In the 80s, just like in other parts of Europe, the HIV epidemic became very rampant, in mine LGBT Tours I hear from people, that some still think AIDS is an gay issue. Worldwide and sure also in Bavaria. It had been around for a few decades before.
This is a dark chapter in our recent history that I review and repeat in my Third Reich or Third Gender Tours. One of my guests from two weeks ago asked me about this subject and here my answer.
Some cases reported from the sixties described the symptoms. But society became more conscious of the disease during the 80s. This is because a lot of lives disappeared through the night.
Facing death daily
At first, in 1981, the disease considered a kind of pneumonia. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), around that period, created awareness about this disease. In the report released they covered the story of five infected gay men.
Oh, bless the Lord, sung the churches, I remember. All gay men will day in an apocalypse and all the homophobic garbage invaded all the discos.
By 1982 more than three hundred people were infected with the disease, and it killed more than 100 of them. This, so far, we can count. Many families of gay men declared their lost relatives as died on cancer. Most of the known people infected at this time were homosexual men, due to this, health officials called it the “gay plague”. The ignorance from the religious groups focused on the plague on the gay community. Even high scientists from that time focused on homosexuals, instead of the virus.
LGBT Tours still have not enough non-LGBT guests
Being considered a gay disease led to a lot of prejudice and discrimination against gay men. Worst of it all was homophobia. At that point in time, homosexual men were prevented from donating blood to blood banks.
At the end of 1982, the Center for Disease Control, for the first time, named the disease AIDS, and the virus responsible for it was called HIV.
Homophobia and Aids
Prior to AIDS, the act of homosexuality was already illegal in Germany since 1871. In other parts of Europe, the illegality only affected homosexuals when a minor was involved. However, homosexuals still managed to live under normal conditions openly in countries like Netherlands or United Kingdom. Gay men in Bavaria had bars, where they meet to socialize. They enjoyed not a lot of freedom. Raids ordered by the government (Greets Mr. Gauweiler) were part of the normal life in Bavaria during the eighties.
But this freedom was curtailed when the epidemic started. Homosexual men were subjected to a lot of abuse in major European cities, Bavaria included. As if the loss of their partners and friends was not enough, they were blamed for transmitting the virus. Even ten years later, in the year 2001, I lost my job in the Insurance Company ARAG cause homophobia.
This caused stigmatization, subjection to violence, and violation of basic rights for gay men. All of these led to losing more homosexual men because they were prevented from undergoing tests and getting basic treatment. Most homosexual men had to live with the virus without knowing, until when the symptoms became obvious. By that time, death was already imminent.
Women’s sexuality was a subject that everybody avoided.
Freddie Mercury’s Sexuality
One chapter that well depicts the stigmatization of gay men during the 80s is the British singer and member of the Queen band, Freddie Mercury. Even though it was a well-known fact that Mercury was a gay man, he never openly accepted because of the fear of homophobia and how his career would be affected.
To hide away his true identity from his fans and the world at large, he dated women. Like all gay men from traditional families.
Just to make sure he kept his career going amidst a lot of speculations, he declared himself as being bisexual. Like all gay men do.
Can anyone blame him for that?
A lot of people in this period saw homosexual men as mentally deranged and even went as far as abolishing them. Not a surprise that this is the same concept that Nazis had about homosexuals already in the purification lay from 1935. Sorry to point with fingers, but the catholic church never apologized for supporting these laws or the abuse of those men.
It was so bad that if you were identified as a member of LGBT, you cannot have a media presence. They were simply not accepted in the society. With this, people practicing same-sex had no choice than to obscure who they really are, even from their own family.
To make matters worse, all religions were against homosexuality. This was particularly a serious issue for Mercury. He was born into a family that practiced a religion known as Zoroastrianism. This religion referred to same-sex as a demonic act.
So, it was obvious to all why he decided to conceal his real self to the extent of sleeping with women. At some point, he got engaged to a lady before eventually breaking things off due to his sexuality.
Freddie Mercury’s Death
Although no one knew how he contracted the HIV virus, we all knew that it was during the 80s when the epidemic was spreading like wildfire. It was at this point that AIDS was called the gay plague. After contracting the disease and showing symptoms, Mercury denied media reports about him being sick or being gay. Even his family did not know about his sickness.
Mercury knew that admitting that he had the virus is nonetheless confessing to being gay. So he remained adamant to protect his reputation and public image from a homophobic world.
However, towards the end of 1991, when he became seriously ill, he came out clean in a press statement. He explained that he tested positive for AIDS, and the reason he kept it a secret was to protect the privacy of the people around him.
The next day after releasing the statement, he died. Mercury made sure he kept to his policy of not admitting his sexuality till death.
LGBT Tours for defeating AIDS Stigma
You and I will accept that aside from ignorance in the early days of AIDS, one of the reasons for the loss of lives was stigmatization.
Even after realizing that AIDS was more than a gay disease, the stigmatization that homosexuals suffered still lingers till date. More so is the case of a celebrity not being able to come out clean as a carrier of this virus, like Freddie Mercury.
You can also search in your city some similar LGBT Tour. This may help you to understand the 80ies.
The fact that we need to realize is that stigmatization can affect infected people in many ways. It can lead to depression and an anxiety attack, even killing the person faster than the disease.
It really is none of anybody’s business if someone tests positive for AIDS. We need to stop making them feel like they are a threat to the people around them because this is far from the truth. Today there are effective treatments that not only reduces the possibilities of passing on this disease, it also increases the life expectancy of patients.
Now is the best time for both the treatment and the prevention of AIDS, and medical institutions are doing their best to make the world understand this.
Finally, still seeing AIDs as a disease prevenient from homosexuals is ignorance at best. It also shows a lack of empathy and solidarity for the older gay men who lost friends and partners during the 80’s trauma. It reminds the image of gay men. Treated like lepers and outcasts, as well as the reality of homophobia.
Even though the world is still far from being completely free of homophobia, gay men that experienced the horrors of the 80s in Bavaria and other European cities know that we have won some battle of acceptability. AIDS is not a disease that kills only homosexuals. All humans, regardless of their sexuality are equal in the face of disease.