Monday, December 01, 2008

Celebrating my friends on World AIDS Day

Today, Dec. 1, 2008, is the twentieth anniversary of World AIDS day.

I wish I didn't have anything to write about today. AIDS continues to be a major threat to the health and well being of millions of people around the world, especially in the African continent. So here I am, joining Bloggers Unite once again to light a virtual candle in memory of those I have lost to AIDS, and those who continue to live with it today.

A few weeks ago it suddenly dawned on me that I don't have any gay men in my life anymore. Paul, Andre, Doug, David, Steve, Mark, Nate... they're all gone. Every one of my gay friends died from AIDS between 1990 and 1997. I once danced with them on the Castro, their token "fag-hag," accepted because I was Paul's best friend from childhood and eventually befriended by them all.

Andre's funeral in 1997 was the last one. An entire generation of gay men was gone. I moved away from San Francisco, grieving too much to stay in that shining city where my friends once lived.

I wish my daughter could have known them, and they her. It feels odd to me that my child doesn't have any gay Uncles and that the Castro is just a street in San Francisco usually too crowded for her to navigate. Sometimes I walk the street on my own and listen to the young men of today laughing, feeling like I'm watching the ghosts of my friends.

The first book I every wrote was a memoir about my dear friend Paul. It started as a series of letters to him about our twenty year friendship and my overwhelming grief at his death. Over ten years, it became a book, which I have yet to publish. I just didn't have the strength to face the loneliness. But now I think I'm ready.

We must remember the people who were killed, not just the way they died. AIDS stole their lives, but we cannot allow the disease to erase who they were; their friendship, hopes, fears and dreams. If they are reduced to just another number killed in the AIDS pandemic, then they are truly erased.

Tell their stories. Share their dreams. Speak out about AIDS so that someday the deaths will end.

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