Hop Against Homophobia And Transphobia – #HAHAT

Posted: 17th May 2013 by Kendall McKenna in Blog Hop
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THANK YOU FOR ‘HOPPING’ IN THE HOP AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA  

2013 2Our hop, this year, begins on May 17th, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Please take a little time to read about this day, while you’re hopping around and visiting authors. 

I participated in this very same hop last year. It was one of my first ever, and I had a wonderful time. When I chose my homophobia topic last year, I chose something from the WayBack Machine, because I thought it would be unique, no one else was likely to have a story quite like it. It turned out I was right. My post last year, about the early days of the Public Health response to the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic, received a huge reaction with a lot of emotional comments, and a large number of people saying they had no idea this type of thing had gone on.

Instead of thinking up a new topic for this year’s hop, I’m recycling last year’s. This is a topic that affects everyone. It’s no longer isolated to a single group (not that it truly ever was). Regardless of your sexual orientation, and regardless of the gender you self-identify, everyone is vulnerable, if we’re taking risks.

The following is a REVISED version of my 2012 post. The content is the same, but I changed some wording to account for the passage of a year, and some of the events we’ve experienced during that time.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention – THERE’S FREE STUFF AT THE END!

~*~

I grew up during, what is now referred to as, The Reagan Era. I was raised in a relatively conservative home, too. Only now, my home would be considered moderate to liberal. That’s how frightening things have become in this country, with the attempts to turn us into a theocracy and the open hatred and bigotry being directed at women and homosexuals.

While history seems to be giving Reagan a mixed report card, I feel he did more harm than good. His policies were extended and applied until labor has now been stripped of most hard-won rights, and the middle and lower classes have been gutted. However, what I want to discuss in this post is the one policy I witnessed doing its damage, the policy I knew at that time, was wrong.

Ronald Reagan’s homophobia and out-of-touch conservative religious views allowed the AIDS epidemic to grow and flourish in the United States.

Within my lifetime, one president has allowed a disease to demolish a group of people for reasons of hate, and another has made history by publicly supporting that same group, from a place of love and acceptance.

You see, I didn’t just come of age during the rise of the AIDS epidemic, watching it all unfold from a distance. I was on the front lines. One of the ways I worked my way through college was by holding down a job at the County Health Department’s newly formed HIV testing clinic. Despite the federal government’s stand that no money should be given to testing and research – because it was a ‘gay’ disease and if left alone, would kill off all the fags – saner minds at the state level and within the Center for Disease Control (CDC) prevailed – and research, testing, information, condom and clean needle distribution all began in earnest.

I was nineteen years old the first time I realized my government was telling an entire community of people that they deserved this kind of horrendous death, because God hated them for who they loved and how they had sex. I realized, with stunning clarity, that the best way to gain empathy and understanding for a group of people you’re indifferent to, is to watch them dying while their government tells them they deserve it. You lose your indifference pretty quickly.

Now, if you don’t remember, or if you’re too young to remember, in the early days of the disease, AIDS was 100% fatal. This was before anti-virals that could hold a person in HIV+ status for decades. Back then, you were ‘positive’, then you developed full-blown AIDS, then you died a painful and ugly death.

304798_419575888079371_1266085531_nBecause the federal government blocked funding for AIDS research, it was the French who discovered the retro-virus that causes HIV. At the time, they mocked the U.S. saying; ‘Only the American’s would believe a virus can choose who it infects, based on the kind of sex they have.’

Think about that and see if you can wrap your brain around how many people have died of AIDS simply due to homophobia.

It wasn’t until HIV began to infect straight women at an alarming rate that the federal government finally woke up. Well, sort of. Once the disease peaked in gay men, the fastest rising infection rate was in straight women. Well, the government refused to loosen the purse strings too much because it declared that the only women getting AIDS were IV drug users. They were bringing it on themselves by sharing dirty needles.

Well, yes, this is true. But it’s not the whole story. Straight women were becoming the victims of homophobia because they were married to, and having unprotected sex with, closeted gay men. We all know them, and our hearts break for them; the ones so victimized by institutionalized homophobia that they live a ‘straight’ life, and get their needs met ‘on the down low’.

No one in a position of power wanted to acknowledge this fact.

