THANK YOU FOR ‘HOPPING’ IN THE HOP AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA  http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com

HAHAT 2014

Our 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.  http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/

This is the third year in row that I’ve participated in this hop. My post the first year was very impactful and informative, so I recycled it for last year’s hop. I realized that I should use the same information this year, because it’s important that we never forget these events, or their impact on the LGBTQ communities.

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.

Because 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.

We 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 two years ago, a good man stood up and did something. The first black man to be elected 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.

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

~*~

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 readers 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. http://kendallmckenna.com/books/

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  1. Erica Pike says:

    Thanks for signing up, Kendall 🙂

  2. Cindy. says:

    The fight against Aids started just has I was getting old enough to understand it. I am sad to say I never stood and took a voice in the fight. Now, however I do my best to support my local groups and support authors by purchasing the wonderful books you all write. I am but one white straight mom and grand mom, but if I can get my family views changed that I can help change everything. Hate and intolerance is taught, but not in my house or within my hearing. Thanks for participating again this year, I have enjoyed this HOP each year!

  3. Alexis Duran says:

    Great post. Thank you for sharing and the reminder that we have so far to go. I too like to write fantasy wherein homosexuality is a non-issue. Such a nice place to be. Oh, and I love your covers. Yum.

  4. stella says:

    you wrote an amazing post Kendall, it brought tears in my eyes… thank you so much

    cvale AT virgilio DOT com

  5. Still to this day, I miss so many that were lost in those ugly, early days. We’ve come so far in some respects, with so much further to go in others.

    Thanks for hopping along!

  6. DebraG says:

    It is a great post and should be read every year.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  7. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this post, your stories, and for everything you do to bring about positive change.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    lkbherring64(at)gmail(dot)com

  8. Shorty Chelle says:

    Great post. Thank you for the giveaway.

    marsh10@netzero.com

  9. Lee Todd says:

    great post! please count me in

    leetee2007@hotmail.com

  10. H.B. says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and taking part in the hop.

  11. That whole era when AIDS was running rampant was horrendous. Now, even though we have a president that supports equality, we have bigots gaining national attention through the media, trying to motivate people to hate. In spire of that, more people are embracing equality. One by one states legalize gay marriage. We have to hope that hearts are completely changed one by one, too…for the better!

  12. A powerful message, Kendall, and a frightening one. Homophobia and transphobia turning against the perpetrators of ignorance and hate.
    Thank you for participating. 🙂

  13. Shirley Ann Speakman says:

    Great post I’m from England I was young and at school when the Aids epidemic was at it’s height and it was so scary but we get a lot of information from school and there were a lot of adverts on the TV.

    ShirleyAnn@speakman40.freeserve.co.uk

  14. Deborah H says:

    Great blog post! & I love your series the tameness of the wolf can’t wait for the new one!

    Deborahhansen52@yahoo.com

  15. Penumbra says:

    I don’t remember much of the AIDs era except for one thing. I heard from my mother that people who used to be our family friends, their son had died of AIDS. I don’t know if it’s true because I haven’t had contact with that family in a very long time. I guess my life was pretty sheltered.

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

  16. Rissa says:

    Wonderful Post! Thank for being a part of the hop!
    raynman1979(at)yahoo(dot)com

  17. Roger Grace says:

    this was a great post. thanks for being part of the hop.

    rojoroaors@yahoo.com

  18. Michelle says:

    This was an excellent post and a fantastic hop. Thanks.

    MHupp20032003@yahoo.com

  19. thank you for this

  20. bn100 says:

    Nice of you to participate

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  21. Elayne says:

    A thought producing blog, that bears repeating yearly at least till everybody gets the message. It’s been an interesting Hop so far.

  22. Jason says:

    Excellent post and a sad state of affairs. I came out at 21 but was not totally comfortable with my sexuality until age 40. Almost 20 years afraid of discovering what I did and did not like out of fear and lack of education. Out, proud and afraid. Thank you for your stories and support!

  23. JenCW says:

    Great post! While I was old enough to remember the AIDS epidemic, I was young enough that I didn’t remember that the government wouldn’t fund research. That is insane! Thank you for reminding us where we were and how far we have come as a country. I can only hope it continues to get better.

    jczlapin(at)gmail (dot)com

  24. Juliana says:

    Thank you so much for posting again.
    OceanAkers @ aol.com

  25. KimberlyFDR says:

    Thanks for taking part in the hop!

    kimberlyFDR@yahoo.com

  26. marcthf says:

    Thank you for drawing lines in the sand and taking a stand. While there will be no instant gratification with changes that are visibly directly, I think it is very important and agree that changes will come. like the sharp edges of glass that are smoothed over by the sea over time 😉

  27. Sherry S. says:

    Great post! I barely remember when the AID’s crisis started and I didn’t know about Reagan’s opinions.
    sstrode at scrtc dot com

  28. Wendy H says:

    Thank you for participating! wendynjason04@gmail.com