Pride 2018: Long-Time Activist’s Reflection on LGBT and End-of-Life Movements
I came out as an advocate for end-of-life choice at the same time I did for gay rights. In the ‘80s, it seemed like everyone I knew was dying of AIDS. As the sole survivor of my eleven family of friends in New York, I couldn’t believe that my government refused to respond to the so-called “gay disease” while my friends were dying, helpless and hopeless, in the basement hallways of hospitals or not able get inside at all.
Every year in June, I remember, honor and take stock in those that I have loved and those I have lost. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride month commemorates and celebrates the life, culture and tireless advocacy of my communities. Each year, I remember my fallen friends, like Jaye, Tito, Cris and Rodger, for whom peaceful and dignified deaths were denied by the dual discrimination — fear and hatred levied at LGBT people and the very basic of idea of end-of-life choice — that, not surprisingly, comes often from the same corners. Pride helps me remember the amazing advocates, volunteers and legislators who have literally lost their lives in pursuit of justice and equality. It has been my privilege to work toward advancing the course of change. And I remember every celebration and setback.
This Pride month, I think about the tremendous success that both my social movements have achieved. I also think of the fragility of those successes, much like life.
And in my over 30 years in this work, Pride helps me remember that our success in achieving human dignity, like access to aid in dying or gay rights, should not be taken for granted or left unguarded. Social change requires vigilance: two steps forward, one step back. Movements have patterns — they start to see success, but the pushback intensifies. Opponents begin to overstep, but we will undoubtedly see a surge to justice.