‘Everybody Ain’t Surfing This Rainbow Wave’: Why Divisions Endure in Gay Rights

When Mr. Coleman started the center, Destination Tomorrow, he said later, he wanted to focus on economic hardship. The Bronx has a household poverty rate of 28 percent, 10 points higher than the citywide average and more than double the national rate. Transgender people are multiply burdened. They have problems with identification, for example — their paperwork might not match their presentation — and this can get in the way of finding work, which in turn can get in the way of finding safe and decent housing.

“There was just a lot of neglect in terms of what people needed to be gainfully employed,’’ he said. “Folks thought ‘mission accomplished.’”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also appeared at the rally, taking to the microphone in a similar spirit. She explained that the Bronx remained the front line in the fight for L.G.B.T.Q. rights in New York City. “Pride is about honoring that front line,” she told the audience.

Since the advent of medical advances more than 20 years old now, H.I.V. has been a manageable chronic illness rather than a terminal one. But in low-income communities of color, H.I.V. and AIDS remain central to the conversation in ways outsiders rarely recognize. Of the 1,790 people who died of AIDS in New York City in 2016, 1,471 were black or Hispanic, and more than half were living in extreme poverty. Across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control, African-Americans accounted for 43 percent of H.I.V. diagnoses in 2017, though they represent just 13 percent of the population.

Earlier this month, the musical “A Strange Loop’’ made its debut to acclaim and sold-out performances Off Broadway. It addresses the internalized bias that black gay men experience and the perilous self-doubt that stems from it. The writer and composer, Michael R. Jackson, had been enraged by the shallow “Queer Eye’’ representation of gay life, propagated by what he calls the “gaytriarchy,’’ a model revolving around the consumer habits of white gay men.

In the play, AIDS figures prominently. And a few months before it opened, Mr. Jackson’s collaborator, also black and gay, died of AIDS. He had failed to get the treatments that surely would have saved him because he decided that God was rightfully punishing him, Mr. Jackson believes. Increasing access to a category of drugs known as PrEP, which reduces the risk of getting H.I.V. from sex by more than 90 percent, will do little, Mr. Jackson argues, for people who don’t have the sense of self-respect and entitlement to take them in the first place.

“It is your self-hatred that will kill you,’’ he said. “Secrets, silence, stigma, shame — that is the virus.”


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