'How to Survive a Plague' Activist Peter Staley Offers Advice to Younger Gay Men on 'Anderson Live': VIDEO


Peter Staley, the longtime AIDS activist and ACT UP founder who is at the center of David France's excellent Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague, appears on Anderson Live on Monday for a discussion about the film.

Staley has some advice for younger gay men: "Learn your history. Learn about the people that pushed against the hatred and the ignorance and made this country give a damn about your lives and about your health..."


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  1. Those who have a strong understanding of where we've been tend to have the strongest idea of where we're going, and how to get there in the most empowered state.

    Take heart, my beloved vanguards who opened the doors for me and my generation: the youth aren't as laissez-faire as some of you may think. there's a world of moved and humbled LGBT youth who know very well who is responsible for the progress made that's paved the way for them. :-)

    this commentary makes sense, and is indeed something Newbies need to read up on. the best way to overcome your learned self-loathing and insecurities about being gay? learn about the actual journey to LGBT Equality - it's riddled with characters and icons who will empower you and give you something beautiful to believe in and hold as inspiration.

    and a side note to right-wing conservative gays: star showing some respect for the people and groups you've been conditioned by your right-leaning communities to loathe. you cant' be mad at all those gays and liberals and gay liberals when any and every grain of freedom you have to hold today was given to you by THEM.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Feb 9, 2013 12:52:23 PM

  2. Little Kiwi, I don't want to be a downer, but I think we're most concerned about those who are younger than you.

    Posted by: Mike in the Tundra | Feb 9, 2013 12:58:45 PM

  3. I don't know if learning history is as important as he says. I think if you're an empowered, happy, "out" gay man living in the world then in many ways I think you're living the purpose that all the gay rights activists wanted for future generations. I think there are many gay men who are living and breathing examples of everything that gay rights activists wanted, and I don't think they necessarily need to know their history.

    Posted by: steve | Feb 9, 2013 1:16:43 PM

  4. Steve: I agree with what you say in that empowerment, happiness, and being "out" are indeed "living the purpose that all the gay rights activists wanted for future generations." Well said.

    However, I have to respectfully disagree with your statement that our history is not as important as Staley says. In many ways, these people fought so that we could exist. History is also important, I think, in forming a sense of collective identity. Any group asserts its reality, its collective sense of purpose, through its history. Its like saying, "we have stories worth telling, and they should be remembered. We deserve to be recognized through those stories: not just by our own, but by other people, too."

    Posted by: Tim | Feb 9, 2013 1:37:29 PM

  5. To Tim's point, when I hear a lot of the younger people saying (as Newbies and Younger People tend to say) "Why do I have to care about _______?" or "What is there to be proud of?" .....well... if you point them toward our collective history, to see whom it was that was opening those doors, and how they did it, and when they did (context, folks) it's pretty darn hard to not be moved and inspired.

    Not sure if you're proud to be a member of the LGBT communities yet? Read your history. Realize there's much to be proud of.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Feb 9, 2013 1:45:53 PM

  6. Knowing the history of any movement is important. How one or a group got to a place can be a good way to anticipate the future. It's important for younger folks to know that one CAN make a difference and initiate (demand) change. I think it's important that younger gays and lesbians know that the gay movement is more than Stonewall. They should know that standing up for your life is important. They should see the news reels of gay men and lesbians storming the NIH and standing on the canopy to the building DEMANDING what they thought was necessary to save their lives. It shows them our government can be forced to do things they would rather drag their feet on. Younger folks might gain insight from learning about die-in's. There's Jobriath and, yes, even the hanky code. OK, some things are more important that others, but each bit of history pushed our movement forward. Maybe I'm getting old, but I still believe that knowing where you come from is important.

    Posted by: noteasilyoffended | Feb 9, 2013 1:56:46 PM

  7. If 'knowing history' isn't that important to some folks, perhaps they need to look at the rising HIV infection rates amongst young gay men. Maybe learning about how we dealt with it could teach them how to stay healthy.
    But, just in general, I have little interest in anyone who doesn't understand the importance of knowing history. The cliche is true - those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, as the willfully ignorant trajectory of the human species continues to prove over and over again.

    Posted by: DG | Feb 9, 2013 2:18:29 PM

  8. Knowing the history of the LGBT movement is important if only so it never happens again. And trust me, there is a strong conservative movement out there that would love to see our community stripped of all the advances and rights we have achieved. Complacency and a lack of historical perspective will always be our biggest enemy.

    Posted by: (the other)jamesintoronto | Feb 9, 2013 2:58:02 PM

  9. more importantly,wear a condom every time

    Posted by: t | Feb 9, 2013 3:16:37 PM

  10. as one of the least known of those that did the fighting(and still has not attained full citizenship, i am please to hear any recognition of those decades of fighting and work.

    thank you little kiwi and others

    Posted by: bandanajack | Feb 9, 2013 4:01:25 PM

  11. As a 22 year old, I've always felt it was necessary to know the history of our movement in this country for the simple fact that I wanted to know the pioneers of our movement and who the people are that have enabled us, and enabled me, to be in the position we are today. Who the men and women are that spearheaded change. Without them, where the hell would I be? Or any of us younger gays?

    It's especially important in regards to HIV and STD's in general, and realizing an entire generation of gay men were ravaged and killed due to homophobia from our government when HIV was becoming an epidemic and how individuals rose up against Republican controlled presidencies and demanded action be taken and took the steps to educate themselves on the science of HIV. Younger gays today tend to have a laissez faire attitude regarding STD's, thinking medication is the end all be all, and having views on sex that are at the very least ignorant, and at the most very damaging and a product of self-loathing. It's good to see Peter Stanley speaking up for our youth. Hopefully all gay men who have been fighting through these social wars and went through the HIV crisis continue speaking out and making sure our young gay and bi boys listen up. Conservatives want young gay and bi boys to become statistics and we cannot give them the satisfaction.

