Those of us who were there in the early days of the gay men's health movement look atgay men today—and at the communities where gay men come together, establish bonds,and celebrate—and see creativity, caring, and audacity. We’re delighted and impressedwith new generations of gay male styles, rituals, identities, and subcultures, even as weremember that gay men have always had an amazing ability to keep inventing bold, newways of being, even in the face of commodification, backlash, and internal civil wars.In fact, we know that for many gay men, homosexuality is a helpful and protective factor.It adds to the assets and gifts one gets from one's original or home community in keyways:
Gay men are more mindful than most others and think out of the box, resisting limitedsocial categories and societal directives. The simple experience of claiming our sexuality, identifying other men to have sex with, and entering gay communityencourages mindfulness and creativity.
As a class, gay men are skilled at both caring for themselves and caring for others.What some mistake as selfishness in gay men is often a kind of self-care that is rarelycriticized in other men: the ability to understand and prioritize one's own desires andneeds. Gay men balance this self-care with a sense of altruism—caring for others inthe workplace, neighborhood, and community.
Gay sexual culture allows us to make contact with men of other classes, races, andgenerations and form alliances which are richer and more diverse than those of mostheterosexual men. Not only do we have sex with men who are different from us, butwe form friendships and build community—however imperfectly—across stark identity lines.In some ways, we take our lead from the women's self-help movement of the 1960s, 70s,and 80s–– a movement that powerfully influenced gay liberation and gay men's healthorganizing at that time. When women declared "Our Bodies, Ourselves," they wereshattering centuries of patriarchal pathologizing of women's bodies and their lives. Byworking with other women to create new models of empowered health care and disease prevention, groups such as the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, the Santa CruzWomen's Health Collective, the National Black Women's Health Project, and others,created a powerful model for marginalized populations—including gay men and peoplewith HIV/AID. They made a radical break with the dominant medical model along withall of its embedded biases, values, and priorities.
My Journey Into the
Gay Men's Health Movement
been interested in the health and wellness of gay male communities since my earliestyears as an activist, organizer, and writer. In my early twenties in Boston, I was a member of the
Gay Community News
collective and wrote regular feature articles on topicsincluding anti-gay violence, queer youth, and depression and suicide among lesbians andgay men. I was fortunate to be involved in founding some of the nation's first advocacy projects for LGBT youth, served as an openly gay representative on a state social servicecouncil and at the White House Conference on the Family in 1980, and wrote the first book on gay people and suicide.