Features Jun 19, 2019 at 4:00 am

Yes, Trump sucks. But at least all your friends aren't dying.

Jeffrey (in denim) and Amador, in front of one of Jeffrey's paintings from college. "It was taken a year or so before he died," Jeffrey remembers. "It is a small photo I carried in my wallet for decades after his death. It got a little ragged." Courtesy of Jeffrey Robert

Comments

1

I hate this argument. It's the exact same as telling American feminists they should shut the fuck up since they aren't being stoned to death for having sex like they are in some countries. Or telling poor Americans to stop complaining since people are starving to death in Yemen. Or telling immigrants in outside detention centers separated from their families and lost in a kangaroo court to shut the fuck up since their concentration camps aren't (yet) death camps. Or don't complain about our healthcare system since there was a time when antibiotics didn't exist, etc. Progress doesn't happen by rule of nature- it happens because people force it.

You evaluate reality by comparing it to what is possible your current time and place, not to what atrocities have existed in other times/places.

2

I would disagree. I think we use our own life experiences throughout our lives. Some of us just happen to have been around longer than others. That information we gathered through experience might be helpful, but folks may decide to ignore it.

No one, certainly not me (I'm the one in the article) said anyone should shut the fuck up. I've never said that. I've said that for me, as an older gay man living in this time (but still with all the years of life I've had still a part of me) it can be frustrating feeling ignored and invalidated (as your message does) while other issues that seem far less serious are given ten times the angst. This was about what it is like to be around in this time after having survived another time. If it doesn't fit with your expectation, EmmaLiz, that is fine. It is my life. I'm sticking with it.

Happy Pride!
JR

4

Jefferey the younger people you are talking about are in fact using their own experiences. The AIDS crisis does not affect them the way it did your generation. So it's not a matter of them ignoring a more serious situation- it's that the serious situation to which you are referring no longer exists. The current serious situations are in fact the ones that concern them now. They should not have to compare their current situations to your past ones. Things getting better in some ways does not negate things getting worse in others, nor does it mean that people stop complaining. And I know it's possible that you did not choose the headline or that you were misquoted, but "why the fuck are you complaining" is the same thing as "shut the fuck up". Unless you meant it as a serious question- in which case the answer is what I said: You judge reality by comparing it to what is possible in your current time and place, not to realities in other times/places. Far more people in your grandparent's generation died in a couple years of the flu than have all Americans of AIDS ever. But I bet you would not suffer your grandpa to tell you to stop complaining when you've survived such a plague yourself. Happy pride to you too and I'm sorry about your loss. I've never lost a partner but I have lost a sibling and a close friend both suddenly, and it definitely shakes you to the core.

5

I lived in the East Bay in the 1980s.
It's hard to recapture the level of terror.
Those of us who survived, thank God we did!

6

@5 The East Bay has gotten significantly safer for ye olde straights as well. Sometihng like a 90% drop in violent crime since 2000 - which itself was significantly below crack-era Oakland crime levels. Oakland today, in 2019, is safer than Seattle was in 1989.

I think this message should be shouted at essentially all young people: The 1980s were pretty bad. Murder, rape, and assault are all massively down. College enrollment and educational access is way up. The air is massively cleaner (did you ever visit LA in the 80s?). We're further away from nuclear annihilation than at any point during the 80s.

You may not agree that it's a good time to be alive - but you have to agree there is no better time to be alive.

7

@EmmaLiz
As far as I know, subject lines in media are almost always the work of editors, not the writers and rarely if ever the subject. Those weren't my words, but I'm fine with those Hook 'Em Headlines. They do their job, which is to pull in readers.

