Tag Archives: RIP

READ: AIDS Activist Peter Staley's Emotionally Raw Eulogy for Larry Kramer

READ: AIDS Activist Peter Staley’s Emotionally Raw Remembrance Larry Kramer

Longtime AIDS activist Peter Staley knew Larry Kramer quite well. Both were influential members of ACT UP — Kramer being one of the group’s co founders — and Staley would later go on to leave ACT UP to launch another HIV organization, the Treatment Action Group (TAG) in January 1992.

On Wednesday Staley wrote his remembrances of Kramer shortly after his death was announced. Despite disagreements and tensions between the two men, Staley makes clear that while not perfect, Kramer was the “spark” that pushed the government and pharmaceutical industry to take action against the disease.

I was just a kid when I walked into my first ACT UP meeting, just weeks after Larry Kramer’s movement-launching speech in March of ’87. I hadn’t heard about the speech. I didn’t even know who he was. But I would hear of it soon enough. Larry’s life became part of the steep learning curve I desperately climbed that year.

We were all kids, except for Larry, Maxine, and a few others. He even called us “my kids.” I tried to grab a seat close to him at Woody’s after Monday night meetings, where ACT UP’s most committed members would stay up late, deconstructing the meeting, debating our future, and dishing the group’s gossip over many beers.

Those moments were the happiest I’ve ever seen him. He was finally witnessing the community he dreamed of. He loved our youthful energy and picking our brains. For me and many others, Larry became a father figure, asking about our lives, setting us up on dates — my relationship and lifelong friendship with Kevin Sessums was because of Larry — and genuinely caring about our struggles and fears.

Those moments were the happiest I’ve ever seen him. He was finally witnessing the community he dreamed of. He loved our youthful energy and picking our brains. For me and many others, Larry became a father figure, asking about our lives, setting us up on dates — my relationship and lifelong friendship with Kevin Sessums was because of Larry — and genuinely caring about our struggles and fears.

We forget that ACT UP was born six years into the crisis. Six lost years, as the country and its president ignored a new virus that was slaughtering a community they despised. Larry told us to fight back. In short order, we guilt-tripped an entire nation of people and two Republican presidents to react. By 1990, the AIDS research budget at the NIH hit one billion dollars a year.

It was a movement that caused that sudden shift, but Larry was its spark. Those tax dollars resulted in treatments that keep 25 million people with HIV alive today.

When TAG split off from ACT UP in ’92, our relationship took its first of many blows. But by then, we had too much shared history to turn our backs on. Too many meetings. Too many phone calls. Too many shared losses. A deep well of mutual respect set in. Even though we both came to view each other as deeply flawed, the respect remained.

He accused me of “destroying ACT UP,” and for not being angry enough in the years since. I accused him of being woefully out of touch. By the early 90s, he was a broken record that’s been skipping ever since. He never understood science, which became a prerequisite for effective AIDS activism. He was a borderline conspiracy theorist. The clarity of vision he had in the 80s turned into a blindness of sorts, especially around the remarkable progress younger LGBTQ Americans have fought for and won.

Even his early legacy became muddied for me over time. There were two Larry’s back then. The first deserves every statute that gets built in his honor — the Larry who used anger to launch the two main branches of our community’s AIDS response, the beautiful self-care response that Gay Men’s Health Crisis valiantly built while the world looked away, and the activist response that forced that same world to look, and respond.

The second Larry was the moralist whose finger-wagging, like all finger-wagging, brought adulation from other moralists, but had no effect on the rest of us. AIDS was not a price we paid for finally building communities of freedom on both coasts. There have been only two sexually transmitted pathogens in all of human history that have killed in the millions — syphilis and HIV — and they hit us 500 years apart. AIDS was not an inevitable result of gay life in the 1970s. As an epidemiological event, it was simply bad luck.

To this day, gay men carry the added burden of a society that sexually shames us. Larry played a part in this. To be fair, most of this critique is inside baseball. To the larger world, Larry was our community’s greatest advocate. He constantly told straight America that his gay brothers and sisters were the most beautiful people on earth. He pushed back against the hate directed at us like no advocate before him. Larry loved gay people, and spent his entire life fighting for us.

I just got off the phone with Tony Fauci. I broke the news to him via text earlier today. We’re both surprised how hard this is hitting. We both cried on the call.

