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AIDS and a Community: The Impact on the Gay Lifestyle in Laguna Beach

It was with great sadness that I found myself reading “Laguna Beach Gay Life Ebbs Away” recognizing that, in an attempt to illuminate, the article actually colluded with the very homophobia the author spoke of within the article.

Though I suppose it was not intended, the focus on the sexual experiences, wild parties and bar lives of the victims of this abhorrent disease failed to note that truly there are gays who “loved Laguna for its propriety.” The latter a notion which received only half a sentence before the delve into the sensationalistic of the “social undertow of booze, drugs and promiscuous sex.”

The story failed to recognize that behavior is not the illness itself. Many gays and straights will acquire AIDS who never participated in anything out of the ordinary, who are in monogamous, loving relationships, but were in the wrong place at the wrong time somewhere in their past.

I wonder if Matthew Hamlin’s suicide was secondary only to not wanting to suffer from the debilitating effects of AIDS? Perhaps somewhere in his psycho-emotional experience was the harsh reality that here he was, a patient with a debilitating disease, having to provide the community education lectures so as to increase others’ understanding.

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Might he have ever wondered, “Why would a society send out someone afflicted to fight the ignorance of that society?” Were his experiences such that he knew the depth of the prejudices and intolerance of others? Enough to know that for him there may not be the kindness of a loving society in which to die.

The insidious nature of bigotry was eloquently addressed in another article on the front page the very same day (“How Hate Comes to a Full Boil”). I heard it said once that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Perhaps you, like many others, may someday realize that good intentions are not enough (presuming that was the basis for this article), but that one-dimensional efforts to address a multidimensional dilemma only serve to embody the very etiology upon which so much prejudice was founded.

Perhaps then, behavior will be separated from disease, and society will look upon those who are ill with compassion versus predilection that they caused it themselves. Maybe then among a loving world persons such as Matthew and the artist who shot himself will find a place to live.

GARY MANGIOFICO, Dana Point

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