I just deleted a larger response. No need to go back and forth on here. I'm actually a pretty nice guy and not an angry "get off my lawn" geiser, but I thought the second half of the article discussed that better than I could. But yeah, I'm easy to find. I no longer perform in Seattle (still live here) but we probably have mutual friends or you can find me on line if you want to talk about this face to face. I'll even buy you a drink. I have references - I'm a decent guy, I shower, I have a sense of humor and I apparently cuss like a tart (so it seems reading my words). Face to face works so much better. I know people are basically good but you'd never know that on social media. I still prefer dogs, but people are cool. Hugs. JR

8

lol I'm not in Seattle though I'm there a lot and anyway I did not think you were a bad guy, though you did come across a bit get off my lawn though I know the trauma is real. My beef is more with the Steven Pinker crowd anyway. I don't know why we have to phrase these things this way- people are fighting for a better future and that's good. We should support them, not shush them by pointing out that certain things were worse before.

Sporty it depends on where you live obviously every bit as much as when. It also depends on what you compare it to. Is there less risk of nuclear war now than in the 80s? Probably not- though definitely there is less risk now than there was in the 50s-70s. However there's more risk now than there was in the 90s, and that risk is escalating. I guess you know that tensions are higher with Russia in the last few years than they've been since the 70s. Also look at what's going on with India-Pakistan. And we'll see what goes down with Iran, plus Israel has been giving Saudi Arabia nuclear weapons tech and now Trump is giving them nuclear power tech. Given the build up to war against Iran in this context, I'd say we are probably closer to a nuclear confrontation right now than we've been since the later years of the USSR.

9

I think the problem with this piece is that it's so dismissive of what people are going through right now. So, misgendering isn't enough to complain about? How about getting kicked out of the military because you're transgender? What level of person tragedy do younger people have to rise to before their life experiences rate?

10

@9 Alright, I'll bite. Is it possible for you to be more thoroughly soaked in third world privilege? Perhaps your friends and family care about exactly where you fall on the gender spectrum, but I certainly don't give a shit. As long as it's legal, I don't care who you fuck, what you fuck or if you fuck.

Now, if somebody hits you on the head with a steel pipe, let me know about that. I'll call a cop.

11

Of course I meant "first world privilege." Sorry

12

I understand the temptation to make the comparison, but the truth is, everyone's pain is painful. Every generation has its problems to manage, and those problems are serious to that generation.

13

@8 tensions are definitely rising, but we did duck and cover anti nuclear war drills as kids. It was an ever present threat that simply didn't exist anymore

14

Duck and cover drills were in the 50s-60s, some in the 70s, not much the 80s when Gorbachev was doing Pizza Hut commercials and the USSR was on its last leg. They were mostly propaganda anyway as cowering under a desk would do nothing to prevent injury from a nuclear attack but do a shit ton to indoctrinate generations of Americans with terror of communists. The threat was very real through the 50s-70s, and it is very real today once again. The fact that the media and our school system does not advertise the threat today as much as they did in the past has more to do with US foreign policy objectives and their role in the nuclear escalation than it does to do with the level of threat. It would not surprise me if that the war with Iran actual happens, it would become global and even nuclear though more likely tacticals.

Kids today do mass shootings and lock down drills so the experience of being an American school child continues to be full of violence and fear.

15

This is a very moving story, and as a 70s-born gay man who grew up in the shadow of HIV/AIDS in suburban southern California, I can hardly claim to have been impacted by the epidemic in the nature or extent as the previous generation (let alone to have lost the love of my life, be erased from his official memory, and have most of my worldly possession taken from me by his family - I've lost more gay friends to addiction than HIV/AIDS).

But the costs of being out are persistent.

I spent 20 years after college on the economic margins, overlooked and seen as only qualified for low wage service sector positions by the largely white, straight men who run things (in my case tech and Hollywood). Literally the only career opportunities I have had have come from other lgbt people. (I now have a franchise - of movies, tv, and things - in development with a certain A list gay director [not named Gus Van Sant, known for musicals, and not disgraced {read: Brian Singer}] and his producer husband [both of whom themselves didn't have careers until their 40s]. If it succeeds it will be the first such thing with an out gay character [me!] at its center [my former child actor friends and I play clandestine agents for a secret global elite] - in no way was this possible 10 years ago.)

