I was there when AIDS was a death sentence; I lived near and in San Francisco, walking distance from the Castro (the gay district where most of that movie Milk takes place). Indeed, I have a family member who was there and saw Harvey Milk when he was still with us.
I was there hearing the stories of people who contacted HIV, who had homophobic families who completely rejected them, who thought “safe sex” was not getting caught by your family or a homophobic gang who would beat you up for being gay. I was there back when it would had been better to be caught in bed with a 15-year-old girl than a 21-year-old man.
I was there when a dear friend in San Francisco was dying of AIDS; I was there to comfort him and he was an incredible mentor to me, providing me invaluable advice which made my life better.
When I heard Lady Gaga for the first time, many years later when effective HIV treatments were finally becoming widely available, I was living in Mexico with my wife when her song “Bad Romance” came on the radio. My wife told me this was a very talented singer, so I intently listened to the song. Listening to Gaga’s singing brought me back to being in the Gay district back when people were dying from AIDS, when we didn’t have effective treatments for it and all you could do was pray it wouldn’t kill you when you caught it.
Listening to Lady Gaga, I was taken back in time to that gay district, in one of the gay record stores, listening to some incredible dance club music which were only available as expensive imports I could only buy a couple of at a time. I remember a man was hitting on me, but being really nice to me about it; we were talking about a then-new rare German track which I really loved, but the gay record store didn’t have it. He told me another store had it in stock, so I went across town and was able to get that really great song because of his advice.
Lady Gaga’s music took me there to San Francisco again, near the gay district, with my friend who could only eat a couple of foods because AIDS was killing him and he only had a little time left. I was there, around those gay clubs, seeing people try to find a moment of joy when the gay community was going through this incredible tragedy, and sharing that joy.
I don't think Gaga’s best moment is “Bad Romance” or “Born This Way” or a song from Chromatica. I think her best moment was when she was in New York, speaking at the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, telling Gays that the stars and planets are there supporting gay equality and gay rights.
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This is why I stan for Lady Gaga and this is why I love what Lady Gaga represents. She stands for equality for gay people. She stands for love, not hate, not intolerance, and certainly not homophobia.
I am very proud to be a Lady Gaga fan because of the community we have over at GGD—I interact with a lot of people, by and large gay, there and we share music together and I share with them what it was like to see the gay community decimated by AIDS—and because of what Gaga and the BTWF represent.
I continue this series with a blog posting where I compare today’s COVID-19 denialism with the then AIDS denialism.
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