How Do We Deal With AIDSphobic Rants?

Hey there Guys,

This weekend I have really been wondering exactly how far we have come when it comes to dealing with homophobia. Two threads I have seen on Facebook have left me cold, angry and to be honest ready to throw punches. Perhaps I should explain.

First episode was when a friend mentioned he had attended one of the major football games in his hometown of Sydney. These events are lively, usually alcohol fueled, loud and the fans are very passionate. My friend was seated in the reserved seating for his team and there was a particular fan who was screaming and yelling obscenities including “you’re a fuckwit” but also included the following: “I hope you get AIDS”.

Hmmm, “I hope you get AIDS”. My blood is fucking boiling.

Apparently this was directed at a particular referee, Shane Hayne, who I imagine must have somehow slighted this man despite his team winning by a sizable margin.

“I hope you get AIDS”… Funny you never hear, “I hope you get cancer” or another equally serious and debilitating disease process. No, apparently if you want to insult someone, AIDS is perfect fodder.

Why is it so? Is it because AIDS is such a medically complex set of dieases that we have not been able to find a cure? Or is there some other edge to this insult…

Perhaps it’s the double punch the insult of AIDS offers a white middle class male. “Not only do I want you to die but I also want to mark you as socially unacceptable, undesirable and deserving of a death fitting to the way you didn’t see that football rule the same way as me.” “Nice people get cancer, faggots get AIDS but they deserve it”. This is the nasty homophobic sting insulting this way presents.

Please don’t think that these levels of homophobic rants are limited to a white middle class thug who was attending a football game. Sadly this level of AIDSphobia is equally present in the gay community as well.

A good mate and fellow doctor Seumas was chatting on one of the more popular bear “dating” sites.

If there is one thing you notice about Seumas is that he has one of the most spectacular beards in Sydney. Seriously, if there is a gold medal for beards at the London Olympics, this man is a strong contender for Australia.

Anyway as part of his conversation he received the following comment:

[wpse_b_box_solid width=”87%” style=”blue_light” shadow=”yes”]…well it’s kind of a older guy or HIV thing to grow a beard in our community to cover the lines.[/wpse_b_box_solid]

Apparently growing a beard is one of the only treatments for the lipodystrophy associated with HIV treatments. At the risk of over analysis or projecting my anger onto this person, did this person honestly believe that majority of bears and older gay men growing a beard are using it as a way to hide HIV treatment side effects?

I can remember when I was in my early 20’s I shaved my head. Personally I hate hair and for me a shaved head is sexy. That night when I went to my local club the barman, a good mate, pulled me aside and warned me that perhaps I should not do that as it’s “a sign you are HIV positive, that’s one of the ways you tell in Sydney”. Seriously?

Clearly we have a long way to go.

HIV and AIDS are scary for many people in both the gay and the non gay world. As long as this fear exists these insults will continue.

So how do we move forward? For me I feel it’s time to name and shame. Of course not every time is going to be appropriate however if you feel that it’s safe I would highly recommend calling people on their bullshit.

Take the punter at the football. If he was sober, which sadly I doubt, I wonder how he might react to being asked, “Why do you want this person to get AIDS?”, “Why did you choose AIDS rather than cancer, what is it about AIDS that makes the insult better?” “How do you think it must be to die from AIDS, do you know anyone who has died that way?”

The same goes for within our own community. We are still living with massive discrimination against people who are living with HIV. We need to call people on their bullshit. We need to support our brothers. We need to stop being so fucking cruel.

We have a long way to go but every journey starts with a single step. Calling someone on use of AIDSphobic language might just be a good first step.

Yours in good health.

Dr George


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