You pay a price, in some cases measured by time - and certainly in prestige professions - by coming out. I'm tempted to mention the name of a closeted A list gen x actor (not named Tom Cruise although duh) who has received a boatload of fawning coverage recently (which I think reflects a deep seated and persistent preference on the part of audiences and the press for gay celebs and public figures remaining in the closet). In any event here's doubting that this person would keep getting the same big time gigs if he came out, even in 2019 (so I don't begrudge him for not doing so). And how many tech titans were out before they got to that place (eh tu PayPal mafiosos and Tim Cook)?

The love of my life is still alive, but he more or less returned to the closet after our teenage summer love because conservative Catholic parents (my second feature is about that - it's a tragedy of separation by culture, rather than death, like "Witness" or "Snow Falling on Cedars"). We may well be together again and marry, but the cost is measured again...in time. In my economic/career life, in my family life, my friendships, every area - I've paid a price for being out.

If the first lgbt rights movement was about the right to assemble - to be that in public spaces (this is the mid-century battle, fought out mostly in SF and Sacramento) - and the second movement (beginning in the mid/late 60s) was about securing equality under the law, the next one (much like the post Civil Rights and women's rights movements) will be about achieving equality of outcomes. Until we break the lavender ceiling in all professions, until we're paid the same for equal work, until we're not discriminated against in education, health care, mortgages, the criminal justice system, so on and so forth, the fight will go on.

16

Yes, there’s a big generation gap. I think it’s exacerbated by the very limited exposure most queer young people have to older queer people prior to their 20s.

Age wise, I think I’m right in the middle of the two groups identified in this article. Here’s my two cents: Asking 20-somethings to have the tiniest bit of perspective and insight into the experience of other generations is a losers game. They don’t and that’s what makes them great because they’re able to continue on in full righteousness. Go get ‘em, kids! You’re right!

Their perspective will shift in time. Like, for example, when they’re in their 30s or 40s or 50s and some major victory comes, and people expect them to experience pure joy. But in reality, it’s bittersweet, because you can only right the wrong for future generations, not for your younger self.

But yeah, there are moments when it’s extremely grating. Thank you Jeffrey for sharing your story.

17

@6 Amen. Name a better time to be LGBQT in America than today. Yes, there's work to do. LIke you said, it may not be good enough yet, but it's never been better.

18

Excellent essay. I lived in SF, in the Castro, during this time and it was distressing to see so many of my neighbors wasting away. Life was a blast, discos were fab, everyone was SO HAPPY! And then the party just suddenly ended. Without the Internet, you just "lost" people and you never knew for sure if they deliberately disappeared or died. There was no google to find out what happened to them. Thank you for reminding us how surreal and horrible it was. I have to laugh at the indignant responses here though. So funny.

19

I'm an old gay man who lived through much, much worse times for being a LGBT person. And I think it's great that so many young LGBT people are outraged at what's being done to them now, and are disbelieving when I mention some of the things I and my friends have gone through.

When a young gay man says "No way all of that could have happened to just one person", it means that their world is much better. How could I object to that? Their inability to imagine a seriously more hostile world is a good sign, not a bad sign.

So - unless younger people actually attack older people for being who we are (and who we are now is often in part a result of our difficult pasts) I'm fine with their ignorance of past horrors and their inability to comprehend what it used to be like.

None of us can understand what it was really like to be a field slave on a cotton plantation in the deep south, or a poor woman alone in an American city in the mid-1800s renting out her body to survive, or a seven year old orphan today trying to stay alive on the streets of Buenos Aires - all of those lives were or are infinitely worse than what I've had to deal with. But that doesn't make what I've had to deal with insignificant, or what young LGBT people today have to deal with insignificant.

Can we teach younguns how bad things were? Well, no - history is never accurate, never life-like. I've read histories of times and places I lived through myself, and they have always gotten it significantly wrong. One was a carefully reconstructed, thoroughly researched history of SF's South of Market gay world in the 1970s, done by an earnest young gay historian, and it was unrecognizable to me - it did not at all reflect life there as I knew it. But that is how other people will make sense of that time and place from now on, and that's ok.