Then came the time I stood up in a meeting and advocated for funding to be set aside for outreach to lesbians, so they would receive education, testing and treatment. The CDC told us to use money for outreach to educate segments of the population who believed themselves to be at risk. They didn’t actually have to be at risk, but simply have enough inaccurate information to believe they were. Lesbians were distressed at this time because of the close community ties between themselves and gay men. We knew, at that time, they weren’t a high risk group. We’d learned a lot about transmission by this time. But the lesbian community didn’t have the same information.

The money was put into an outreach program for straight women; condoms but no needles.

I didn’t bother to hide my belief that homophobia was marginalizing the lesbian community and denying them services, in favor of the straight community. This, despite the erroneous belief that the straight women who were to receive services, were all IV drug users.

Ponder that for a little while and I think you’ll see how outrageous and absurd it all was.

One of my co-workers from back then invited me to her ‘wedding’. She was a lesbian. So, I attended my first inter-racial, lesbian wedding, held in a lesbian bar. We gave gifts with a checkerboard theme. We all recorded video messages to the happy couple, saying that it might not be legal now, but wait a few years, and it would be.

How little we knew.

400714_375633225878456_1437982831_nWe weren’t naïve. It was just that we truly believed the country was moving forward socially. We had high hopes for the youthful and vital President Clinton. I still believe he meant well and had the best of intentions with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Time marched on and things seem to get worse instead of better. I watched the news of the murder of Matthew Shepherd with horror. I watched the Mormon Church buy the passage of Proposition 8. But I’ve also watched the rise of NoH8 and It Gets Better.

They say the greatest crime of all is if a good man does nothing. Well, about this time last year, a good man stood up and did something. The first black man to be President of the United States of America, stood up and said that all people deserve the right to marry if they choose, and to have the rights and privileges of such afforded to them, regardless of their gender or that of the person they marry. It was a watershed moment.

I was under no illusion, nor am I today, that his words would change anything in the short term. What his words have done, is to draw a line in the sand and put the bigots squarely on the wrong side of it. As with women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement, once the policy is implemented, it will lead to a change in attitudes. Slowly, painfully to be sure, but there will be change.

On May 14th, 2013, Minnesota became the twelfth state in the union to sign marriage equality into law. Next month, the Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on DOMA, and the fraudulently purchased Proposition 8. If they do their jobs correctly, the justices will rule in such a way that California will join the states with marriage equality. We used to be among the first, but I’ll be happy if we can be among the first 20.

Until that time, I’ll continue to write my beloved M/M erotic romances, advocate for the GLBT community, volunteer with the planning committee for my local Pride, and ban the word ‘fag’ from being used inside my own home.

FireForEffectKendallMcKenna3~*~

As a writer of M/M Erotic Romances, I have to give consideration to the possibility of homophobia affecting my characters, or occurring as a plot point. My characters are U.S. Marines, and my stories take place before and after the repeal of DADT. My paranormal series treats homosexuality (and lycanthropy) as commonplace, and completely accepted. It’s my hope that, by writing stories that treat homophobia as a non-issue, it will expose to that way of thinking, and somehow influence them in a positive way. Much like the self-fulfilling prophecy; if I write it, if I live it, if I expect it and demand it, someday it will become reality. I’m not naïve. I’m hopeful.

All the information you need on my books can be found here on my website. You’ll find buy links there, too.

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  1. laurie g says:

    hi kendal!

    great post. that’s one of the reasons i left the church and haven’t gone back. i remember taking confirmation classes during the aids scare and even at my tender age was appalled at my priest’s attitude towards the gay community and didn’t want to be a part of any group that would think so callously of a group of people because of whom they wanted to be with. but it’s nice to see shows like spartacus finally showing real gay relationships thou 🙂

    and would love to win a copy of nights in canaan

    parisfan_ca@yaho.com

  2. DebraG says:

    Great post! I feel bad for anyone who is the recipient of prejudice but especially for this community. It seems to be accepted by so many.

  3. Jackie McKenzie says:

    Great thoughts Kendall! I was a little young back in Reagan’s time, but I do remember hearing some small amounts about the early days of AIDS. It makes me want to vomit when I hear these hate mongers say that someone in the LGBT community “gets what they deserve” when they get AIDS.What concerns me even more is that those people are raising children and teaching them the same thing. If we can’t change policy we won’t change opinion. I hope, hope, hope that the supreme court does what we all know is right! Thank you Kendall for the wonderful thoughts.

  4. DarienMoya says:

    GREAT POST!! There is still ways to go but the progression being made is still one to celebrate.

