Monday, December 1, 2008
A guy I knew in my early years as an activist was named Ron McClinton. He lived in Portland and was moderately well-respected in the queer community. I lived in Central Maine and was a vast disappointment to the queer community. Then, as now, Dawn does not play well with others nor does she readily take direction from people who think they ought to provide it.
Ron and I only met once or twice, but he is one of my heroes. He is dead now, from AIDS.
Ron defended me when the "old guard" of the movement wanted my head on a pike for having the audacity to put on a week of queer programs at my college while they were busy sucking up to legislators who didn't like them to pass a bill the governor had already said he'd veto. I got my mug on TV that week, with four other demonstrators, facing down a crowd of 200 and a media presence the like had never been seen in town since Chester Greenwood invented earmuffs (true story - look it up). Well, it seems that some thought my activism was a bit extreme (we hugged on the lawn of the library. It snowed. We kept our clothes on.) and that it was my fault that the bill was going to fail.
I don't remember the specifics, but Ron said a few pointedly nasty things and stormed out of the meeting. He called me later that week and we talked for several hours. A month later he founded the Matlovitch Society to celebrate and educate ourselves about gay culture and history. It drew attention, publicity, and donations away from the first group. That bunch in the old guard? Tossed him off their committee. As he was dying. Nice touch, dontcha think? Yeah.
So anyway, Ron is the one I remember today. There are many, many others. Too many to count, and if I start, I'll just get very, very angry and start yelling about Ronald Reagan again. This is a day to remember and to stir ourselves to action for those still living with the disease. I am not sure what action I can do today, save to remember Ron, to share stories with some mutual friends we had, and hold him close in my heart.