    Posted by: Francis | Feb 9, 2013 4:28:04 PM

  12. Knowing history is important, I would be the first to agree. But equally important is critiquing the people and movements of the past. I'm afraid that sometimes there is this notion that, because we didn't live through some certain thing or another, we are therefore not allowed to carefully examine those people who paved the way for us.

    The Teabaggers are especially guilty of this narrow-mindedness, in their quest to deify our Founding Fathers. Historical inquiry that is devoid of nuance, or that tries to white-wash problematic elements, is worse than useless. Let's not fall prey to the same folly by making certain figures or their chosen tactics sacrosanct.

    Posted by: Lars | Feb 9, 2013 4:54:45 PM

  13. There's noneed to be sacrosanct. Even a cursory review of gay history shows all sorts of people with all sorts of ideads, often at odds with one another but coming together for the good of all in times of crisis. This is why we've come so far so fast. And our work is FAR from over.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Feb 9, 2013 5:17:18 PM

  14. where the point is well-made and certainly well-taken, the history of peter staley and his friends teaches us only one version of the history of the AIDS epidemic. unfortunately left out are the ways that class and race have continued to over-determine health outcomes for the vast majority of people struggling with hiv and AIDS today (it's not just that young people are struggling with higher infection rates, it's young people of color). where the work of the people featured in the film is laudable and the film well-made, it's not hard to see how a group of relatively educated, relatively rich, almost all white men were able to do the work they did.

    Posted by: mark | Feb 9, 2013 5:32:59 PM

  15. It is imperative to know one's History; for us, especially, this part of it, else it won't be long before it is repeated.

    Posted by: Kile Ozier | Feb 9, 2013 5:55:35 PM

  16. This is why we still need Gay Pride Marches.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Feb 9, 2013 6:57:40 PM

  17. Enough of the victimhood politics, Staley. The message to young gay men should be 'stop being promiscuous with total strangers'. Works every time...

    Posted by: jason | Feb 9, 2013 6:59:13 PM

  18. Knowing history, both about the progress of gay rights and the trauma of the AIDS ongoing crisis, is important not just to keep from slipping back. It it important to really know that progress is possible, if we continue to work at it.

    Posted by: Ellipse Kirk | Feb 9, 2013 8:04:19 PM

  19. I certainly want and need to know the history and stories that brought us to this point. I don't want to be one of those who think we miraculously came to have our current level of rights without a struggle.

    I want to know about the Greeks, The Sacred Band of Thebes,the Spartans, Oscar Wilde, the holocaust of the Pink Triangle, the criminalisation of all of us, Stonewall, Harvey Milk, AIDS,the soldiers of ACT-UP, Lawrence -v- Texas, and the little bitches above who still discriminate against hiring a gay Police Officer.......

    I want to know and understand all of it; because it is obvious that active discrimination is endemic, as the story from Ohio proves. And as bullying of kids in schools proves.

    I don't want to think I just beamed into some delusional gay happy valley.
    Why do I need to know this ? because it is what has made us; because we must be vigilent; because Uganda , Iran, even Russia still treat us gays as low lifes; because the Pope calls us "intrinsically disordered".
    Because I'm not smug enough to sit backon my a$$; our journey and this story is not over.
    And I don't think the younger generation think so either; the momentum for change and
    equality comes from them.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Feb 9, 2013 8:10:58 PM

  20. @Steve, you are an enormous moron. It's amazing that you make it through life at all.

    Posted by: aneas taint | Feb 9, 2013 8:42:44 PM

  21. @ STEVE :

    I'm not "living the purpose that all gay rights activists wanted for future generations...."
    I'm living the opportunity that they worked for.
    It was they who gave us this time......that's worth knowing about and makes all this more precious to me.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Feb 9, 2013 9:01:48 PM

  22. It's only :"Gay History" in terms of subject matter, not in terms of who owns it. All history is everyone's history. The struggle for LGBT civil rights, and the AIDS crisis is part of American History, it is part of World History. Sexual minorities have never had self awareness and worked for equal rights in the known history of the world. This is a story that should be of interest to everyone, not just LGBT people. Just as I am inspired by the stories of people struggling for freedom from internal colonialism in Austria-Hungary or from foreign colonialism in Africa, why can't a straight person be inspired by the HUMAN story of LGBT civil rights?

    Posted by: entrepoid | Feb 9, 2013 9:32:49 PM

  23. Wow, Peter Staley manages to get an entire documentary made about him, and situates himself in front of a camera - again. HUGE surprise....

    and speaking of learning your "gay history", does he mention his personal history of using his time on HIV related disability to become an aged partyboy meth head? I am so over these fame whores.....

    Posted by: pigboye | Feb 9, 2013 9:53:19 PM

  24. @Entrepoid: I agree wholeheartedly that everyone should be inspired by the human story of history - for good or bad.

    It absolutely horrifies me the extent to which the Republicans are blind to anything before 2009.

    It's also sad that another group, the African Americans, can be as clueless about their history as LGBT people are. And it's (supposedly) already an established part of the curriculum!

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Feb 9, 2013 11:18:52 PM

  25. Those who are oblivious to history are doomed to repeat it...

    Posted by: Buckie | Feb 10, 2013 1:39:23 AM

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