Three things happened last week that made it totally gay for me. While sure, in my life, every day is a gay day, but last week was particularly gay. And it was the fucking best.
The first thing that happened was far more low-key and much more just about me than the other three things, but for this piece, it’s definitely important to mention. My article of the week, “A Dream of Hope: Why ‘Love, Simon’ is My Favorite Movie,” was published on Monday, and it was all about why the film, Love, Simon, was my favorite. At the risk of writing the same things twice, I’ll just say this about it: it’s a unique coming out story that is everything I’ve always wanted, but never had. It’s so much of a happier story than so many gay stories out there, and if I can have just one more chance to tell people to WATCH THIS FUCKING MOVIE, I’m going to take it. So this particular gay thing might only be applicable to me, but hey, it’s still gay.
Now, the second thing that happened is very likely the most profound, important, and wide-reaching event of this past week. HIV/AIDS activist Peter Staley came to Kutztown on Wednesday, April 4th to share his life story. He told us what it was like to be a young, gay activist with the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, better known simply as ACT UP, during the 1980s and 90s. He told us about the fight to lower the price of AZT, a medication necessary for those living with the disease. Of all his stories that he told us that night, though, my favorite was the one about what he and some fellow activists did at the New York Stock Exchange in September of 1989. They walked into the Stock Exchange dressed as conservatively as they could—suits, ties, nametags, and the works—and, just before the opening bell was to announce the start of trading that day, Staley and his compatriots chained themselves to a balcony and dropped a banner over it that said, “Sell Wellcome,” a reference to Burroughs Wellcome, the pharmaceutical company that produced AZT. Then, they threw fake $100 bills down on the traders that read, “Fuck your profiteering. We die while you play business.” Finally, they blasted air horns just three seconds before the opening bell rang. Within days, the price of AZT was dropped by 20%.
Peter Staley’s story is a powerful one. It’s a story of activism, of standing up to oppression, of living with a disease that killed so many, and ACTing UP in resistance. In addition to his own stories of activism, the most powerful and emotional moment of Staley’s talk was the clip he showed from the documentary detailing the AIDS crisis, How to Survive a Plague. It depicted a protest at the front lawn of the White House and showed a number of surviving loved ones of people who had died of AIDS throwing their ashes onto the lawn. This powerful, and for those who lost their lives, final act of activism was beyond moving. It showed the power of those who fight for what is right by uniting their voices in resistance.
The third gay thing that happened this week will let me end this article on a high note. Of course, this was the DRAG SHOW that the Kutztown University organizations, Allies and the Association of Campus Events, hosted this past Thursday, April 5th. And, it was MCed by none other than Alyssa Edwards from RuPaul’s Drag Race. It was fucking incredible! This was the third time I had gone to the annual drag show at KU, and just as the first two times, I was not disappointed in the slightest. It was definitely a good old gay time. In fact, the night before, when Staley was speaking, he said that we have to find the fun and the good in life, that we cannot just focus on everything horrible that happens to us. So, I believe the drag show is the best thing that could have followed his talk. Seeing people express themselves in their best, gayest way possible was powerful and evocative of exactly that which people like Peter Staley have fought for.