Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hidden History: Fighting Bathhouse Closures

It is hard to get a grasp on the history of HIV-AIDS in America right now because it is not talked about since it would be a negative event in the gay media narrative. The common angle pushed now is that silence and Ronald Reagan were instrumental in the spread of HIV-AIDS and blocking attempts to fight the plague. There have been roughly 2 million AIDS cases and 1.1 million current HIV carriers in the USA since the disease first popped up. Considering the spread and general population of the USA, HIV-AIDS in its early days was a disease that was completely new, afflicting a small population and had unknown transmission or detection. It also was peculiar in being contained to gays, hence the original name Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Why did the authorities not try to stop the spread faster? They did. Municipalities tried to close bathhouses down in the hot spots, but gays fought closure and even after they knew better about the disease.

San Francisco was forced to delay closing bathhouses in 1984. Quote from the article, "More than 500 of the 3,899 Americans with AIDS or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, live in the San Francisco area and 95% of AIDS victims are gay men". It was under 4,000 AIDS sufferers in 1984, yet the modern media wants to spin it as Reagan's inaction causing the disease to spread. Later in the AP Wire article, the gay advocate cited that closing the bathhouses was just a ploy to push "homophobic political agendas" and another said constitutional issues were involved. In October of 1984, San Francisco was back at it ordering bathhouses closed. The bathhouse operators mentioned the need for legal process and order to prove this was a problem. Bathhouses said they served a gay need and would have closed if they thought they enabled the spread of AIDS. In 1985, New York sought to close bathhouses and gay public spaces with bathhouse owners saying they would fight efforts to shut them down. A dramatization of this early conflict is in one scene of the great HBO adaptation of And The Band Played On. Despite knowing the gay community was hit hard and gay sex was a transmission mechanism, the idea of stopping random, anonymous sex arenas was too much for gays to handle.

