I walked the avenue, ’til my legs felt like stone,
I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone,
At night I could hear the blood in my veins,
Black and whispering as the rain,
On the Streets of Philadelphia.
~ Bruce Springsteen
I loved my brother. My experience of my big brother is that he was one of the kindest, most beautiful of souls. Never did he utter a bad word about anyone, ever. He had the type of high integrity that is less witnessed in real life and more often the stuff of characters in books and movies. My brother had a fabulously wicked sense of wit, was generous in social causes with both his time and money, and extremely intelligent. He loved history, the ballet, theatre, opera, classical and rock music, and movies. He loved and supported me unconditionally. The rest of my family are a bunch of red-neck, white trash, garden variety lunatics. I have always said that whatever class and grace I may possess are due strictly to my brother’s example.
My brother’s name was Bryan and he was a gay man who died of AIDS on November 6, 1992.
While he was dying of this incomprehensible disease, the rest of our “family” and “society” ostracized both he and I. Bryan meant so much to me that when he asked me to be his caregiver, I didn’t hesitate. Of course, I would be his caregiver. From the day he told me he tested positive for HIV, to the day he died, to this day, I have never regretted my decision. It opened my eyes to a world few can imagine. And though much of the experience was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, I discovered that there are gifts in the darkness, if you can keep your eyes open through the pain.
It’s 2016. 23 years have past since my brother died and I am fighting back the tears while I write this piece.
Bill Clinton ran for president and won the election on November 3, 1992. Through the last months of my brother’s life and then through my grief, I saw a candidate running for our highest office that seemed to speak our language. He and his wife Hillary, who indeed presented herself as running right alongside Bill, appeared to be friends of the gay community. The gay community who had my heart.
Through my brother’s illness, we got to know many others who suffered from AIDS. And while I could see my brother at any time during his hospital stays, many of our friends were not allowed this simple human right. Gay couples had no status in the eyes of the law. Anti-Gay parents and families blocked their children’s lovers and partners from seeing each other in the hospital. This was common. Can you imagine what it is to look into the eyes of friend who has been banned from seeing their friend, lover, and mate during his last days? Can you even imagine the anguish you would witness? It overwhelmed me.
Where is humanity? We cried.
When I heard the masses of hate-filled, fear-based, hypocritical bigoted voices, my rage often went unchecked. How dare they set themselves up as judge and jury, while hiding behind bibles and a small-minded notion of morality?
Yes. It was and still is personal for me.
With Bill and Hillary Clinton, we thought we had finally found a friend and ally of the gay community. Sadly, devastatingly, we were wrong. Buckling under the political and social pressure of the times, we saw the Clintons institute DADT “Don’t ask, don’t tell” on February 28, 1994. You can look up the details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_ask,_don%27t_tell. Later the abhorrent DOMA statute, Defense of Marriage Act, was signed into law by President Clinton on September 21, 1996. You can read more detail here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_of_Marriage_Act.
What had I done with my vote? I felt as though by electing this couple, which is how they presented themselves at the time, I had unwittingly betrayed my brother.
In 2004 then Senator of New York Hillary Clinton came out publicly to oppose Same-Sex Marriage. This is an important distinction to me. Hillary Clinton wasn’t merely a silent or uncommitted official, she actively fought against Same-Sex Marriage. Lest you’ve forgotten:
At a recent mainstream media MSNBC Clinton Sanders Democratic Town Hall on February 18, a brave man stood up and asked Hillary Clinton about releasing the transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches. Mrs. Clinton received $675, 000 for (3) three speeches.
Note that this courageous gentleman states how he had once been a supporter of the Clintons, but how it broke his heart when Hillary Clinton had stated that “marriage was between a man and a woman.” I knew exactly how he felt. The Clintons had betrayed us.
Yes. People can and should evolve. Hillary Clinton did come around to LGBT rights and marriage equality in 2013.
2013. 11-years after my brother’s death.
Can I forgive her? Of course, I can. People were frightened to stand up for Gay Rights in the 90’s. People were terrified of AIDS. And though fear didn’t stop me or thousands of others from speaking out and raising awareness about this disease and the basic human rights of the LGBT community, I did recognize that it wasn’t easy for those in the public eye to stand with us.
Does Hillary Clinton deserve my vote? No.
Yes, she evolved and for that she should be applauded. Applauded, yes. Voted for, no. Her behavior has not been that of a leader.
Understand that I witnessed the way that the Clinton’s humanity crumbled in the backlash of outrage and homophobia of the time. And you know what? There are still far too many fearful people running around today. A large percentage of whom continue to not only oppose, but actively work against LGBT rights.
The country of Saudi Arabia comes to mind. A country that not only doesn’t recognize LGBT rights, if you are discovered to be gay you can face chemical castration, jail, and public execution. The Clinton Foundation appears to have no problem accepting somewhere between $10, 000,001 to $25,000,000 from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Do I trust that a President Hillary Clinton along with a First Gentleman Bill Clinton would stand up against any vigorous efforts to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on Same-Sex Marriage? No, I do not.
You might think that is unfair of me. You are entitled to your opinion, of course. Obviously for me, none of the GOP presidential candidates deserve my vote (or the time-of-day, for that matter). I came across this video, which served to solidify my choice for President:
In 1995 Bernie Sanders stood up to that bigot in the same way that I would have if I had been there, with outrage. We have a choice, you see. We can chose someone who may or may not continue to support Same-Sex Marriage or we can vote for Bernie Sanders.
I am GenX and this is merely one of the reasons that I am voting for Bernie Sanders.