Essay The Future Of

My students were fascinated by Wojnarowicz’s raw frankness.One student, a father of two, wrote that I had not provided enough context for the book, teaching me that this history-changing event, the brutality and horror of AIDS, was more foreign to my students than the Vietnam War, no matter that the disease is still among us, no matter that his ignorance will become his children’s ignorance, which may lead them to be the next generation of HIV-infected.

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He dismissed my observation as irrelevant, saying that such audiences always skewed male.

But within the year the spin was changed, as evidenced by my encounter a couple of years later in San Francisco’s Noe Valley with two young, white, conventionally attractive lesbians, who brandished a clipboard and asked whether I was willing to sign a petition to “legalize love.” In two years, the pitch on same-sex marriage had gone from presenting it as a ticket to the status quo—the ultimate insiders’ club—to a way to enable otherwise conventional people to feel they were participating in the romance of revolution.

The crowd consisted almost entirely of white men; I saw only two black men in the audience.

Afterward I approached one of the speakers to suggest that the demographics conveyed a message about the supporters and primary beneficiaries of same-sex marriage.

What we met and worked and marched and wrote and died for was radical transformation. he LGBT assimilationists’ rise to power is easy to trace.

The brave, righteously angry civil rights activists of the 1970s became the brave, righteously angry AIDS activists of the 1980s and early 1990s, but we died or lost ourselves to grief, and by the time the white coats figured out the cocktail, by the time the drugs healed instead of killed, the people they saved were shells of themselves, and all that the survivors had the energy to do was lie on the warm sands of Fort Lauderdale or by the pool in Palm Springs and contemplate the mystery of survival.

How can we read our politicians’ and university presidents’ drumbeat emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) at the same time that they defund the arts and humanities as anything but pressure on faculties to train a docile pool of drones?

Deans and professors promote the humanities as a training in critical thinking, but critical thinking leads to criticism, the last student activity university administrations want to encourage.

The assimilationists have won, those men and women whose highest aspiration was to be like everybody else, whose greatest act of imagination was picturing matching Barcaloungers in front of a flatscreen television and matching, custom-designed wedding rings.

The evolution from ACT UP and Zen Hospice to state-sanctioned marriage is precisely analogous to gentrification—the creative outliers do the heavy lifting, and when a certain level of safety has been achieved, the assimilationists move in, raise prices, and force out the agents of change.


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