Voices = Action
The following blog is a fictional piece written for LGBT History Month by Christopher Ward, Health Improvement Worker with Waverley Care’s SX project. Christopher is an artist whose practice works with LGBT+ themes. Alongside this, Christopher works to improve the health of gay, bisexual and all people who identify as men who have sex with men, accessing SX services. Christopher paints a picture of what it might have been like to see and reflect on progress in LGBT+ inclusion and HIV/AIDS activism over time.
It’s 1982 and I’ve been walking up and down Forth Street just off Broughton Street for the past twenty minutes, trying to build up the courage to go in. The third time I just saw it and went for it. I’m in, I’m finally here after constantly backing out at the last moment. It’s strange to feel this sense of home in a place I’ve never really been, regardless of how many times I have played it over in my head. It is also peculiar to think a small place such as the Lavender Menace could be part of the catalyst to give people like me a voice in the world.
The Lavender Menace, was the first LGBTI+ bookshop in Scotland and I’m finally here. The shelves are filled with books, in which each letter unveils and whispers sweet stories. The shapes of the shop alter my vision, the angular books, and the circular reflections of glass and pink triangles that cover the notice board. This pink triangle is a symbol I know well by now, but I never take the time to consider in which direction it takes us. It tells us forward or up, and for the past 50 years LBGTI+ people have pushed society forward. There is no clearer an example than the ACT UP movement.
The ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) was an international activist group set up in 1987 in response to the AIDS crisis. ACT UP fought for the lives of our loved ones, changed how people saw those affected by HIV and AIDS and ultimately changed the society we live in. If there is another 1000 years of LGBTI+ history, I still believe that the ACT UP will be our proudest moment.
We’ve come so far since I was standing in the Lavender Menace in 1982 and now knowing all that has been, I can honestly say things are getting better. But it is also too true to say that we must remember to keep moving forward and refuse to become complacent. In the future it is key to remember the importance of community spaces, remember community-driven organisations and to stay focused on our mission for real equality. Its 50 years since we started marching and its 30 years since Waverley Care joined the parade. As we move into an era with PrEP, PEP and U=U, it is important to remember that ACT UP started a mission and that we can continue the story.
We fight for the lives of our loved ones and, will continue to change how people see those affected by HIV and AIDS to ultimately change the society we live in.