To the Future: Gay Life in the Twenty-First Century
Plagues and epidemics like AIDS bring out the best and worst of society. Face to face with disaster and death, people are stripped down to their basic human character, to good and evil. AIDS can be a litmus test of humanity.1
In the long term, perhaps even more sinister than the physical effects that AIDS has already had on the gay community are the psychological effects introduced along with HIV. Above all there has been a removal of hope and a disappearance of future, not just within the sub-population of homosexually active men (although it is most felt there) but in the population at large as well.2 Like an encroaching desert, AIDS has enveloped any notion of a green and fertile future for homosexually active men. Along with the suppression of the past as a hallmark of oppression,3 the negation of the future is also oppressive, as it promotes despair and disintegration. This is true at both individual and social levels and may have devastating consequences.4
Philosophically, while all of life entails risk, the absence of any future removes options and thus modifies risk to certainty. Simply put, without hope there is no future, and without a future we give up. Therefore, whether we are addressing a young man who has just been told he is unlikely to live to middle age or addressing the whole community of homosexually active men, it would seem important that hope is not destroyed.