The vote, 52-1, was not even close but Manhattan New York State Senator Tom Duane took no chances after rival Republicans killed two of his bills earlier in the day.
He unleashed this impassioned speech, with long pauses and end-of-phrase shouts – in the state legislature in Albany, speaking in favour of capping subsidized housing rents at 30 percent of income for people living with HIV/AIDS.
When elected in 1998, Duane became the first openly-gay, openly HIV positive member of the State Senate (and that’s in the first paragraph of his web page bio!)
I must say I was initially disarmed by the anger in his voice – but that’s my shit. Anger is not easy for me to take in, let alone express.
Back in the days when I was just getting used to my changed surroundings – first a year or so in an uncomfortable, not-all-diversity-and-light, Toronto Housing apartment (for which most folks wait years!) and then, mercifully, in Bleecker Street Housing Co-Operative where I’ve been since 1992 – I used to share in the lives of many guys who were close to dying and one or two, like me, who it turns out only thought we were.
When it came to anger we learned about safe ways to process emotions – not just anger, although that’s the one which seems most relevant here.
I have torn up phone books until my forearms stung with pain.
My favourite activity, shared enthusiastically with Jim either at the health club we used to go to or in Lake Simcoe together with other friends, was screaming underwater. Like I said it wasn’t always angry. Sometimes Jim and I would go feet first and then after a good scream we’d yank the other’s trunks off or lunge a foot at the other’s chest. There was definitely a safe release of pent up energy.
I saw that anger in Sen. Duane’s speech as appropriate because, HIV-positive himself after all, he lives in a city which like Toronto knows some of the worst despair of AIDS in North America and knows there ought be no pecking order when it comes to ensuring individual dignity. It’s personal!
Bravo Sen. Duane!