Growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s in North Carolina, the novelist Armistead Maupin was a gentle, fanciful child who feared the mandatory dodge ball game at recess and convinced his parents to outfit his bedroom with a stained-glass window. His father, a lawyer who romanced racism and was prone to bouts of unexplained rage, assumed his son would grow out of his delicate constitution.
Long aware of his status, Roe was calm. He recalls the doctor saying, “I get the sense that you already know that you’re HIV positive.” When Roe nodded, the doctor dropped a bomb. “Well, the Atlanta Police Department is not hiring HIV-positive police officers, so your hiring process is basically over.”
As Senate Republicans are tying a bow on their health-care bill, the text of which they will reportedly release this week, advocates of people living with HIV and AIDS—among the country’s most reliant on access to affordable care—are ramping up efforts to resist what they fear will be damaging changes in the proposed legislation.
Being “in between” was both a curse and blessing for Pauli Murray, born Anna Pauline Murray, in 1910. Growing up in a segregated North Carolina, Murray displayed at an early age an artistic mind and a preference for the boys’ section of the clothing store. Variously tormented and buoyed in her life by her status as a woman, being of mixed race, and as a self-professed “boy-girl” who believed in her bones that she was really a man, Murray endured to become a journalist, an activist, a professor, a priest, and a lawyer who made monumental contributions to civil rights and women’s rights.
Glaser admits he’s been stung by stigma. He recalls one sunny day he and friends were filming fellow skateboarders in Venice Beach, California. Someone in the pack, who didn’t know Glaser, suddenly became standoffish toward him. “He looked at me and said, ‘I don’t want to film with you anymore because I’ve just learned you have HIV.’”
Bullies roamed his high-school gym class, so Cleve Jones feigned a chronic lung ailment and retreated to the library. It was on one such occasion that he flipped through the magazine that likely saved his life. A headline piqued Jones’ interest: “Homosexuals in Revolt!” It topped a Life report on the nascent gay liberation movement that was taking root in New York and California. The year was 1971.
“I’m pretty sure that was the exact moment I stopped planning to kill myself,” Jones, 62, says in his new memoir, When We Rise: My Life in the Movement. “I took the pills I had been hoarding from their hiding place and flushed them down the toilet.” Until then, Jones says, he had thought there was no one else like him on the planet.
When she was 3, Elissa Altman tasted the sweetness of rebellion, which she describes in her second and latest memoir, Treyf: My Life as an Unorthodox Outlaw. “Disgusted with being shoehorned into a pink leotard and ballet slippers—I wanted to be Ken, not Barbie,” Altman packs up her tutu and flees dance class. Once outside, she hands her mother her ballet tote and says, “I quit.”
“Inside,” the opening track to Chely Wright’s new release, I Am the Rain, beckons listeners with its gentle undertow. It’s a meditative life-affirming lullaby that Wright wrote to herself as she prepared to come out back in 2010. “You are small, and you are big at the same time,” she sings, an acknowledgement of how powerful and how inconsequential that act can seem in the world. Her widely reported coming out, captured in the 2011 documentary Wish Me Away, was both liberating and immensely difficult for Wright, a major player in country music who was raised by conservative parents in Wellsville, Kansas.
Cancer kept Angel Moses busy. Before even completing the five-year treatment for breast cancer after she was diagnosed in 2003, the disease recurred in the original breast and a new cancer developed in the other.
The Chicago resident first found she had the disease when she was just 38. Her age and the occurrence of her second cancer were factors that suggested Moses had hereditary breast cancer. She opted for testing and discovered that she did indeed carry a so-called Jewish gene mutation — BRCA2 — which dramatically increased her risk for both breast and ovarian cancer.
A furtive acknowledgement—a man’s nod, to be precise—ultimately landed Brian Samuel Epstein, the gay, eldest son of a prominent Jewish family in Liverpool, England, in jail. He was the victim of garden-variety police entrapment at a time and place when two men holding hands in public was enough for a cop to arrest them on suspicion and take them in for questioning. In his own written account of the incident, which occurred in 1957 and was included in Debbie Geller’s book of oral history, In My Life: The Brian Epstein Story, Epstein, then 23, enumerated the charge: “For persistently importuning various men for immoral purposes.”
March 8 marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. release of The Birdcage, the iconic Mike Nichols remake of La Cage aux Folles starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane about an openly, joyously gay couple from South Beach, Florida and the complicated marriage of their son to the daughter of a conservative politician.
What made this movie such a blockbuster in 1996? Was that because its light-in-the-loafers, limp-wristed protagonists were neutered enough to be non-threatening to the masses? It certainly didn’t hurt that the cast was packed with big-name actors who infused their roles with hilarity and warmth. Some say the movie reinforced tired stereotypes. Others suggest it offered positive images that ultimately helped move the needle on marriage equality. Twenty years later, one thing is certain: The Birdcage took gay representation to bold new places at a pivotal moment in the struggle for LGBTQ visibility and civil equality—and for that, it deserves to be celebrated.
When the Forward first wrote about Harvey Singer two years ago, he shared his trials of being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. The Rochester, New York, resident opted for a full mastectomy, only to be diagnosed with prostate cancer 18 months later. Recently, we learned that Singer faced yet another monumental health scare after we spoke with him in 2014.
It was with some trepidation that Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls stepped onto the set of the Amazon series Transparent. Creator Jill Soloway had invited Ray, along with her folk-rock act’s other half, Emily Saliers, to play themselves, performing their fan-favorite “Hammer and a Nail” in an episode largely set at an all-women music festival, which the show’s central character, transgender woman Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), attends with her two daughters.
When Dar Williams first wrote the song “The Christians and the Pagans,” about a solstice-celebrating lesbian couple who visit devout Christian relatives during Yuletide, she intended the folk-pop tune to be a humorous respite from tortured holiday gatherings. “The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch/ Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, ‘Is it true that you’re a witch?’”
A coalition of politicians from both sides of the aisle is deeply concerned about new recommendations for breast cancer screening. They, along with patient advocates, say the new guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force will fail to protect populations with a hereditary predisposition, including Ashkenazim, one of the groups at higher risk for the BRCA 1 and 2 genetic mutations linked to breast, ovarian and other cancers.