This might be harsh because it was 1984, so it was early in the HIV-AIDS scare. The media might not forgive Reagan for avoiding talking about 4000 gay men with AIDS, but the gays can be forgiven for their actions in 1984. What about 1988? If you were like me, you were a rural white kid being told by the TV newscasters and teachers that just like adorable Ryan White (hemophiliac), you too could get HIV-AIDS. This was the leading edge of the HIV-AIDS scare. In 1988, the bathhouses of Los Angeles were still fighting closures. From the LA Times,
The private rooms at Mac's Bathhouse in Silver Lake are a hot ticket on Saturday nights. Well-dressed men with gym bags start arriving at the labyrinth-like club before sunset, and by early evening a "No Vacancy" sign dangles beneath a stern AIDS warning posted on the cashier's window, signaling that the 50 personal cubicles are taken. 
Those who come later are forced to accept semi-private accommodations. As they trade their street clothes for towels and settle into bunk beds, steam rooms and each other's arms, a gay pornographic movie plays silently on a television and an empty Jacuzzi burbles near the rounded walkway known as the tunnel of love.
This was 1988, and the idea of stranger sex killing them did not slow them down. This was pre-red ribbon days, but thousands of gays were dropping dead from a disease primarily transmitted through sexual acts. The amount of self-delusion is high in the community and no higher than one of the bathhouse operators.
"We all have lots of friends who have died of AIDS," said Myers, 53, a mild-mannered former beautician with a life-sized photo of a nude man on his office wall. "If we thought we were part of the problem, we could not look in the mirror. But we're not."
The operators of crack houses and heroin dens probably admit to being part of the problem even if they are not shooting up, just a hunch, but they are probably self-aware. I also love the LA Times need to call a man they just met for the interview "mild-mannered". How do they know from a short interview he is mild-mannered? They have to frame him as a nice guy. Later on we hear an echo of the 1984 complaints,
One of them is John O'Brien, a 39-year-old bathhouse patron. O'Brien said he supports the argument that the baths actually promote safe sex practices and are preferable to other meeting places such as alleys, parks and drive-in movies. He also accuses bathhouse opponents of making a morality play in the guise of a health issue. 
"I have been an activist for 20 years and I see this as an important issue of sexual freedom," O'Brien said. "Liberace never went to the baths. The large majority of people at bathhouses are having safe sex. But I also support people's right to have unsafe sex. "
A 20 year veteran activist cites that this is about sexual freedom, rights and that the bathhouse opponents are using a health issue to act out a morality play. There is an interesting duality here because the evil opponents (Christian oppressors) simultaneously do not want to help gays at all but also want to close the bathhouses to help a gay health issue because they hate the lifestyle. It seems it would have been more beneficial to those evil Christians to let HIV spread and sayonara to the gay community they hate so deeply.
This is all in the deep past, not to be brought up when the media wants to discuss the sinister forces that were at play in suppressing the efforts to slow down the spread of HIV-AIDS. Hold on, in 2004, Los Angeles was back at it trying to enforce rules on bathhouses again due to the rise in HIV infections. A similar refrain can be heard,
... bathhouse owners and some gay rights activists argue that to close or restrict the bathhouses and sex clubs would infringe on the civil rights of patrons and business owners. 
"When you start regulating whether or not people can have safe sex, maybe one day you'll regulate whether people of the same sex can have sex with each other at all," said lobbyist Steve Afriat, who was hired by several bathhouse owners to fight tougher regulation of the establishments.
Immediately we see the claim of rights and the fear mongering that the Gestapo will be there to say who can have sex with who. This lobbyist obviously was not aware that the Supreme Court had just struck down the sodomy laws still on the books but not enforced across America in 2003. The truth and good policy shall not get in the way of a great quote for a journalist.
Similar to the minimum wage propaganda that removed any culpability from the single mother of four, gay men shall not be responsible for their actions. As much as the media wants to use President Reagan as a symbol for straight, white Christian America that avoided the AIDS issue, it was the gays who were their worst enemy. Just reframing the bathhouse actions and sexual behavior paints a different picture. Any writer could reframe the bathhouse articles to make them sound like the most disgusting cesspools of promiscuous sex that explained the rapid spread of the disease amongst gays. Writers could portray them as the nexus of drugs, sex and disease that despite knowing better, the patrons still use for anonymous sex. Instead of that, the media says they are safe zones where people can find love and companionship. It's a delicate balance between rights, freedom and health. Secretly, this is just another protected class that is part of the leftist coalition. Forgive them for their sins and transgressions, they know not what they do.

6 comments:

Roy said...

I have always found the Gays indictment of Ronald Reagan to be dispicable, and I am not even a Reagan supporter. Typically leftist in approach: live a lifestyle that could be called reckless such as having promiscuous unprotected sex and when it does't work out, blame the "Christian Right".

Big Bill said...

I have often wondered what the current AIDS costs are. What are the annual costs for pharmaceuticals, associated medical care, monitoring and testing?

Originally the meds alone were something like $30-40K per year.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand Reagan, but what did he have to do with these guys getting sick??? He must hrt their feeewings. Ah, these delicate flowers.

If they are so oppressed by us then they should create their own country and move to it.

newrebeluniv said...

If they are paying their own costs, I don't care what the costs are. If their insurance pool includes only other gay men, I don't care what their costs are. It is only when the government forces me to care by forcing me to pay for it that I have any reason at all to care about regulating someone else's behavior to lower MY costs.

Discard said...

They were also blaming the Catholic Church, screaming and throwing bags of blood. The media stood by and treated the lies as if they were reasonable opinion.

whisker child said...


If you want sex, why not stay home with a partner or two?

Since when do they threaten us with: our bathhouses, or we'll use the alleyways, parks, clubs?

A bathhouse is for when you want sex with 20 different people in one night; else you'd stay home with one or two partners.

The book to read, with a critical honest eye on this subject, and how despicably the gays acted at that time is called: "Aids, What The Government Isn't Telling You", by Dr. Lorraine Day.

Betcha it'll be hard to find. But I've read it (borrowed from a friend)

The book will tell you, among other things, that YES, YOU CAN GET AIDS FROM A GLASS.

Blew THAT lie...