Tag Archives: #UnsungHero

Gay History – May 18, 1981: Dr. Lawrence Mass Becomes The First Person To Report About AIDS

Many believe that the New York Times article of July 3, 1981 was the date of the first newspaper published report about the deadly disease which would later be called AIDS by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Actually the first published report that mention the mysterious and deadly disease appeared in  New York City’s own independent gay newspaper The New York Native three weeks earlier by Dr, Lawrence Mass.

Mass, who wrote a regular health column for the small weekly had heard rumors of a new disease striking down gay men in New York City. Some were coming down with a rare kind of a skin cancer that had previously only affected the elderly living in the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, and Middle Eastern regions called Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Others victims were stricken with a rare form of pneumonia which typically only appeared in people with severely suppressed immune systems such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and transplant recipients. There were also a host of other odd diseases that gay men were coming down with, but so far nobody had figured out that there might be a single cause to link them all together.

Later Dr, Mass was assured by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta that there was no evidence of an emerging “gay cancer,” Mass wrote an article titled, “Disease Rumors Largely Unfounded,” which began:

Last week there were rumors that an exotic new disease had hit the gay community in New York. Here are the facts. From the New York City Department of Health, Dr. Steve Phillips explained that the rumors are for the most part unfounded. Each year, approximately 12 to 24 cases of infection with a protozoa-like organism, pneumocystis carinii, are reported in the New York City area. The organism is not exotic; in fact, it’s ubiquitous. But most of us have a natural or easily acquired immunity.

“What’s unusual about the cases reported this year, is that eleven of them were not obviously compromised hosts. The possibility there exists that a new, more virulent strain of the organism may have been ‘community acquired.’” But Mass reported that there was not enough evidence (yet) to make a clear connection between the new disease and the gay community

But the CDC was wrong and it wouldn’t be long before they realized that and  a link was made.  

Mass followed up on his original article in July 1981 with a piece called, “Cancer in the Gay Community,” on the then-new HIV/AIDS epidemic. Chroniclers of the AIDS crisis now recognize Dr. Lawrence Mass as being the first to write about the emerging epidemic in print.

In 1982, Mass joined Larry KramerEdmund WhitePaul Rapoport, Paul Popham and Nathan Fain in co-founding Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), the world’s first and still largest AIDS information and service organization. For 10 years, through four revisions, Mass authored GMHC’s guide, Medical Answers About AIDS, which usually concluded with an appeal for civil liberties for sexual minority persons and the sanctioning of same sex relationships as “essential considerations in the preventive medicine of AIDS.

Beginning in the late 1990’s, Mass extended his public health interests to the bear subculture of the gay community. He has addressed in a regular column a range of health topics of interest to this subculture, initially consisting of middle-aged overweight men, first for American Bear Magazine and later for A Bear’s Life magazine.

Dr. Lawrence Mass still works as a internist physician in New York City, where he resides with his life partner, writer and activist Arnie Kantrowitz.

UNSUNG LGBT HEROES: Longtime DC LGBT Activist and Founder of Federal GLOBE Leonard Hirch Passes Away

Len Hirsch


There are many LGBT activist who’s work goes unsung in the LGBT community and one person who should be remembered for his hard work to our cause is Leonard Hirch who passed away at the age 60 last night in Washington, D.C. after a battling cancer.

When Len Hirsch started at the Smithsonian in 1988  he was fine being out but soon realized that although the agency was one of the more welcoming in the federal government, there were still many dealing with issues of discrimination and harassment of LGBT employees.  So in response Len founded the group Federal GLOBE: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Employees of the Federal Government (fedglobe.org),

Federal GLOBE’s chartered purpose is to eliminate prejudice and discrimination in the federal government based on sexual orientation by (1) developing and providing educational programs, materials and assistance mechanisms which address the distinctive concerns and problems of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals in the federal government and (2) educating the general public, policy makers, and federal employees about issues of concern to lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals.

Hirsch, originally a New York City native, spent time in California, Illinois and Florida before settling in Washington in 1985.  Lenonard Hirsch’s  husband  of 33 years Dr. Kristian Fauchald, a marine biologist, suffered a heart attack and passed away only a few weeks ago.

Thanks to Leonard Hirsch and GLOBE together they educated and  helped countless numbers of LGBT Federal employees who faced harassment and discrimination in the Government workplace.

Len Hirsch was and is a true LGBT American hero.


Phil Attey Len Hirsch