Thursday, February 7 at 6:30 pm
Stonewall Strong by John-Manuel Andriote
Stonewall National Museum – Wilton Manors
2157 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
Free to attend. Suggested donation $5.
Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase from the author.
Longtime Washington, D.C. health journalist John-Manuel Andriote didn’t expect to mark the twenty-fifth year of the HIV-AIDS epidemic in 2006 by coming out in the Washington Post about his own recent HIV diagnosis. For twenty years he had reported on the epidemic as an HIV-negative gay man, as AIDS killed many of his friends and roused gay Americans to action against a government that preferred to ignore their existence. Eight little words from his doctor, “I have bad news on the HIV test,” turned Andriote’s world upside down.
Over time Andriote came to understand that his choice, each and every day, to take the powerful medication he needs to stay healthy, to stay alive, came from his own resilience. When and how had he become resilient? He searched his journals for answers in his own life story. The reporter then set out to learn more about resilience. Stonewall Strong is the result.
Drawing from leading-edge research and nearly one hundred original interviews, the book makes it abundantly clear: most gay men are astonishingly resilient. Andriote deftly weaves together research data and lived experience to show that supporting gay men’s resilience is the key to helping them avoid the snares that await too many who lack the emotional tools they need to face the traumas that disproportionately afflict gay men, including childhood sexual abuse, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, depression, and suicide.
Andriote writes with searing honesty about the choices and forces that brought him to his own ‘before-and-after’ moment, teasing out what he learned along the way about resilience, surviving, and thriving. He frames pivotal moments in recent history as manifestations of gay men’s resilience, from the years of secrecy and subversion before the 1969 Stonewall riots; through the coming of age, heartbreak, and politically emboldening AIDS years; and pushing onward to legal marriage equality.
Andriote gives us an inside look at family relationships that support resilient sons, the nation’s largest organizations’ efforts to build on the resilience of marginalized LGBTQ youth, drag houses, and community centers. We go inside individuals’ hearts and groups’ missions to see a community that works, plays, and even prays together. Finally, Andriote presents the inspiring stories of gay men who have moved beyond the traumas and stereotypes, claiming their resilience and right to good health, and working to build a community that will be “Stonewall strong.”
About John-Manuel Andriote
Like other young people who aspire to become writers, I followed the sage advice to “write about what you know.” But in the summer of 1981, as I dreamt of becoming a writer, I had no idea what being gay actually meant for me. My writing career was launched by reviewing books for the Advocate, where I shared with other gay men what I learned from the books I reviewed for the nation’s leading LGBT magazine.
I had no idea back then how my decision finally to accept that I am a gay man, just before I turned twenty-three, would shape my career. No one knew how the first cases of AIDS, reported the very summer I came out, would shape our community, advance our movement for equality, and traumatize us as we saw close friends and tens of thousands of gay men become gravely ill and die, mostly at a young age.
I realized while I was working on a master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University in 1985 that I needed to do my part by reporting and documenting the terrible suffering, and stunning heroism, I saw all around me. I chronicled the impact of HIV-AIDS on individuals, the LGBT political movement, the medical research establishment, and popular American culture in my 1999 book Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America. I was thrilled when the book won the 2000 Lambda Literary Awards “Editors’ Choice” award, and was an American Library Association “honored book” and a finalist for the New York Publishing Triangle’s Randy Shilts Award.
The deaths of friends and colleagues became a routine experience in my thirties. Added to the traumas of my growing-up years, the accumulating losses fueled my anger at the injustice my brothers experienced and stoked my budding activist spirit. They also undermined my ability to consistently feel good about myself and make healthy choices about my own sexual behavior.
My HIV-positive test result in October 2005, at 47 years old, was in some ways a predictable outcome of my risk-taking after having remained HIV-negative since the more perilous 1980s.