By Patrick Davis
Humans of New York is a popular social media account showcasing photographs and stories from the streets of New York.
It has the uncanny ability to make its followers cry, laugh, smile, and think — sometimes all at once.
This story discusses a gay man’s experiences with his sexuality and faith. Another one tells a tale of heartbreak and loss.
One of the more recent posts is a candid look at the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
‘It was a tsunami,’ the post starts unceremoniously.
‘In April of ’82 there was an article in the New York Times about a new gay cancer, and everyone thought “oh well.” I was in my twenties. I wasn’t worried about a thing,’ the man, who identifies as Carl George in a comment, describes in his post.
The crisis took hold in the city, though knowledge of AIDS was largely a mixed bag.
‘But then every week you started to hear about somebody becoming ill,’ he continues. ‘My boss was one of the first. He was a famous florist. He went into the hospital on Thanksgiving and was dead by Easter.
‘I lost most of my friends. A lot of the first men to die were privileged. They were closeted, corporate white men.’
George’s outlook on the time is refreshingly open and honest.
‘During the day they were bankers but at night they’d hit the leather clubs and bars. But they learned their privilege didn’t matter after they got sick. They were just “gay.”‘
He then turns to the developing fight against AIDS and for recognition from the government.
‘We had to fight for AIDS to be recognized by the government. We joined together with people of color, and junkies, and prostitutes. It was a beautiful thing, really.’
George also acknowledges the contribution from women in the community: ‘Our feminist lesbian sisters taught us how to protest because they’d been doing it for decades. They showed us how to organize meetings, and bring people together, and force the government to the table—things we’d never had to think about as white men.’
Here’s the original post:
In a comment below the post, George clarifies a few things, the first being the date of the NYT article.
‘The date of the NY Time article about a “rare cancer” seen in 41 homosexuals was on July 3, 1981, so I had that date wrong – my bad – but it was a long time and so many lives ago…’
George also discusses his own identity, writing he ‘never considered’ himself to be a white man.
‘I’m of Lebanese and French Canadian descent and as a child was kind of cinnamon/olive brown and oftentimes teased mercilessly because of that,’ he writes. ‘I’ve always checked “other” on the census and applications because I never quite know how to answer the race question.’
He also says ‘it would be wrong to assume that IV drug users and sex workers were all people of color or poor people’.
The post has received over 123,000 reactions on Facebook.