Tuesday, December 08, 2015

How would Trump have reacted to AIDS reported in MSM back in the early 1980s?


Donald Trump’s proposal to “ban Muslims” from entering the country (at least temporarily) reminds me of a horrible peril that the gay male community faced in the early 1980s.  This was the time when AIDS cases were mounting (doubling every six months) and the causative agent (HIV) had not been publicly identified.

The far right wing in Texas (I lived in Dallas at the time) had a field trip.  The far right (the ilk of Paul Cameron and Gene Antonio) called for quarantining all gay men, in a few cases, extermination, rather like Hitler.  How you would identify someone in the closet was an unasked question, in this time of “do ask, don’t tell”.

So I can certainly imagine a Trump of the period supporting such a measure with a statement based on speculative theories about harm to the general public.

There was a speculative theory that said that gay men had incubated the AIDS epidemic within their relatively closed populations in the largest cities (New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and later other cities like Dallas, Houston, Chicago) by the mechanics of a “chain letter”, amplifying the amount of virus in existence and giving it a greater probability of mutating into something that could then be spread more easily to the “general population”.  A group called “Dallas Doctors Against AIDS” had promulgated the view.

This “sci-fi horror” scenario would have been much less likely than speculated, because when viruses mutate, they usually don’t change transmission modes (if they did they would probably weaken and turn into something less lethal).  We saw similar fears about Ebola (which is much more transmissible) in 2014 with the quarantine issue.

Nevertheless, in early 1983, the Texas legislature considered (but rejected) strengthening the state’s sodomy law and banning gay men from most occupations (including hospital work and preparing good). This was ten years before the military ban would become a national public controversy with Clinton.

Trump’s proposal, which sounds like “lock up everybody because we are afraid of the few we can’t identify” brings back unpleasant memories, but we need to know our history.

People are afraid of what is “different” and not their own.  Trump is talking like Muslims are extraterrestrial aliens to be feared.  But I have felt I was put in that category in the past. Ironically, last Wednesday seems to have been the worst day for heterosexual family values ever.

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