I’ve told Larry to fuck-off so many times over the last thirty years that I didn’t expect to break down sobbing when he died. His husband David kept the recent hospitalization under wraps, not wanting to deal with a million phone calls. I found out only last week, and only after Larry was doing much better. As of Saturday, he was still improving. I only heard this morning that everything spiraled in the last 48 hours.

Larry’s timing couldn’t be worse. The community he loved can’t come together — as only we can — in a jam-packed room, to remember him. We can’t cry as one and hear our community’s most soaring words, with arms draped on shoulders in loving support. Broadway has no lights to dim, which it surely would have.

Can we please do this next year?

Fuck, this hurts. I keep flashing back to those early ACT UP meetings. I put on a good show, always in mission-mode. But the more I’ve written about those years, the more I’ve remembered how scared I was — diagnosed when I was 24 years old. It was all bottled up, but I was terrified. Those meetings gave me the only hope I could find back then. Larry orchestrated the launch of ACT UP. He plotted with Eric Sawyer and others, planting calls for a new group during the Q&A after his speech.

Larry Kramer founded a movement, and I’m alive because of that. Millions more can say the same. All his faults fade away in the wake of our thanks.

Savannah’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” Drag Legend The Lady Chablis Dies At Age 59

Savannah's Legendary “Midnight in the Garden and Evil” Drag Queen Lady Chablis Dies At Age 59

Benjamin Edward Knox known professionally as The Lady Chablis, Savannah’s most famous and fabulash drag queen has passed away at 59.

Atlanta’s Project Q reports:

The legendary drag performer Lady Chablis – a fixture at Club One in Savannah and drag centerpiece of  “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”– died on Thursday.

The death of the iconic performer was announced by Club One, where Lady Chablis has performed since the club opened nearly 30 years ago. She died surrounded by friends and family at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital, according to WTOC. She was 59.

“Chablis always wanted to give the audience, be it 15 or 1500, the best that she had. With her declining health, she regretted that her body wouldn’t allow her to give more,” Club One said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

Lady Chablis has been in failing health for some time. In a 2013 appearance on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” she looked frail. Though that didn’t stop Lady Chablis from twirling for the Housewives.

“Lady Chablis is the original drag queen in Savannah, Georgia. She is history honey,” NeNe Leakes said during the episode.

In John Berendt’s best-selling novel he wrote that he met Chablis as she was returning home from having a hormone injection.

In her book Hiding my Candy, Chablis said she had not undergone gender reassignment surgery.

Regardless of what gender she or he was farewll Lady Chablis.  “Two tears in a bucket”

 

HATE CRIME: Gay Man Found Bound, Beaten, and Murdered In Houston, TX

Marc Poumer Hate Crime

The family of 28-year-old Marc Pourner became concerned last week when he did not turn up for work in Houston, TX and reported him missing.

On Saturday, police identified his remains and vehicle in Montgomery County where his body was found bound and gagged with evidence of blunt force trauma to his head near his truck which was set on fire.

The victim’s father, Mark Pourner told KTRK-TV that he believes the murder is a hate crime because Marc was gay.

“In our discussion with the detectives one of the first things I told them when they briefed us this morning was that one of the things that struck me about how this crime was carried out was the speed and cold efficiency that it took place with.”

According to About News, the tip came from a “person of interest” who is connected to the victim

The case has not been “officially” declared a hate crime at the time of this writing.

Our prayers are with Marc and his family.

Beau Biden, Son of Vice President Joe Biden, Dies Of Brain Cancer At Age 46

Joe Biden and Beau Biden

 

Joseph “Beau” Biden III, son of Vice President Joe Biden, died Saturday at age 46  after battling brain cancer, according to the vice president’s office.

“Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known,” his father wrote in a statement.

In 2013, Beau Biden was treated at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston after he became disoriented and weak while on vacation. He was diagnosed with brain cancer, and after undergoing surgery was given a clean bill of health.

The cancer returned this spring and Biden pursued aggressive treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the vice president’s office said. He died Saturday evening, surrounded by his extended family.

Beau Biden is the second of Joe Biden’s children to precede their father in death; the vice president’s 1-year-old daughter Naomi was killed in a Christmastime car accident in 1972. The crash also took the life of Joe Biden’s first wife, Neilia, who was Beau’s mother.

