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Truth, Lies And Fiction

-by Nigel Best

Vancouver, 1982 - The handwritten note was from the doctor. Black ink on a white background, the note sat on the receptionist’s counter for all to read. The text was a warning that a disease was spreading, that men were becoming sick and dying. There was no mention of the disease’s name. It didn’t have a name yet.

That was then. A world that believed in doctors and science. A world that had to come to grips with the rising AIDS epidemic.

Of course there were condemnations of the gay and drug-using communities, the sex workers, as the early deaths began to portend the seriousness of the disease. We all know those stories. The finger pointing of religious leaders; The meek response from government.

The blame and shame game.

From all quarters, though, there was little doubt that a disease had inflicted itself into society, a fact that could no longer be avoided once the HIVirus appeared in increasing cases within the heterosexual community. So, the race began to look for ways to halt the disease.

Safe sex was at the top of the list, which entailed using condoms, and refraining from unprotected oral and anal sex. For the drug user, it meant not sharing needles. For the medical profession, especially dentists, it meant sterilizing all the tools of the trade as some dried blood could avoid being removed by previous methods of cleansing.

Campaigns took up the issue. Songs were written, plays performed, movies made, books written. Society took heed and, for the most part, respected the necessary changes in lifestyle.

For most who contracted the virus in the early days, developing AIDS from the HIVirus meant a certain death. A friend that I d.j.’d with with at Vancouver’s largest club, Luv-A-Fair in the early 1980s, was one of the first in the city to succumb to the scourge of full-blown AIDS.

At the time, with animosity towards the gay community at a boil over the ‘gay disease’, his family refused to acknowledge that it was AIDS that had killed him.

Another friend, contracting the disease at a much later date, has been on a daily dose of a myriad drugs that contain the virus’ effects, thus keeping him alive.

Throughout those early years, one aspect of the story never seemed to get much traction from those in government. Where had this disease originated?

(For those who weren’t around for those crazy days, one of the most racist tropes that circulated held that African men would have sex with a carrier of the virus, green monkeys, and thus the virus moved from one species to humans, then from African men through illicit gay sex with other men through unprotected sex, or to their wives who had no idea their husbands were fucking monkeys.)

Thus, it boggles the mind to think that the current House of Representatives seems intent on spending taxpayer money and countless hours and resources trying to determine the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Putting it into perspective, it does make one wonder that had the HIVirus first spread through heterosexual communities that there would have been a much different response at the time.

Which brings up how very different that time was compared with now; Regardless of the blame and shame, back then, we all believed the science. We knew-- straight, gay, drug addict, young, old-- that if we contracted the HIVirus we could die. There was no questioning it.

Forty years on from the first AIDS deaths, COVID-19 arrives, and a very large percentage of the population refused to believe in the virus. When made available, they also refused to believe in the vaccine. Most believed that somehow their rights were being violated.

No one I can recall argued in the media back in the 1980s that their rights were being taken away when offered a condom for safe sex. I doubt a lot of addicts back then would have balked at a clean needle to shoot up drugs. And those who are now afflicted with the virus are not screaming that their daily drug cocktail was designed by some evil overlord to control an individual as opposed to keeping a person alive.

Interesting then that there’s been little debate in the media this week about Canada’s national introduction of vending machines that dispense clean needles to addicts, HIV testing kits, and the anti-overdose drug Naloxone.

Considering that just a year ago, a convoy of truckers and their supporters set up a siege of the Canadian capital, Ottawa, for the right to not have to follow mandates around the COVID-19 outbreak, there’s been a relative silence.

How many of those people wandering around the frozen Ottawa streets one year ago, screaming about rights, I’ve often wondered, have given a condom to a son or daughter on the chance that their teenager may go out and have sex? How many sat down to have a conversation about the consequences of a Human Immunodeficiency infection contracted through unprotected sex?

How many of those people would hesitate to inject their child with Naloxone to save their child from a drug overdose?


It’s interesting living in a world not based on facts. George Santos is the living embodiment of that sentence.

For those not familiar, Santos is a habitual espouser of untruths that helped his election to the current USA House of Representatives. What is true about the man is that there is no truth. Yet, he just goes on being an elected representative. It’s almost as though being honest has lost its integrity.

Let me explain, I grew up with pantomime, the stage show where the lead male role was played by a female and vice versa. I also grew up with Monty Python, David Bowie, Elton John, Madonna, Tootsie and any other number of gender bending artists. So it was in Vancouver as a straight man, I was asked to perform in a drag show. I did. (The photo here will give you an indication of how I blew a few queens’ minds with my performance.)

I don’t have to deny that I participated. It was for a good cause.

Santos, before his alleged ponzi schemes, his white nationalist signaling, and his supposed grief over the loss of his mother in the 9/11 attack (another untruth), he was a drag queen.

Despite there being photos, he has denied his time as a cock in a frock. Why? At a time when being in drag is now somehow perceived as a horror inflicted upon children - Drag Queen Story Time at local libraries being the issue - Santos could have told the truth. He could have used the moment as a female impersonator turned impersonating politician to help rather than hinder that community.

Better an untruth.

Where has it got him? Santos was placed on two house committees. That’s no lie.

Too bad that tarring and feathering a fiend such as he has gone out of fashion!


As the United States seems to be coming more and more unmoored from reality, it at least allows this this essay to fly toward, I apologize in advance, yet another story involving animals. This time, Florida governor Ron DeSantis and penguins.

Two male penguins at a zoo, to be more precise. Two male penguins that decided to take turns incubating an egg that eventually hatched. Two penguins that then raisied the chick.

Now, I don’t know for a fact that male penguins harbour love for each other, or if, in this case the males, being caring birds, just took pity on an orphan egg and stood on it until it hatched. What is true is that the penguins were labelled as being gay.

It’s a true story that was eventually fictionalized as a children’s book, And Tango Makes Three.

Said book, due to it possibly promoting a different lifestyle than one is accustomed to with penguins, is one that has been removed from Florida school bookshelves. This is because of DeSantis’ crackdown on which books a child can have access to. It denies children of more moderate parents the right to read what they want to read.

As it stands, a “panel” of parents will decide what books can be in a school library, or even on the bookshelves of individual classrooms.

It’s a dangerous policy, and a slippery slope. How long before a parent whose home has the book is charged because a visiting family becomes upset that their child may find the book and read it?

To DeSantis, I say, you can try to banish books. You can do the Nazi book burning method. The truth is, the books exist. They’re out in the world whether you or your god-fearing parents like them or not.

How long, DeSantis, before this anti-gay sentiment results in someone losing their mind, picking up a gun and shooting patrons of a predominantly gay bar? Wait, that happened already in Florida. So you think DeSantis would turn down the rhetoric and histrionics about the 2SLGBTQ+ communities. And penguins!

Couple this with DeSantis’ desire to purge African-American history from being taught at various school levels, his attack on gender identification, and other attacks on rights, and one wonders how he could ever be seen as a presidential contender.

Then again…….it is the United States.


A coda:

I must have been thinking all these thoughts as last night I had a dream I was sitting in a jacuzzi when three naked men got into the hot water with me. As they introduced themselves, Don, Ron and George, I noticed something had floated to the water’s surface. It was a butt plug.

George immediately denied it was his. Ron blushed then stared at George. Don just started blaming everyone that had ever been in a jacuzzi.

It was at that moment, to paraphrase a famous Irish songwriter, that I knew I never wanted to dream of idiots again.

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