I was there.
I was there because I remember the smell and the stench and the feel of it. I remember the sight of bones and veins and warts and bleeding ears and shitty asses on clean bedsheets. I was there and I still have trouble getting the sight of my friend’s being carted off in station wagons because no hospital and no family would take their bodies to be buried, out of my mind’s eye. I was there and I lived in the grace of caring gay women who sat with us and rocked us and fed us as we drooled and spat and gave weight to the dying and turned into family.
I was there and I was present
I rallied and I prayed. I held on and I let go. I sang with my Trans sisters and we marched endlessly through empty streets begging for care and hoping for God. We screamed from our bones to a deaf and blind populous. And the purple sores and the peeling skin and mania from which my brothers and sisters suffered got bigger and took up every moment and every breath and filled every dream I ever had. And my tribe was present in the AIDS plague and I know this because I was there and I was part of what happened.
And I have AIDS
And so when history is rewritten and shown as entertainment for the masses, for instance: When We Rise recently on ABC, and when the public sees that we are absent from the plague that took us by force, fiction then becomes fact. Because you see, as much as I appreciated the effort, and the recognition towards the end of the project and Mr. Black’s courage in the making of it and the herculean effort it took to chronicle our LGBT history, I saw no Trans bodies on the AIDS ward. I saw no Trans humans feeding the sick, caring for the homeless or sheltering the newly diagnosed. I saw no Trans stories that unfolded as the cis-gender stories did. I saw no blossoming, no openings and no newness of discovery as our Trans tribe lifted, pulled and yanked us head on into revolution and hope. For we, along with the women of our community, became the nurses, the caretakers and some of the last to die.
But we did die and we did nurse. And I know because I was there.
And still, I will not be erased. And even though Mr. Black had the best intentions, and in the center of me, I do believe that was true, he perpetuated the stereotype that our Trans family disappeared and abandoned the fight when the fighting got tough. He became part of the problem instead of living in the solution. He gave others another reason, especially in our own community, to shun us, shame us, and ignore us. It’s horrific enough when it happens on the outside of us, but when it comes from one of our own, the cut is bone deep.
And so, with as much forgiveness as I can face and still, with a stern sense of self and years of loss in the heart space of me, I say unequivocally; As the story of who we are blossoms into truth, someday my Trans Tribe shall take our rightful place alongside the rest of our queer family history, and hopefully somewhere, someday, someone will get it right, and we will be seen, fully and flawed, beautifully and sinfully… as humans in the midst of the war. As Trans people with much to offer. However... until then, all I have is what I know and I still suffer the wounds of a shattered generation.
And I know this because when we rose, I was there.