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No Excuses

Oprah Winfrey Show title card

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Did you see the Oprah show yesterday? if you didn’t, you can read about it here,

http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Oprah-Returns-to-Williamson-West-Virginia

I remember 1987. It’s the year I moved back to Atlanta after six years in north Georgia. I was still a nurse then. Even in the medical community, the horror of AIDS and HIV was as a mysterious nightmare and it seemed veiled in far more questions than answers. We had finally started to wear gloves when drawing blood because of AIDS. It was much easier to do without them, easier to feel the vein it seemed. I remember the hesitation before giving mouth to mouth when someone stopped breathing and their heart stopped beating. It was just for a second, but it was still a hesitation. A moment of wondering, “What if I could catch it by this?”

I remember in 1983, we still stuck the needle on a used syringe into a little red box called a needle cutter at the small rural hospital where I worked. The boxes were frequently overfilled before replaced with a new one. When too full, the needle would occasionally bounce out after it was cut. I unknowingly carried one of these cut off, bounced out needles home on the bottom of my shoe. I then stepped on it when barefoot. The needle went completely into my foot, no longer visible except as a slight bulge beneath the skin. At first the doctor thought it would work its way out. After a few days, I’d developed cellulitis  and had to have it surgically removed. That happened right before the scare began. That needle haunted me for years.

I get so frustrated with the bigotry that still runs rampant. I feel equally embarrassed by my own past ignorance. I think I knew one gay man back then. Looking back, he was incredibly brave to be out at that time,  in that small town. He was young, kind, very good-looking and quiet. He would sometimes hang out with the girls, other nurses after work. I think most wished he wasn’t gay and were a little jealous of the men he talked of dating. Most of the men in that area spent their free time hunting. He was like a breath of fresh air.

Watching Oprah helped me remember that though slow, great progress has been made. Maybe humanity will always need someone to persecute, to hate, to bully. Maybe that is the nature  of the human beast. Maybe though, someday it simply won’t be tolerated anywhere, by anyone. One of the men on Oprah’s show yesterday, one of the men who had treated young Michael Sisco so badly twenty-three years ago, admitted being caught up in the mob mentality. It was a good explanation but a lame excuse. Ignorance is not an excuse. Neither is the the mob, the group or the majority.

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September 16, 2010 - Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , ,

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