Negligible steps in treating HIV and AIDS, stigmatization of homosexuals addressed
Rodger McFarlane, a well-known gay rights activist, spoke to students about the targeting of gays in the AIDS epidemic in the CU ATLAS building Tuesday evening.
McFarlane, who addresses Professor Matt Brown and Glenda Walden’s Social Construction of Sexuality course each semester, has been involved in countless equality and advocacy organizations, including the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and the Gill Foundation, an organization focused on LGBT civil rights. McFarlane exposed his experiences of being a gay man in an era that stigmatized homosexuals and took negligible steps in treating those infected with HIV and AIDS.
“The National Institute of Health issued no research,” McFarlane said. “We were all dying. So, we started taking care of sick people. People were terrified to touch them.”
McFarlane’s list of accomplishments, read by Professor Brown, included, but was definitely not limited to, an extensive military background, an appearance on the TV show Eco-Challenge, merging Broadway Cares with Equity Fights AIDS, being a founder of the first communicative response organization to the AIDS epidemic, authoring “The Complete Bedside Companion: A No-Nonsense Guide to Caring for the Seriously Ill,” co-authoring “The Tragedy of Today’s Gays” and receiving a Patient Advocacy Award from the Psychiatric Association.
“I’m always very aware of people who have it worse than I do,” McFarlane said. “I don’t have stress. It’s just noise inside your head.”
Though modest, McFarlane is paid to travel around the country to lecture about his achievements and the stepping stones he and his colleagues have taken in the progression of gay rights, said Brown, who met McFarlane through his involvement in the Gill Foundation.
“I can’t believe that one person has accomplished so much,” said psychology major Jennifer Rod. “I guess in the grand scheme of things, it really makes you realize that stress isn’t about whether or not you did well on a midterm; it’s about pulling together enough funds to make people realize gays are being targeted.”
After hearing him lecture for the fifth time, McFarlane’s words still resonate with Brown’s own experience of growing up as the lone homosexual in a rural farming community.
“In my sophomore year of college, I made the connection that I wasn’t crazy, society was,” Brown said.
Though HIV/AIDS today is labeled less as a disease strictly affecting gays, improvements and measures can still be made to diminish stratification and discrimination towards homosexuality.
“Be informed,” Brown said. “Be open to ideas, and live your life with some compassion and understanding.”