After serving as a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia for nine years, and briefly working in private practice, Beau Biden won his first election for attorney general in 2006 by 13,000 votes. When he was re-elected in 2010, Beau Biden increased his winning margin to 149,000 votes over his Republican competitor.

During his time in office, Biden took aggressive tactics to tamp down on child sex crimes perpetrators, netting 180 convictions. He also went after banks and mortgage lenders for their roles in perpetrating crooked loans.

A captain in the Delaware Army National Guard, Beau Biden was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2008, serving in an administrative post with the 261st Signal Brigade.

Beau Biden, like his father was dedicated to fight for  LGBT Equality.

In April 2013, Beau Biden joined Delaware Governor Jack Markell in supporting marriage equality legislation, and the governor signed it into law in May.

A month later, he urged state lawmakers to pass legislation that would establish legal protections based on gender identity.

“I support providing protections from violence and discrimination based on gender identity and expression under Delaware law,” Biden said in a video released by Equality Delaware.

On Saturday, Vice President Biden said in his statement, “More than his professional accomplishments, Beau measured himself as a husband, father, son and brother. His absolute honor made him a role model for our family. Beau embodied my father’s saying that a parent knows success when his child turns out better than he did.”

President Barack Obama, writing in a statement, quoted Irish poet William Butler Yeats — a favorite of the vice president’s — in honoring Beau Biden’s life.

Yeats wrote, “I have believed the best of every man. And find that to believe it is enough to make a bad man show him at his best or even a good man swing his lantern higher.”

“Beau Biden believed the best of us all,” Obama said. “For him, and for his family, we swing our lanterns higher.”

Back2stonewall’s sincerest condolences go out to the Biden family in this their hour of loss.

George McGovern America’s Proud “Bleeding Heart Liberal” Passes Away At The Age Of 90

At approximately 5:15 am CT this morning peacefully at the Dougherty Hospice House in Sioux Falls, SD.

McGovern a historian, author and U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and the Democratic Party presidential nominee in the 1972 presidential election was a staunch anti-war advocate and ally to the LGBT communities fight for civil rights.

McGovern was an exemplar of modern American liberalism. He became most known for his outspoken opposition to the growing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He staged a brief nomination run in the 1968 presidential election as a stand-in for the assassinated Robert F. Kennedy. The subsequent McGovern–Fraser Commission fundamentally altered the Democratic presidential nominating process, by greatly increasing the number of caucuses and primaries and reducing the influence of party insiders.

McGovern’s campaigns remain definitional political experiences for millions of Americans because they were about more than politics. They were about a deep vision of the republic’s past, present and future; so much so that his 1972 campaign slogan was “Come home, America.”  And was the first Democratic Presidential Candidate who pushed the DNC to include a 7 point plank for gay rights.

Generations of Democrats recognized McGovern as a North Star hero, just as generations of Republicans made him the face of what they fear: a politics of compassion and decency that would, in the words of one of McGovern’s heroes, former Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler, “place humanity above the dollar.”

McGovern once said, “During my years in Congress and for the four decades since, I’ve been labeled a ‘bleeding-heart liberal.’ It was not meant as a compliment, but I gladly accept it. My heart does sometimes bleed for those who are hurting in my own country and abroad.”

George McGovern was a REAL AMERICAN. 

May he rest in peace.

Comic Alan Sues Dies At Age 85 – Uncle Al Will Always Be The Kiddies Pal

Alan Sues, best known for his flamboyant comedic style and is best known as a cast member on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” the top-rated shows on television in the late 1960s, died on Thursday at the age of 85 years old.

The New York Times notes that Alan  never  came out for fear of losing work in Hollywood.

“It wasn’t because he was ashamed of being gay; it was because he was surviving as a performer,” Mr. Michaud said in a telephone interview, adding that Mr. Sues’ was actually an inspiration to many gay viewers. “Many gay men came up to him and said how important he was when they were young because he was the only gay man they could see on television,” Mr. Michaud said.

So sad that he had to stay hidden then and so sad that many in Hollywood feel as though they still have to stay hidden 40 years later.

Rest In peace Alan.  And thanks for the laughs