We Built a Community

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Noting the 30 year anniversary of the discovery of  HIV, it is time to remember the loss of an entire generation of gay men.  Starting in the 1970s San Francisco became home to thousands of men escaping communities and families that despised us.  We created a community on our own because we had no relatives, priests or teachers to guide us, and built a community from the ground up. It took courage and belief in the power of love.  When faced with police raids we relied not on violence but on each other.  During those years a unique confluence of people, honesty and optimism created America's first gay community in San Francisco.  The integrity and perseverance of that generation made it possible.

Our community started as small groups came together to support one another.  Later when threatened by the Briggs Initiative we were forced to confront the establishment.  With no allies we had to be smart, and following the lead of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and a few wise counselors we won that battle.

What San Francisco lost to HIV was a uniquely talented generation of men who refused to lie about their lives.  With lesbians, they built a community solid enough to withstand the onslaught of a disease of biblical proportions and bigots who make their living on hate.  Along the way we transformed memorial services and the meaning of sexual honesty. We also created a new model of caring for the sick and dying.

The names of heroes and brilliant artists lost to the epidemic can be seen in the AIDS Memorial Grove. We cannot forget those who would be enriching our lives today had HIV not taken them.

With a Perspective, I'm Chuck Forester.