Thursday 5 November 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: Part 24) Naming Names

Last time on “80 More Gays”: 64) Hubert Lyautey (1854-1934) was probably part-inspiration for a character created by 65) Marcel Proust (1871-1922) who was an orchid lover, one of the botanical crazes which began in the 19th century, like fern-fever which formed the basis of a nursery founded by 66) Steven Fletcher (b.1959) and 67) Kerry Robinson (b.1965) and which was a specialist area of study by 68) Bruce Voeller (1934-1994).

The name of 68) Bruce Voeller is best known within the lgbt community for coming up with the name AIDS, but in scientific circles he is also remembered for something else. Bruce studied the structure of ferns and related plants. He wrote many academic articles and papers on the subject and a few general text books on botany. In 1962 he was appointed an Assistant Professor of botany at the Rockefeller Institute (now the Rockefeller University) and became an Associate Professor four years later.

Bruce married and had three children. He decided to come out as gay in 1963 and the subsequent child custody battle after the divorce attracted a lot of coverage in the press.

Bruce then became a gay rights activist joining several protests and co-founding the Gay Activists Alliance in 1969. However, he disliked the Alliance’s reliance on “zapping” – high-publicity protests that we see today in organisations such as Extinction Rebellion. In 1973 Bruce left the Alliance to form what is now called the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

In 1978 Bruce moved to California where he founded another organisation, the Mariposa Education and Research Foundation, whose aim was to conduct research into human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases. Thus Bruce and the Mariposa Foundation were ideally placed when a deadly disease suddenly appeared in the 1980s. At first scientists varied in their choice of name for the disease, the most popular being Gay Related Immune Defence Disorder (GRID). Some doctors refused to use this name because some patients with the disease weren’t gay men.

It is believed that it was Bruce who came up with the alternative name for GRID. His suggestion was Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome – AIDS. Bruce attended the meeting of the Centre for Disease Control in July 1982 at which the name AIDS became the official name for the disease. Bruce continued to campaign for AIDS education and carried out research into the disease right up to his own AIDS-related death in 1994.

Names figure prominently in awareness campaigns for HIV and AIDS. Perhaps no other disease has so many named sufferers who are personally memorialised in something akin to the names on war memorials. The biggest collection of these names is the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt founded by 69) Cleve Jones (b.1954).

The idea for the quilt came to Cleve during a march in 1985 in remembrance of Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco politician murdered in 1978. Cleve asked people to write the names of loved ones who had died from AIDS-related causes on cardboard signs. These were then taped to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. To Cleve, the taped signs reminded him of a quilt. And so an icon of the modern lgbt community was born. This year the quilt came into the care of the National AIDS Memorial organisation. Sections of the quilt were unfolded at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in a ceremony on 10th July 2020.

Over the years many lgbt and non-lgbt organisations, both charitable and commercial, have contributed to the fundraising efforts of the NAMES Project Foundation to help support people who are suffering physically or financially because they have been diagnosed with HIV or lost a loved one.

In 1997 a California wine producer called Clos du Bois began a long-running fund-raising  campaign. They produced “neckers”, little cards that hang around bottle necks, each depicting the AIDS Quilt. Every purchaser would be encouraged to return the necker to Clos du Bois who would donate a dollar to the NAMES Project Foundation.

Clos du Bois advertisement from “Advocate” magazine, November 1998.
Clos du Bois was not the first commercial company to target the lgbt community (e.g. Disney, Skittles and Kellogg’s are “serial targeters”). Let’s stay with wine. Over the years several other wine companies have produced fundraisers for lgbt charities. There are also a few wine companies run by openly lgbt producers. One of the biggest in South Africa is the Holden Manz Wine Estate established by 70) Gerard Holden (b.1964) and his partner Migo Manz.

Gerard came from a coal-mining family in northern England. This inspired him to become a mining engineer and he joined Barclays Bank. He eventually became its Global Head of Mining and Metals. This took him all around the world, and he fell in love with South Africa. In 2005 he bought a winery estate in the Francshhoek Valley in Western Cape Province.

The Holden Manz estate has grown in its reputation, and several of its wines have won awards. It has also hosted tours of the winery, including some organised by Out in the Vineyard, an lgbt wine-lovers tour company in California. The luxury guest house on the estate has also hosted same-sex weddings.

Wine-growing in South Africa went through a renaissance after the dismantling of apartheid in the 1990s. The Holden Manz estate is one example, and today South African wines are very popular. It is one among many vineyards in idyllic settings, surrounded by picturesque mountains. But the scenery can often mask the original purpose of the vineyard, and probably no more so than another leading Western Cape vineyard, Hamilton Russell at Hermanus. The land on which that vineyard sits was once part of a leper hospital. One of the doctors who worked there was 71) James Barry (1795-1865).

Next time on “80 More Gays”: From South Africa to Venezuela, and from Ecuador to Germany, we find that having a friend in high places is both a blessing and a danger.

No comments:

Post a Comment