By Kambiz Shekdar
We are witnessing an awakening against ancient and profound prejudices as the world issues a collective outcry of #BLACKLIVESMATTER. The call is reverberating across the LGBTQ community and is pouring out as a single voice denouncing all prejudice.
George Capsis, the publisher of this paper recounts a telling story: in 1967, he joined a firm founded by two gay men who invited him—needed him—to join as a partner, because, as two gay men, they were ready and willing but not able to do business in the straight world of that time, and their firm became Robinson Capsis Stern. It took 53 years for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that federal laws protect LGBTQ workers from discrimination in the workplace in its ruling of merely days ago on June 15 of this year.
While the celebrated events at The Stonewall Inn in 1969 (where patrons rioted when corrupt police came to collect on bribes to look the other way because it was illegal to serve liquor to gay men at the time) sparked the modern LGBT right movement, it was the emergence of the deadly AIDS pandemic in the early 1980’s that served as the fuel on the LGBTQ freedom rights fire.
AIDS was killing gay men at a rapid clip and no one cared, just as corrupt police are killing black men and no one cared until, seemingly, yesterday. It took the death of thousands of gay men and the silence of an unresponsive nation to make gay men come out of the closet in force to fight for their bare lives, just as it has taken the death of thousands of black men and depravity of our government’s lack of police reform—and another pandemic—for enough to be moved enough to say Enough!
Is there something about deadly pandemics that catalyzes action to improve the human condition? All eight minutes and 46 seconds of the George Floyd not being able to breathe through his compressed neck filling millions of eyes-glued-to-screens around the world under stay-at-home orders compelled fists of all colors to take to the streets and rise in anger, no longer black and brown alone. Does our collective experience of facing a deadly pandemic diminish our tolerance for death and depravity at the hands of own society—our own government, its offices, officials and officers—increase our resolve for freedom and justice?
Allyship is the human response to the shared experience of prejudice. Just as lesbian women, straight friends and loved ones joined as allies alongside gay men when they were dying of AIDS, we are now witnessing all stripes of the LGBTQ rainbow stand alongside our black and brown brothers and sisters who are dying today. Just as the response to AIDS led to an LGBTQ insurgence, carpe diem, the future is now, and the #blacklivesmatter movement is making it freer and more human than ever before.
Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D. is a biologist, a biotech inventor and president of Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.FreeFromAIDS.org to support a worldwide cure for AIDS.