• My days of torment were over, but the damage was done. I conflated the bullies and my bathroom accidents with an inchoate sense that something was wrong with me. I broadcast my sense of otherness through my slumped posture, downcast expression, and extreme timidity. Kids at school called weird so often that after a while I believed them. I hid myself behind a curtain of tangled hair

    Alysia Abbott
  • The disaster, as Dad and others saw it, was the emerging AIDS crisis and the cultural attacks instigated by conservative against gay men and women in the early 1980s. It was found in the cruel indifference of President Ronald Reagan, who wouldn’t publicly address the epidemic until the end of his second term, after twenty thousand Americans had died, and the hostile rhetoric of conservatives close to Reagan like Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, and Pat Buchanan, Reagan’s future speechwriter. In 1983, Buchanan wrote of AIDS, “The poor homosexuals–they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution

    Alysia Abbott
  • In late 1985, the Reagan White House blocked the use of CDC money for education, leaving the US behind other Western nations in telling its citizens how to avoid contracting the virus. Many Americans still thought you could get AIDS from a toilet seat or a glass of water. According to one poll, the majority of Americans supported quarantining AIDS patients.This heightened awareness set off waves of anxiety across the country, which was often express through jokes (Q: What do you call Rock Hudson in a wheelchair? A: Roll-AIDS!) and violence. Between the years 1985 and 1986, anti-gay violence increased by 42 percent in the US. Even in San Francisco, where Greyhound buses still dropped off gay men and women taking refuge from the prejudice of their hometowns, carloads of teenagers would drive through the Castro looking for targets.In December 1985, a group of teenagers, shouting “diseased faggot

    Alysia Abbott
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