“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived but, if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
I hope it is clear from my various posts over the years that the 1980s wasn’t just a decade of challenges for our communities, but also one of victories, large and small.
It seems to me as we sit on the cusp of a new year that we are, again, in a time of great challenges.
For the first time in history, an American President has addressed – and reassured – a conference of hate groups. In Australia, a spineless Prime Minister has wasted Aus$120 million of public money on a divisive ‘public survey’ on equal marriage. And here in the UK, the minority Conservative government has repeatedly signalled its intentions to abandon equality legislation at the first opportunity.
On a global scale, our communities are coming under attack like never before. Russia, Chechnya, Iran and Turkey are but a few of the countries where queer people are persecuted in the most brutal manner.
It would be nice to be starting the New Year on a more positive note. But this is the present reality. That said, we have – in the West at least – been here before and we have still managed to move forward. And now it’s time to do it again.
Remember the dark, relentless days of the AIDS crisis, when we lost so many friends, lovers and activists while governments turned a blind eye? I never want to re-live those days again but it has to be said that, in spite of it all, we came through – and we did so stronger, angrier and better organised than before. More to the point, we got through it ourselves and not because of any ‘fair weather friend’ politicians.
It’s my view that the 80s saw a major leap forward in establishing our global visibilty. Part of that, sadly, was down to the emergence of HIV/AIDS but, in the West at least, we took up the challenge and have continued to build that visibility ever since. For our enemies that visibility is a great threat and that may be one reason why we are seeing the rise of the far-Right again.
But, in the words of my great hero Harvey Milk, hope will never be silent. It’s more important than ever that we make our voices heard; that we make it clear that we’re not going to give up the advances we have made. And that we still have plenty more demands to be met.
But, if history tells us anything, the only way we will get to live in a free and equal society is to fight for it ourselves. To borrow the words of Edmund Burke:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
Let’s make 2018 the year that we all resolve to take a stand against the darkness that threatens our communities in our own countries and others around the world. We’ve done it before – we can do it again!