    Would like Nights in Canaan

  5. KimberlyFDR says:

    Thank you for taking part in the hop! A great post indeed.

    kimberlyFDR@yahoo.com

  6. Suze says:

    it is beyond belief now how governments reacted back in the day. at least progress is being made now, lets hope the momentum continues to grow

    Fire for Effect if I’m a lucky commentator!

  7. Crissy M says:

    I have all your books, so don’t count me in…I just wanted to say how powerful and wonderful this article is. You’re right. I too am under no illusions that what Obama said last year would automatically change things. He did draw a line in the sand…and that line is finally showing results. I have hope now. Hope that someday…maybe even someday soon…my cousin and his partner of 6 years will have the right to marry and be legally recognized by the government. That they will have the same rights that are afforded to the rest of my family simply because we were born straight. I look forward to this exciting time of change and growth.

  8. I was a teenager during the height of the AIDS scare. I didn’t know anyone who was (openly) gay and homosexuality wasn’t something anyone in my family ever talked about, so I didn’t think much about AIDS. It was “their” problem. Then I saw the film Philadelphia and I cried and cried and cried. And cared. It’s really important for people to talk about these things in a human (as opposed to scientific or clinical, I guess) way. Our younger generations are far more educated than I ever was and I’m hopeful that tomorrow’s politicians will be more socially responsible.

    Fantastic post! xoxo madisonparklove@gmail.com

  9. Joe says:

    Thanks for posting this. Let’s hope that we keep making progress ever more quickly. Please count me in for a copy of Strength of the Pack.

  10. Jess says:

    Great post, but a painful one. I was a teenager in the 80s and I remember those days well. I also agree with you about the poignancy of California and Prop 8. I was just talking with my moms the other day about how much of the current momentum is thanks to Gavin Newsom saying it was legal in San Francisco, and yet we’re still waiting. *sigh*

  11. Beth says:

    That was a great post! I am too young to remember the beginning of AIDS, but I know many stories. I thought that you did a great job with the history, as well as highlighting the hope for the future.

    Anyway, please count me in for the giveaway. I would love a copy of the Strength of the Pack. Thank you.

    Beth

  12. johanna snodgrass says:

    A thought provoking post. I remember clearly the Reagan era….in my mid-late 20s at the time and terrified of AIDS. I remember thinkin…did I have sex with the wrong type of person…and then I remember thinkin….how were they wrong and I was not…that is when my blinders began to disintegrate. With that one thought I could see how hypocritical I was being…why were any of my sexual partners the wrong type but I wasn’t? Sheez! How simple a thing to change if you just realize the way of your thinking.
    I hope that made sense. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us on a topic that still needs to be addressed and to be remembered and not repeated.

    I would luv a copy of Fire for Effect….If I happen to win! *grin*

    hugs from your fan,
    jo

  13. Sarah says:

    Thank you – that was a very interesting post (which gave me goosebumps!). I’m in the UK and remember some of the early tv adverts about HIV/AIDS – they were designed to scare people (and did). But I think they were after the disease had been seen in heterosexuals and there was a bit of a panic.
    And now to read some more of the Hop posts – it’s been very educational so far 🙂

  14. Marie says:

    Thank you for your great post. Thanks for participating in the blog hop!

  15. H.B. says:

    Thank you for the post, it was very informative and interesting to read. Also thank you for taking part in the hop.

    I would like a chance to copy win a copy of Brothers In Arms.

    humhumbum@yahoo.com

  16. Löni says:

    All that law passing is great and a good step – but the fight shouldn’t stop there. There is no reason why there should be a law legalising same sex marriage there should be a law about the marriage of people. I don’t see the need for a distinction between a same sex marriage and different sex marriage (well at least that’s the way it is here, can’t say anything about the US laws). But then I’ve been called a hopelessly naive and a bit delusional when it comes to life.

  17. Karl says:

    I would love to win Strength of the Pack.

  18. Lena Grey says:

    Hi Kendall. You’ve certainly done your part in the battle for equality. Thank you! I’ve not read any of your titles yet, so if i win, surprise me. LOL Seriously, thank you for being part of such a worthy endeavor.

    lena.grey.iam@gmail.com

  19. Nancy S says:

    Ugh, the Reagan Years. I shudder when they try to deify him, so many wrongs done during those dark days.

