Deena Romoff – HIV/AIDS

“I see women being at the forefront of getting services.”

I saw the gay men as they go to the steam baths—and the bars—and they have sex in the back, and that’s all they’re doing. But after the AIDS started, I think, men’s relationships changed. They started having more of a community, talking to each other, and not just having sex in the back room.

[When HIV/AIDS  was beginning] there was a huge amount of fear, nationwide really. And it was like that in Spokane. I think for a long time, the whole community was underground a bit anyway, and I think it even kind of went more underground, until it came out. With the whole AIDS stuff, I see women being at the forefront of getting services, demanding answers, and putting it out there. There were some women who were close to some gay men. There’s two [gay men] now that just called themselves “honorary lesbians.” They hang with women, sometimes more than they hang with their gay male friends. I think maybe that opened up a little bit more as men became more vulnerable. It was a very vulnerable time for them. Women are great caretakers and nurses. And it was at a time that politically women were learning how to do that, to organize and speak up . . .

I think now, there’s more heterosexual people that are afflicted with AIDS than there are gays. But I think at the beginning women were having so much fun with using their voice, their brains, that they probably just took on any fight that was oppressing people. Especially their own people. I think women were very instrumental. And most of them were the nurses too, that took care of men.

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 20 March 2013.