Luckily my life has been uneventful - Thirty years ago today

From William A. Percy
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Billy Glover wrote:

I don't have a life that would justify a book. I am amazed at how little now seems to me to have been hard, and how lucky I had it and still do. We did not suffer at ONE. We could have done more in a sense if the main stream media had not ignored us-we did do things but they ignored them. But then it could be as we've said that each new decade meant we had laid more ground for changing attitudes and a large media coverage earlier would still not have done much. I do think the LIFE coverage in 6-64 did give anyone seriously seeking info the names of Don and Hal and the publications. And even though overall I still think both Times-L. A. and N. Y. have never covered the subject well, they did give us Peter Bart's article on the Motorcade. And I keep saying/asking why Maria Cole never has gotten credit for hosting a week of talk shows with Don. And Playboy printed a letter I sent them in the 60s and I actually got a phone call from someone, and when I was on a talk show or two I actually had people speak to me in a store. We know that dozens of college students came to our office in the 60s for meetings, and hundreds real Don's editorials in the L. A. Times and Herald Examiner, as many "gays" attacked his thinking. So people living in the 60s and 70s already had heard of our cause.

But my family, which never understood the subject, backed me, and I never suffered from being kicked out of the Army, and lucked out living in L. A. and finding ONE, and as I have said, I didn't think of the cause until then, in my late 20s, so I am not surprised that even with all the talk today, young people don't read much serious discussion about the subject, etc. I never had any religious worry about the subject. Had no job to lose. I did have sex with marines and sailors-mostly picking up hitchhikers, which doesn't work today, but did then, and I only brought up the subject if I felt the person would be interested, so didn't have many problems. (Melvin was 21 and I was 31 when I met him walking up 6th St to Pershing Square, just out of the Navy. We lived together most of 13 years, and after his joining the church in Las Vegas, etc he and Peter et all moved on, and now both of them are in bad health in PA and thinking of moving south.)And I've sure put out our thinking on the subject, and I agreed with Don & Dorr mostly. I see no conflict with saying the goal is our privacy, which means it is no body's business who we have sex with, but that no matter the cause etc, we have a right to full civil rights. That doesn't take a book to say.

Bill wrote:

I doubt I'll ever write a book. I left NGTF because my three-year term was up, and because of a preferential voting system designed to increase minority representation on the board (the details of which I don't remember), a black gay activist from Washington, D.C. (whose name was fairly well known at the time but which escapes me now), won election to the seat I had held.


Billy glover wrote:

Good question. And as some say about all of us, I would like to read your book/biography, as I don't know much about your work too. Why did you leave NGTF?

Wayne wrote:

Towards the end of the play, which is very much a' clef, Kramer tells of how he was driven out of his own organization, GMHC. One could say that in this tremendously powerful play Larry Kramer had the last laugh. Yet he would be the first to disagree, as he does in an open letter distributed to the Broadway audience as they leave the performance. He points out that in many parts of the world HIV/AIDS is still raging. This is truly scandalous.

I am told that Larry is putting the finishing touches on the shortened version of his enormous manuscript on the history of the USA from a gay standpoint. I imagine that academic scolds like me will find much to criticize. But I trust that I will be able to refrain: Larry Kramer is a truly heroic figure.


William wrote:

I appreciate Wayne's recollections.

Every time I hear about the discovery of AIDS, I'm puzzled by a vague recollection. Now would be an appropriate time to try to resolve the question, but I'm afraid I won't be getting around to it.

I served on the board of the then-National Gay Task Force from 1977 to 1980. At one of my last meetings, maybe the last, Co-Executive Director Bruce Voeller spoke to the board about a new disease that had begun to attract attention. This would have been about a year before the CDC's first Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report on what came to be called AIDS. I remember at the time associating the CDC report with what Bruce had talked about.

I wonder what documentation exists on what Bruce had to say and on what it was based on. Buried deep in a storage locker is an assemblage of NGTF papers from those days, which conceivably could contain minutes of that meeting that might shed light on the question. But if it was my last meeting, chances are I wouldn't have its minutes.

Wayne Dynes wrote:

Today, the fifth of June 2011 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the date when the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first cases of AIDS. Of course it was not called that then, and very little was known about it, except that gay men were disproportionately affected.

As I sensed the approach of this anniversary (I knew in a general way that the reports had surfaced in 1981), I decided to attend the Broadway revival of Larry Kramer's eviscerating play The Normal Heart. I had been putting this visit off for a reason that I shall shortly explain. Featuring Joe Mantello in the title role, the revival is superb. I cried.

Thirty years ago I was something of a gay activist. I ran the New York City chapter of the Gay Academic Union, a once vibrant organization that has been defunct for a good many years now. Yet GAU provided for some of us the graduate education in gay studies that one could not get in universities in those days. Nor even now, I fear, can one learn the essentials as all sorts of faddish pseudo-disciplines have come to dominate the field. But there are plenty of good books.

At all events in 1981 I was well informed about the new disease--I regularly read some 20 gay newspapers from the US and abroad. From this reading and conversations with others I realized that I needed fundamentally to change my behavior--apparently successfully, as I have been HIV negative ever since.

At the time my associates and I debated whether we should follow the lead of the Gay Men's Health Crisis and devote ourselves to the issue. Most of us concluded that it would be better to keep on with what we were doing, as that was where our skills and training could be best applied. And so I did, resulting in my books Homosexuality: A Research Guide (1987) and the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (1990).

Yet I have sometimes wondered what would have happened if I had thrown myself into the fray. That is why approached the prospect of seeing the play with a certain dread--which turned out not to be warranted at all.

Well, that was the path not chosen, and in retrospect I think that I was right, for I might not have been able to make much of a contribution to AIDS education. Other people have. As it is, though, I am satisfied with what I have been able to accomplish in my own area, modest though the harvest may be.

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