction of the devastation caused by this killer illness I’ve ever seen.
Now you may think that I’m advocating celibacy and speaking against drugs like PREP. In fact, the very opposite is true. What I’m advocating is not forgetting the horrors that are possible and to safeguard ourselves against those possibilities. Take every precaution you possibly can because it is a kinder death to be murdered by an intruder in your home than to die by a slow puncture.
Too many beautiful lights were snuffed out too early and people still die every single day from a savage illness. So, in honour of World AIDS Day on 1 December, I would like to shine a spotlight on one of those prematurely extinguished lights and pay tribute to my uncle David Beetge who I never got to know because he was taken way too soon.
A man who was loved by many and the stories told about him always make me smile. I have only one memory of him, of sitting in his living room, with Phil Collins’ Groovy Kinda Love playing somewhere while he and my mother chatted and laughed. I could have done with the experience and advice I would have had from an older gay male in my family. Someone who could say things like “it gets better”, or who knew and understood the confusion I experienced. David, you are missed. 30 years later, you are still missed. I talk to you often and I’d like to think you hear me.
Do not become like David. A memory and a tribute in a newspaper column 30 years after your senseless death. Look after yourself. You only get one shot at this life.
Be safe and look after yourselves.
P.S. Merry Christmas
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