Too many of the small details that make up the whole of any given moment in time are never preserved, so reconstructions of history are always like the ways dinosaur bones are put together in museums - a mixture of guesswork, assumption, anachronistic knowledge of how things turned out, and a few hard facts. So young people will never be able to really comprehend our past lives, good or bad - it's not real, it's always made up, unless you lived it yourself. Which is just the way it is, it's not a fault.

20

Well at least now I know I can save time and avoid any articles by this author in the future.

21

Hey black folks, why are you complaining? Back in the day you used to face enslavement, lynchings and segregation. But nowadays you have it pretty good! So what if you are occasionally singled out and murdered my police and face long-term economic problems due to systemic discrimination. It's not like you're chattel anymore! Life's good, so maybe stfu and enjoy life. Now let's heard about the bad old days from someone who actually had to deal with attack dogs.

22

21
Hey black folks, why are you complaining? Back in the day you faced enslavement, lynchings and segregation. But nowadays you have it pretty good! So what if you are occasionally singled out and murdered by police and face long-term economic problems due to systemic discrimination. It's not like you're chattel anymore! Life's good, so maybe stfu and enjoy life. Now let's hear about the bad old days from someone who actually had to deal with attack dogs.

23

Don't always agree w/EmmaLiz, though we haven't had any vociferous disagreements, but I sure as hell agree with what she wrote at #1, and after.

25

This so reminds me of that scene in the recent "Tales Of The City" mini-series: Ben, the very-much-younger boyfriend of Michael is berated by a group of middle-aged (and conspicuously successful) gay men at a dinner party for posing essentially the same argument as this: he sits in silent stupefaction as these older men, all survivors of the AIDS pandemic, dismiss the struggles of the younger generation - while they completely miss the obvious (to the viewer) irony of privileged white males telling a young Black man that "you have no idea what we went through!".

26

The ultimate insult of surviving to "old" age in the gay community is having to listen to the "youth" whine about how hard they have it.

29

The only real point is buried way down towards the bottom of the story. Although I have a feeling that it will cause massive problems down the road.

Wanting to fix new problems after the old ones are fixed is how progress works. I really don't blame young gay kids for wanting to make even more changes. The issue that does pop up, fueled by the speed of social media, is that new issues always pop up. Raising awareness about every little thing and playing issue whack-a-mole makes it hard to keep focused, long-term effort on any one problem. Gay rights being the last time I've seen that sort of concentrated effort being kept up on the left.

Young queer kids absolutely have things to learn from their elders about how to get things done. What they want to get done with those tactics is their prerogative.

30

28: Well said.

31

Dwell on the past and you’ll lose an eye. Forget the past and you’ll lose both eyes.”
-Russian proverb quoted by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“To draw an analogy: a man's suffering is similar to the behavior of a gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering is absolutely relative.“
-Victor Frankl

32

@28 "You guys know that old people always think the younger generations have it easier," maybe because it's mostly been true.

34

It could be that nobody actually gives a shit about microaggressions in your head. AIDS is worth giving a shit about because it killed people by the hundreds of thousands. I don't get why it's demanded everyone stop what they're doing to acknowledge every little inconvenience in somebody has in life.

35

@9 Misgendering is better than death is his point. It's not a tragedy that ends your life. It's a personal offence.

36

@34&35
Correct.

Plus... If you're doing your gender right how could you possibly be misgendered? The world will naturally attribute the gender you most convincingly portray to you.

Want to be addressed as a woman? Then make sure you look like a woman. Look like a man dressed as a woman? Expect to be addressed accordingly. This shouldn't be such a profound mystery...

If you want me to call you he or she, stop proving you're anything else.

AIDS in the 80's on the other-hand... no need for questions. If you had it and you most likely proved it by dying. Anyone who thinks there is any similarity between the AIDS epidemic and the "struggle" to avoid the offence of being called she if you feel like a he deserves an epidemic of their own.


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