A book about being HIV-negative and about issues of survival needs
roots. A decade ago the most informed among us could have had no clue
about the meaning of the title, and even now, though the literal meaning
may be intelligible, the human meaning is perhaps still obscure-even
for many of us living in the mainstream of the AIDS epidemic in the
United States. I trace the personal roots of this book and its meaning
back to the summer of 1985. On the north side of town, near the Golden
Gate Bridge, I sat in the Silver Cloud Bar and Grill on Lombard Street.
I was with a friend from graduate school, Joe Brewer, a man who suf-
fered a terrible loss early in the epidemic and who, with a friend, Martin
Delaney, had founded an organization to investigate and inform people
about treatments for HIV, an organization now well known as Project
That night Joe was trying to enlist my volunteer help with a simple
drug study-things were done quite informally in those days-and we
also spoke about the relationship between the psychology and the poli-
tics of being gay. I had a lifelong aversion
political and sociological ex-
an undergraduate in the sixties, I abandoned any hope of
finding meaning in political activity and joined the departments of phi-
losophy and religion. I studied Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein, Mahayana
Buddhism, and Zen, and found what seemed genuine insight about the
human plight and relative happiness in an absolutely apolitical solitude.
Like human life as a whole, homosexuality seemed to me understand-
able without resorting to politics or sociology. They elucidated nothing,
I was sure, about a purely personal and psychological issue. That night
Joe was simultaneously sonorous and relentless in a way that only South-
erners can be (he is from Atlanta), and he was talking politics. Although
his effort was characteristically intelligent and articulate, I was resistant.
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