Graduate Review


The response to the AIDS epidemic in Chicago shows continuity with the national trend of fighting ignorance. In the 1980s, Chicago emerged as a hotspot of gay life, positioned between watershed moments in New York and San Francisco, crafting an opportunity to forge a powerful, accepting community within the city through community responsiveness, educational initiatives and political activism. Chicago is more representative of the typical American city and is why this study is centered here. Chicagoans provided their own actions in response to city and county government inaction. Medical activism by gay doctors at the Cook County Hospital, for example, helped spur treatment availability. Gay spacial concentration increased community support but did not address resource inequality. AIDS education in Chicago also took a new path. Education – sex positive verse sex adverse – was present throughout the city, yet racial differences were again present. The most important sources for this paper were primary accounts from both inside and outside the LGBTQ+ community during the 1980s and more recently. Including material from within the community clarifies how the community operated even if mainstream media was not covering it. The AIDS epidemic and the reaction from the LGBTQ+ community proved the group was resilient, united and visible, an important foundation for facing continued discrimination and oppression from groups such as the conservative Christian right. Despite challenges, the 1980s was a period of change in LGBTQ+ history that ushered in opportunity and acceptance for future generations of LGBTQ+ youth in the United States.



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