"Life After Death" by Michael Harris
... My peers and I are supposed to be “over” our gayness. It’s unfashionable to have gay-related “issues.” Many of us consider the gay newspaper Xtra passé. Even the gay bars are tired spaces, for the most part, and younger crowds prefer one-off parties at weird hotel bars that aren’t explicitly queer.
I partake in all this, and enjoy it. But the impulse to do away with the ghetto and focus instead on social autonomy is also a flawed, neo-liberal ambition. We like to believe we are masters of our own fate (even as proponents of “free will” have a hard time explaining why poor people consistently produce poor children). Culture matters, actually, and nowhere is this more evident than in HIV test reports. Aboriginals comprise about 4 percent of Canada’s population, for example, but make up 6 to 12 percent of new cases. Race even affects the way people become infected. Aboriginals most often become positive via intravenous drug use; among Latin Americans and Asians, it’s mainly gay sex that leads to infection. Among the black population, heterosexual contact is overwhelmingly the cause. HIV preys on a culture’s fault lines. Like many diseases (tuberculosis in Buenos Aires, say), it is a litmus test for class distinction.
Single gay men in Canada are up to six times more likely than our heterosexual counterparts to kill ourselves. We tend to smoke more, drink more, use more illicit drugs. In a 2003 clinical guide, Dr. Allan Peterkin and Dr. Cathy Risdon estimated that the lifespan of Canadian gay men is between twenty to thirty years less than the average.
HIV, then, is a rude reminder that our civil rights movement is incomplete. How can I feel like an equal when gay men are damned to abbreviated lives? ...
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