I have been wondering exactly how far we have come when it comes to dealing with homophobia. Two threads I have seen on Facebook have left me cold and angry.

First episode was when a friend mentioned he had attended a major football game in Sydney. My friend was in the reserved seating for his team and there was one fan who was screaming and yelling obscenities including “You’re a fuckwit”, but also “I hope you get AIDS”.

Apparently this was directed at a particular referee who, I imagine, must have somehow slighted this man despite his team winning by a sizable margin.

“I hope you get AIDS.” You never hear, “I hope you get cancer”, or another equally serious and debilitating disease process. Apparently if you want to insult someone, AIDS is perfect fodder.

Why? Is it because AIDS is such a medically complex set of dieases that we have not been able to find a cure? Or is there some other edge to this insult?

Perhaps it’s the double punch the insult of AIDS offers a white middle class male.

“Not only do I want you to die but I also want to mark you as socially unacceptable, undesirable and deserving of a death fitting to the way you didn’t see that football rule the same way as me.”

“Nice people get cancer, faggots get AIDS but they deserve it.”

These homophobic rants are not limited to a white middle class thug at a football game. Sadly this level of AIDSphobia is present in the gay community as well.

A good mate who has one of the most spectacular beards in Sydney was chatting on a popular bear “dating” site.

He received the following comment: “…Well it’s kind of a older guy or HIV thing to grow a beard in our community to cover the lines.”

Apparently growing a beard is one of the only treatments for the lipodystrophy associated with HIV treatments. At the risk of overanalysis, did this person honestly believe that most bears and older gay men growing a beard are using it as a way to hide HIV treatment side effects?

When I was in my early 20s I shaved my head. That night when I went to my local club, the barman, a good mate, warned me that perhaps I should not do that as it’s “a sign you are HIV positive, that’s one of the ways you tell in Sydney”. Seriously?

Clearly we have a long way to go.

HIV and AIDS are scary for many people in both the gay and the non-gay world. As long as this fear exists, these insults will continue.

How do we move forward? I feel it’s time to name and shame. Of course not every time is going to be appropriate, however, if you feel it’s safe, I recommend calling people on their bullshit.

Take the punter at the football. If he was sober, I wonder how he might react to being asked, “Why do you want this person to get AIDS?”, “Why did you choose AIDS rather than cancer, what is it about AIDS that makes the insult better?”

The same goes for within our own community. We are still living with massive discrimination against people who are living with HIV. We need to support our brothers. We need to stop being so cruel.

Every journey starts with a single step. Calling someone on use of AIDSphobic language might just be a good first step.

INFO: Read more at www.thehealthybear.com

By DR GEORGE FORGAN-SMITH

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