Pride Means Tenacity - Pride 2023

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that a cohesive and unified front on all levels, both personal and public, is the key to helping everyone to survive. What happens then, if a disease appears that seems to primarily affect a particular marginalized group? This is what happened in 1981 when a mysterious illness appeared  in the bodies of five previously healthy gay men. What was then reported by the CDC was an autoimmune disease that they had not previously encountered before. This disease would go on to become what we now know as HIV/AIDS.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic tore through queer communities, destroying people’s lives, livelihoods, and families. Due to the social construction of HIV/AIDS as a “gay disease,” it was deemed socially acceptable to allocate less funding and research to its cure. It is estimated that by 1989, around 50,000 people had died of the disease, and that number continues to grow.

Though the situation was grim, LGBTQIA+ people did not give up. The queer community rallied together to provide safety and comfort to those infected, create programs for education on safer sex, and to protest and call for health authorities to acknowledge the dire state of the epidemic. In the iconic words of David Wojnarowicz’s bespoke denim jacket worn at a 1988 protest on the steps of the F.D.A. in the United States; “IF I DIE OF AIDS - FORGET BURIAL- JUST DROP MY BODY ON THE STEPS OF THE F.D.A.” This now-famous message indicates the greatest challenge for those advocating for the ill: convincing those who were not a part of the queer community, and especially those in positions of power, that LGBTQIA+ lives were worth fighting for.

The toll of the HIV/AIDS epidemic can never be properly measured. It is estimated that an entire generation of LGBTQIA+ persons has been lost, and we continue to see the absence of these individuals today. It is only through mutual aid, resilience, education, and scientific research that we are able to cherish those queer elders who are still with us.

We encourage you to give support towards HIV/AIDS research and advocacy this month in honour of those who have been lost and of those who are still with us.