The Gays Survive Another Plague
Finally, some good news from the CDC for a change. According to an October 17 NPR article, “Monkeypox cases have declined since a peak in early August—from 440 cases a day, down to 60—and they’re the lowest they’ve been since June. The virus has continued to circulate almost entirely within gay and queer sexual networks. And vaccine supply is plentiful, even outstripping the current demand.”
That’s a far cry from the beginning of the summer when the queer community was in a panic with monkeypox cases rising in all major cities, especially NYC, where I live. (Why is NYC always the epicenter of a virus!)
As we have done time and time again in the LGBTQ community, we mobilized to save ourselves. Gays waited in lines, some for hours, to get vaxxed. We told our friends to get vaxxed. Many wouldn’t have sex with those who hadn’t been vaxxed. The gays, in a way, saved themselves. Again.
This isn’t our first rodeo when dealing with a plague. I am sure I don’t have to remind readers of the devastating AIDS epidemic in the early 80s. I used to wonder why gay male friends in their late 50s/early 60s often hung out with much younger people, until they told me, “I am the only one left alive.” A generation of gay men lost.
ACT UP. GMHC. Queer Nation. And the Band Played On. These are just some examples of how the queer community saved itself during the AIDS epidemic because no one else was saving them. If you haven’t seen the 2012 documentary How to Survive a Plague, do yourself a favor and rent it immediately. More recently, the dramatized HBO Max/BBC America’s It’s a Sin tells the story of a group of twentysomethings in 1980s London. They’re at the precipice of their lives, with no awareness of the “gay cancer” faintly appearing on the horizon. Be forewarned: it’s heartbreaking.
But back to the queer community saving itself. In July 2021, a COVID outbreak in Provincetown during Bear Week gave witness to how we save ourselves. It literally changed the course of the disease and how the CDC tracked outbreaks. In an NPR article titled, “How a Gay Community Helped the CDC Spot a Covid Outbreak—and Learn More About Delta,” it was written, “The speed of the investigation—and the exceptional participation from the mostly gay men involved in the outbreak—helped the CDC learn new information about the delta variant.”
“The norms of the gay community say: Share your medical history, share your risks with other people so that they can be responsible and take care of themselves as well,” data scientist Michael Donnely said. “That came with years of practice within the community, particularly around HIV and AIDS.”
Once again, the queer community saving itself. Even the notion of the ‘gayborhood’ can be traced back to that idea. Ever wonder how the Castro in San Francisco or Boystown in Chicago came to be? We don’t have to wonder as right now a gayborhood is being created in Cleveland, Ohio—of all places!
I was lucky enough to attend the Grand Opening of the Fieldhouse at Studio West 117 (SW117) in Cleveland’s Lakeland neighborhood. SW117 is a “first-of-its-kind sustainable ecosystem created for and by the LGBTQ+ community.” The Grand Opening featured Phase 1, the Fieldhouse, “a 5,000-square-foot gymnasium and three restaurants, including a rooftop patio, an outdoor courtyard, a demonstration kitchen, and event spaces.” Ongoing programming is expected to include “…LGBTQ+ youth sports leagues, Stonewall sports leagues, senior fitness programming, group fitness classes, drag shows, brunches, pageants, balls, Pride festivities, art exhibits, and more.”
In the coming months, SW117 will open additional entertainment, retail, medical, and residential properties specifically designed to support the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ business owners. Daniel Budish, co-founder of SW117, had this to say: “Everyone should have a place to go where they feel comfortable in their own skin and can grow and explore. We hope the LGBTQ+ community in the Cleveland area and beyond will find that and much more at Studio West 117.”
The Grand Opening atmosphere was electric and it was beyond exciting to see an actual gayborhood being created. Plus, RuPaul’s Drag Race royalty Latrice Royale, Roxxy Andrews, and Detoxx were on hand for the festivities!
I am beyond proud to be gay, to be queer, and to be part of a community that constantly looks out for each other. But please, no more plagues: I think we have been through enough! ▼
Robert Dominic splits his time between Brooklyn and Rehoboth Beach. He writes for publications including Instinct Magazine and his own blog, The Gays of Our Lives.