  20. Judi P says:

    Thank you for being a part of this blog hop.

    heh… I would love to win Brothers In Arms (The Recon Diaries #1)

    Judi
    arella3173_loveless@yahoo(dot)com

  21. CarrieAnn says:

    Don’t count me in the raffle, as I have all your books. But I just wanted to say, Thank you for participating, and thank you for this informative post! 🙂

  22. Cindy says:

    Loved your post – I grew up in the same era. What struck me – as a reader of m/m stories – was your comment to make homophobia a non-issue. Not sure about the homophobia, but I can tell you that these stories have simply become Love stories to me. I still see that the main characters are male/male, female/female or a mix with transgender or multiple partners, but it has become a non-issue to me. I enjoy the stories, the love and growth – period. I just wish others would make it a non-issue also. Thanks for your support in this hop.

  23. Peggy says:

    I am a nurse and see people affected by HIV daily, it is one of the most horrendous diseases and I can not comprehend having anything but compassion for these people. Your post was really great.

  24. Trix says:

    I hope things will continue to evolve in the right direction, and sharing stories can only help! I’d love FIRE FOR EFFECT for Kindle if I win…

  25. Shirley Ann Speakman says:

    Great post. I’m from the UK and had just left school when the Aids/HIV adverts came on the TV they scared the life out of me.

  26. Urbanista says:

    Wonderful post! The entire time AIDS research was thwarted in this country, it was common knowledge that it was rampant in a particular heterosexual population in West Africa. So much for the “gay” disease, although Africans didn’t matter either. Who’d have thought the Supreme Court would ever discuss marriage equality? The first civil rights cases presented to the court lost their battle, but eventually, they started to,win. That’s what’s happening now, but we’re still in early days. I hope it doesn’t take forty five years, though…
    Urb
    brendurbanist @gmail. com

  27. Cornelia says:

    Thanks for the post and hop.

  28. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful post. We have come so far as a society and yet we have so much farther to go. One day we will get there.

  29. Juliana says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your post in this blog hop! Such an important subject and information. I would love Strength of the Pack if I won.

    OceanAkers @ aol.com

  30. Thanks for posting about the history of AIDS in the US and your personal experience. I worked at an HIV prevention agency for many years (from the mid 90s to just a year ago), and I especially appreciate your anger, frustration and — most importantly — advocacy. I think the only good thing to be said about AIDS is that it brought a community together, from LGBT to straight allies and more recently people of color. AIDS is not over and we need to continue to speak out about inequality; but because of people’s efforts, like yours, we’ve made it better for those who are vulnerable to the disease and those living with it.

  31. Laurie P says:

    Love is love, in all it’s many forms and is never wrong! Period, end of subject. And I remember all too well the hysteria of those years. As for a prize if I win…I have all of your books but NONE of those ever elusive dog tags….

    goaliemom0040 (at) gmail.com

  32. Erica Pike says:

    I’m also hopeful 🙂 President Obama is the best thing that ever happened to the USA and I have strong faith in him.

    Thanks for bringing up the subject of HIV again. I met a man last year that suffers from AIDS. It’s terrible to see him go through it, but he insists on going on with his life even though he’s suffering. A man to be admired 🙂

    Hmm…which book? Um… Probably Strength of the Pack. Kris has been raving about it on facebook 😛

    eripike at gmail dot com

  33. Emily W. says:

    I loved your post Kendall. I am sincerely hoping for the overthrow of Prop 8. Thanks so much for participating and sharing!

  34. Penumbra says:

    I’d love to win Strength of the Pack please.

    Thank you 🙂

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

  35. Patricia Nelson says:

    Your blog exposes a part of history that many didn’t want known. Thank you very much.
    I’ll pick one if I win. =}

    npat78@yahoo.com

  36. Jade Crystal says:

    Great post! I knew that homophobia had a lot to do with the spread of HIV/AIDS, but I never realized just how bad it was. My parents are big supporters of Reagan and were quite upset when Obama was elected. I do have issue with a few things in regards to Obama, personally, but he has already said and done so much in support of gay marriage and equal rights and that is enough to make me appreciate him as a president. I am so excited to see more and more states stepping up to do the right thing…but I’m not holding my breath for my own state (Southeastern US). Thanks for sharing.

    Were I to win, I would want Strength of the Pack. Gotta start from the beginning. 🙂

  37. Sherry S. says:

    Great post! It’s a shame how our government and people act. Thank you for taking part in the hop!
    sstrode at scrtc dot com