“WHO chief says monkeypox now a global emergency.” That was the first headline I read when I quickly glanced at the news the other day, which I rather regret now doing that. I don’t normally delve deep in the news anymore because it’s become so depressing these days. But, I did, and what I read in that article was deeply disturbing, not so much for the growing outbreak itself with this disease, but more so on what it’s being blamed upon.
In a study of 699 cases of it, the British Health Security Agency has claimed that 97% of them labeled themselves as gay, bisexual, or men having sex with other men. A number of other articles were reporting on the same statistic as well the more I looked into it, and while it wasn’t being labeled it yet, I worry it’s just a matter of time before this turns into being considered another “gay disease” by many.
Long ago before HIV became known as AIDS, the disease was known as “GRID”, or “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency” because most cases being reported early on were happening between men having sex with other men. That was a very tumultuous time for anyone who was openly gay or bi-sexual, as they became the sole source of the blame for the rapid outbreak and spread of a disease most didn’t fully understand yet.
While I was very young when AIDS was first being referred to as GRID, I eventually came to know many years later that many from the LGBTQ community who went through this period would experience a lot of hatred towards them. Most felt like lepers in society, especially if they came down with the disease. People also became afraid to touch any gay person, let alone go near them. There were plenty of hate crimes during that time period targeting the gay community because of the fear of this disease, which honestly really feels no different than how many Asians have been treated over the last few years due to the outbreak of COVID having originated in Wuhan, China. Sadly, people often place blame onto specific groups of people when tragic events occur that are out of their control and make them afraid. Blame that also becomes easier when the news and media, and even our very entertainment glamorizes it.
Case in point, I recently opted to watch the first episode of the new Queer as Folk reboot on the Peacock streaming channel. This show is based upon two predecessors, one English-based and one US-based, both having aired well over two decades ago now. Personally, the original versions helped me to immensely accept my sexuality and learn much about the LGBTQ community. This new version though, the primary focus in it is on anonymous and unprotected sex between males often under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Portraying things like this is what specifically fuels much of the fear in this country when many begin to believe that the only type of relationships men have with each other in the gay community is exactly what they see portrayed in the entertainment industry just like this.
So yes, I’m very concerned about a new outbreak of a disease that is already placing blame upon a culture I’m associated with simply because I have a same-sex partner. Except I am a monogamous individual and so is my other half, and neither of us are alcohol or drug users, yet I can see people just like us nonetheless receiving blame if this virus continues to spiral out of control, becoming yet another pandemic to hit our soil. I pray I’m wrong here, but sadly, history continues to show otherwise…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson