‘If we attempt to copy straight lifestyles we will only perpetuate the subterfuge, self-hatred and loneliness in which we’ve wallowed for far too long”..
This is an extract from a U.S. anthology entitled ‘The Gay Militants”. Since I took this book from the shelves of the late Dave P. Sargent in 1976, I’ve had sufficient time to reflect on both its message and impact. By way of mentioning Dave Sargent is a tribute to a dear, close friend who was among the first A.I.D.S. deaths in Australia in 1984. It was he, in a comparitively brief period of time, who worked tirelessly and compassionately to bring gay men and wimmin closer together through a reciprocal understanding of the common oppression that each of us are under going. A man whose approachability endeared, whose intellect raised questions and suggested some answers to the important issues affecting our lives as some of us continue existing in our communities.
As members of ‘The Gay Community’, this oppression has been exacerbated as we attempt to understand and deal with the devastation of the H.I.V. virus. And, of course. it is not the monopoly of the Gay Community to perform the vital functions of a caring and compassionate society.
It woudl seem apparent that almost every member of our community has now been touched. The death of a lover, a friend or relative. Not that I see lover and friend as mutually exclusive. Quite the contrary hopefully.
Some people have chose to participate in volunteer programs. These are necessary and provide concrete and tangible means in addressing the struggle. Some people are paid. Others choose to ‘go it alone’ as I describe it.
Among our friendship networks are those people who are H.I.V. positive and others who already have A.I.D.S. related illnesses. Within these friendships there is sufficient scope to exercise our care and compassion. People who are sick and dying need these friendships more than they may have previously been aware. The least we can do is be there when we are asked, and, sometimes when we want to be.
0ur emotional energies are called upon to listen, to support and to extend compassion to one another. How conscious are we of this need? Discrimination does occur among our brothers and sisters. It is a fact. It is not my intention to list examples. The sadness is that it exists within our own community. Hence my exhortation to raise our consciousness of compassion.
In the wider community, care and compassion don’t seem to have all that high a profile. It is not chic. Avarice and aggression occupy a higher place on some peronal and public agendas.
There are people in the gay community who care. There are certainly people outside the gay community who care. These are not the issues. It was interesting to note that while walking through the city on World AIDS Day in 1993, in my experience, wimmin ribbon wearers outnumbered men ten to one.
How we choose to raise our consciousness of compassion and care, as I see it, is important. That we do it is obligatory. We need to be a resource to one another.
When my mother was dying of cancer a relative asked if there was something they could do. In my opinion, when we need to ask how to care we are a long way from understanding what it means to exist as gay men and wimmin in our community.
Not only is it important to maintain our rage, we must maintain our care and compassion
Lloyd A. Blakeley. Melbourne 1993