Friday, November 20, 1998

Red Ribbons and Checkered Hankies

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #91, November 20, 1998)

Another year, another World AIDS Day. Surely you remember AIDS, don’t you? Oh, it was a horrible time. Thank goodness it’s over and we can move on to something else. Life can get back to normal—sex can get back to normal. Ahh, those protease inhibitors are amazing stuff. Some poor folks still seem to be stuck in an AIDS time warp—but come on, get over it! Yessiree, it’s great to be alive—or perhaps, still alive—in this great big wonderful post-AIDS era we live in. Care to bareback?

December 1 is World AIDS Day, 1998. To paraphrase Mark Twain: Rumors of the end of AIDS are greatly exaggerated. True, not as many people seem to be dying of it these days. But AIDS is still killing people all over the world. It’s still making people sick. It’s still causing people to take large quantities of medications which must be rigidly scheduled and which have daunting side-effects. (There are, of course, other people who don’t have access to these drugs or for whom the drugs are not effective.) The HIV virus is still being spread. There’s still no cure—people with AIDS can’t “get over it.” And the leather/SM community is still dealing with the devastation that AIDS has caused. I’m sorry if I’m being pessimistic, but none of that sounds “post-AIDS” to me.

While AIDS has had terrible consequences for many groups of people, it was especially tragic in leather/SM circles because it ripped apart one of our basic foundations of our community. In bygone days, younger people new to the scene were tutored and mentored by those with more experience; it was an effective way to pass on knowledge and keep traditions alive. The AIDS epidemic caused major disruption to that mentorship system, and the consequences of that disruption will be with us for a long, long time.

A large part of leather identity has always been the way in which the things a person wears (leather, hankies of various colors, run pins, etc.) become outward manifestations of the spirit of the person wearing them. One of my personal responses to the destruction that AIDS has caused, and continues to cause, is that whenever I wear leather I always include two symbols. I still wear a red AIDS-awareness ribbon, even though it may be considered passé by some people, because it still has meaning for me. And in the back-left pocket of my jeans is a black-and-white-checked hankie, which stands for safe (or at least, safer) sex. That hankie reminds me that there are things I can do, choices I can make, that will help stop the spread of AIDS. Every new HIV infection is another defeat. But every time sex happens, and the HIV virus doesn’t get a chance to spread, is one more victory.

Perhaps someday AIDS will be only a terrible memory. Someday. Perhaps. Today, toward the close of the year, the century and the millennium, AIDS is still very much a part of the landscape. So I remember the friends I’ve lost and cherish the ones who are still here. I respect myself and others by playing as safely as possible. And I try not to lose hope.

Remember. Cherish. Respect. Hope. Red ribbons and checkered hankies. Faced with the continuing age of AIDS, that’s what I do.

Upcoming Leather Events

Hanky Social
Wednesday, Nov. 25, 8-10 pm, Minneapolis Eagle
Formerly the Red Hanky Social, the scope has been broadened to include all hanky colors and all interests represented by those colors. This is a recurring event; time and location have been changed to the last Wednesday of each month from 8 to 10 pm at the Minneapolis Eagle. Future dates are Dec. 30, 1998 and Jan. 27, 1999. FFI: e-mail

Black Guard Chili Feed
Sunday, Nov. 29, 5-10 pm, Minneapolis Eagle
A perennial favorite, now in its 22nd year. $5 at the door includes chili plus $1 off first drink or $1 off beer bust price.

Atons “Smoker”
Friday evening, Dec.4 (call for more information)
A social and informational evening for men who are interested in joining the Atons. Call their hotline for more information.

Atons Holiday Fundraiser
Sunday, Dec. 6, 6-10 pm, The Saloon
If you’re not in a holiday mood yet, this should do it. Photos with Santa, bootblack, and prizes galore. $5 at the door; net proceeds will benefit Every Penny Counts. Also, please bring non-perishable food items for the Aliveness Project.

Mr./Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather Meet and Greet
Saturday, Dec. 12, 6-10 pm, Minneapolis Eagle
Meet the contestants and bid in the Bear Auction benefiting the winners’ travel fund: Live bears will be auctioning off stuffed bears. $5 at the door includes free shot.

Mr./Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather Contest
Sunday, Dec. 13, 7-10 pm, The Saloon
$10 at the door includes free shot. If you want to compete, contact contest producers Joshua or Tom Smith. Prizes include airfare to New Orleans for Pantheon of Leather and the International Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather Contest.

No comments:

Post a Comment