The missing generation and its repercussions

The repercussions of the HIV and AIDS crisis is felt through a missing generation of gay men.

HomoCulture Tim Slater

This article was published on April 25th, 2020

The Inheritance is a much-lauded Broadway production, and part of the reason is because of how poetically it tells the stories of gay men over many generations. At its most poignant, it explores the ramifications of the missing generation – young men who died in their prime due to the HIV and AIDS crisis of the 1980’s and early 90’s. The characters of The Inheritance are haunted by memories of men and loves lost. The story hits home because the repercussions of the missing generation are still felt today by the LGBT community, as indeed they should be.

Queer youth, who were born during the HIV and AIDS crisis or afterwards, live with the knowledge of our history – both triumphant and bleak. From queer liberation, to decimation, our culture and identities are framed by the sacrifices of others – sacrifices in the name of freedom, and the needless sacrifice of illness. It’s a dichotomy that brings us together, and as a result, as a community we try to value every unique voice.

When you consider the number of voices who are missing from the conversation, due to illness and death, it’s tragic and heart wrenching. For queer people, it’s important that we honor and remember the missing generation through storytelling, pride marches, art and exhibitions. It’s also important for us to respect the survivors – the men and women, the families and medical professionals, the protestors and campaigners. These heroes are still with us and stand strong as the battle against HIV and AIDS lives on.

It’s incredible to think of how much perseverance it must have taken to face such uncertainty about the future, and so much fear. It takes courage to come out of the closet, and self-esteem to pursue love. The HIV and AIDS crisis made living the truth so much harder. With stoicism and compassion, the LGBT community continued to fight for equality throughout the HIV and AIDS crisis. Our resilience is why it’s so important to celebrate our victories. 

While the tide is turning in acceptance of marriage equality in the United States, our cause is global, and equality extends to many freedoms. There are still stigmas, and a number of areas where we are still oppressed or discriminated against – from conversion therapy, to blood donations, trans rights, violence and murder rates. Our attention must turn to 65+ countries where fear still wins, in legislation and sanctions which lead to imprisonment and the death penalty for the crime of simply existing as a gay person.

Throughout periods of injustice and suffering, LGBT people will continue to rely on our community for strength and support. It’s our collective responsibility to care for the survivors of the missing generation, and ensure they maintain their dignity as they move into retirement homes and grow old. Discrimination can follow us, even to the grave, and there are still too many stories of gay spouses or partners who are disrespected and denied their rights as they mourn. But gay people will persevere, and together, triumph. It’s part of the legacy of the missing generation for us to cherish each other, and to continue to fight. Indeed, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

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