Matt Bomer & Mark Ruffalo in The Normal Heart (HBO)
Note: I am posting this although somehow I am scared that people will hate me. Is that crazy or what??
I am just watching The Normal Heart on HBO. I have avoided it for years. The time depicted, 1981-1984, before we knew about HIV, when friends were developing strange diseases and dying, was a time I had no wish to re-experience. I have known about The Normal Heart since it appeared onstage, but have not wanted to see it, because the topic is so personally painful for me. I have seen many other depictions of the time. Angels in America, The Boys in the Band, Falsettos. And there are many others. Somehow I always avoided The Normal Heart.
In 1981 I was working for Harper & Row Publishers. I was very young. I grew up in one of the NYC boroughs and was kind of insulated from “the world”. I sang in a choir. What did I know about the struggles of the gay community? As it turned out, I knew someone who was part of it. When I was 16 I got a mad crush on one of the members of my choir. He was so funny and handsome! I was a budding song writer. Since I never had guitar lessons, but was determined to play, I wrote my own tunes. My friend in choir, who I’ll call Tony, was a poet. He and I collaborated and I set his poems to music. Since he was quite a few years older than me (maybe 9?) my Dad was not happy. He thought there was “something” odd about Tony. Nevertheless, Tony and I stayed friends.
By 1981 Tony was living with his (male) lover in Greenwich Village. I was working, as I said, in book publishing. I had a (married) (don’t judge!) lover, and Tony was trying to make it as a playwright. In 1982 I brought my lover with me to see Tony’s new play. It was produced off-Broadway. It was hilarious! Tony’s family was very impressed with my companion. They teased me about when was I getting married. (Never!) Tony was in ecstasies about the review of his play.
Then Tony got sick. Then he was dead. Yes, it was HIV. AIDS. I was horrified. Then my friend Skip got sick. He told me about getting shingles, and sarcoma. What could I say? Then he was dead. Then I read in the newspaper that my acting workshop teacher died of “pneumonia”. He was a 40 yr. old Franciscan brother. So young. Then my co-worker, who was a part-time choreographer and incredibly lovely person, died. His funeral service was amazing. Lots of video of his work.
Yes, my friends were dying. We were scared and confused. My other gay friends, of which there were a few, working in book publishing, were scared. Some of them made it through.
I can’t claim that I did anything noble at that time. I gave support to my friends. I didn’t get involved in any political action. I later participated in many Gay Men’s Health Center events/walks/whatever. I fought against people who discriminated against gay people because of AIDS fear. I had a heterosexual friend whose parents died from AIDS due to blood transfusions. Unbelievable.
I still have many gay friends. They survived. A couple have HIV, which is controlled with medication. I love them. I wish this disease was eliminated, but I am grateful it can at least be controlled.
With the increased violence against homosexuals that we have seen in NYC, it is a frightening time. Even though my friends now have the right to legally marry in state after state after state, there are still those who hate them. It scares me. How, in, NYC, can anyone be beaten because someone walking on the street nearby thinks they are gay?? I am very sorry for you, if you think gay people are wrong, evil, or twisted. You can stop following me now, or never read anything I write again. I guess I am newly energized by watching The Normal Heart.
Just one fangirl note: to anyone who decides they should gossip about someone’s sexuality, whoever they are, SCREW YOU! Sorry/Not Sorry . Everyone has the right to their private lives. This is real. Our hearts are normal, no matter our orientation.