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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Mourning Reagan
by REX WOCKNER
2004-06-16

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Or not mourning Reagan, it seems, in the case of many gays.

The consensus among a majority of gay opinion makers seems to be that AIDS could have been much less horrible if Reagan would have done something—anything— much earlier than he did.

He apparently addressed AIDS once in 1985, when asked about it at a press conference, and then didn't bring it up again until 1987, that time of his own volition.

Gays, who were dying left and right, wanted some kind of leadership from the White House, more money for research, and government-initiated safe-sex campaigns.

My e-mailbox suggests that gay leaders, then and now, feel Reagan fully dropped the ball, perhaps deliberately. They are not in a forgiving mood.

AIDS first appeared in the U.S. in 1981, the year Reagan took office, and HIV was identified in 1984. Undoubtedly he could have done more—much more.

After he left office, Reagan did get involved in the issue of children with AIDS, even making a PSA for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Some reports say that in 1990, he 'apologized' for his neglect of the epidemic while he was president, but there's zero evidence to back up that assertion. Dig deeper, and it seems the PSA was interpreted by some politicians and journalists as an 'apology.' That's a huge leap.

Well, at least most people with AIDS are not dying nowadays. I will say this, though: If I had a choice right now between Reagan and Bush, I'd choose Ronnie over Dubya.

And Then, Silence

My job forces me to scan hundreds of online news articles weekly. And here's the fascinating thing: Just days after the first same-sex marriages began in Massachusetts, the whole topic all but disappeared from the news cycle.

People who predicted the sky was not going to fall when it became possible for gays to marry could not have been more right.

There was a humongous burst of coverage, Christian activists predicted the end of civilization, and then ... nothing.

The trickle of news that has continued mostly has to do with dingbat Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continuing his desperate efforts to prevent out-of-staters from marrying in Massachusetts— another matter in which he ultimately will fail.

Gays continue to marry. The sky is safely in place. And to almost everybody, America barely seems different at all. Sweet.

Beargeoisie

My buddy Matt and I bopped into Chicago over Memorial Day weekend intending to frolic a bit at the zillions of events connected to International Mr. Leather and Bear Pride.

But we mostly ended up sightseeing and frolicking with each other. I lived in Chicago for eight years, so I was an efficient tour guide.

We stopped into the Hyatt, the IML host hotel, Friday night and mingled with the exhibitionistic hordes cramming the bar, lobby, escalators and other common areas. Within about 45 minutes we experienced a feeling of been-there-done-that (BTDT). We returned to my friends' house and watched the season finale of Enterprise on a Tivo-like device.

Saturday we visited the football-field-sized IML marketplace. I'm neither here nor there on leather, but Matt delivered a wallop to his Visa card, picking up more than enough kinky gear to shock even the most jaded of airport X-ray screeners. BTDT set in, and we hit the road.

We stopped into the Congress Hotel, Bear Pride Central, and mingled a bit with the beargeoisie in the lobby. Having wandered through perhaps 10 circuit-bear events over the years, I remain unclear on their appeal. If you're lookin' for a hookup, why not save money and find one in your hometown? If you're lookin' for love, circuit-bear events would seem to qualify as 'in all the wrong places.'

I'm also convinced it's the same 3,000 men who go to all of them nationwide.

Some men will drop me an e-mail and expound on the Big Beautiful Bear Brotherhood. I worry that this could be a euphemism for group sex, group-think, and overconsumption of pizza.

BTDT. Matt and I headed to an English pub for shepherd's pie and fish and chips, stopped by The Eagle just long enough to smoke cigars, and probably went to bed earlier that night than any other IML/BP visitor.

By Sunday, we were oblivious to IML and Bear Pride. I gave Matt a grand tour of the North Side, took him to Ann Sather to eat, then indulged his desire to ride the El train around and around, clamoring through the old tree-lined neighborhoods and creaking amongst The Loop's stunning skyscrapers.

Later we sat in the car on the lakefront and watched the lightning, then stopped by one of my favorite gay bars—Sidetrack — for oldies night on the huge video screen.

Eleven years after moving to San Diego because I hate winter, I still love and miss Chicago. I think it's America's best city, in part because of Mayor Daley's benevolent dictatorship which Gets Thing Done, and his gay-like flair for, and devotion to, beautifying the city neighborhood-by-neighborhood.

Leatherfolk and circuit bears can be fun for 45 minutes but Chicago could capture your imagination for a lifetime.

Pope Poop

Pope J2P2 denounced gays again June 4, calling us 'self-centered' for wanting to have 'same-sex unions.'

Specifically, he said: 'Rights are at times reduced to self-centered demands: the growth of prostitution and pornography in the name of adult choice, the acceptance of abortion in the name of women's rights, the approval of same-sex unions in the name of homosexual rights. In the face of such erroneous yet pervasive thinking you [American bishops] must do everything possible to encourage the laity in their special responsibility for evangelizing culture and promoting Christian values in society and public life.'

What perplexes me most about this blah-blah is why the media considered it news. In journalism school, you learn that if a dog bites a man, that's not really news, but if a man bites a dog, there's a story.

In other words, the utterly predictable status quo of things isn't news. Dogs bite people every day. It would be news if J2P2 said something in favor of gay people.

A lot of media types apparently slept through their 'What Makes News News?' classes.


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