Magazine article The Progressive

The Invisible (Gay) Man

Magazine article The Progressive

The Invisible (Gay) Man

Article excerpt

Philadelphia

When you visit the $500,000 AIDS exhibit opening October 21 in Philadelphia, New York City, and Richmond, Virginia, you can inspect a multicolored model of the HIV virus, spin dice to see your chances of contracting HIV under various circumstances, and draw a magnet across a model of a human body to learn that antibiotics easily pick up and destroy invaders like bacteria, but not HIV.

What you won't see is any substantial mention of gay men and the toll the disease has taken on them--the largest group of people with AIDS in America.

Activists fear that gay men were left out of the show to "sanitize" it for sale to Middle America.

"There's no two ways about it," says Nan Feyler, executive director of the Philadelphia AIDS Law Project. "There's a clear omission of gay people. It's important to ask what it means to have such a powerful exhibit about AIDS that excludes gay men."

Feyler and others are hoping they can lobby the show's sponsors to increase the visibility of gay men before the exhibit goes on the road.

The display was developed by the National AIDS Exhibit Consortium--a group of eight science museums across the country--as part of a $2 million grant by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Roberta Goldshlag Cooks, a psychiatrist and the exhibit's developer, says that when the project got started, "There were people who were skeptical and worried about why we should be doing this, and how." She denies, however, that there was a conscious effort to hide gay men in the exhibit. …

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