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Talk Activism

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Violent Resistance: Queer Protest Culture During the American AIDS Crisis

  • Gatherings of queer Americans in the late twentieth century were notably electrifying events; colorful “pride” marches in cultural hubs like New York City and San Francisco largely defined the character of the queer community. However, with the rise of the American AIDS crisis, marches shifted gears in both tone and purpose; subsequently, a culture of unconventional violent resistance was birthed by the queer community to combat the American AIDS crisis. In my paper, I seek to argue that acts of violence are not always as obvious as images of bloody faces and broken bones; rather, violence is sometimes as invisible as the inaction of a government official. Though the culture of queer activism is heavily regarded as nonviolent on account of its organized marches and rallies, queer protest is indeed an example of violent resistance, for although demonstrators did not use violence to achieve their goals, queer individuals were suffering from illness, homelessness, and neglect, and dying at alarming rates. With demonstrations ending in police intervention, with thousands of homeless people living with AIDS, and with the queer community dying off without much concern expressed by the government, I seek to prove that this conflict was wholly violent.

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