My uncle Cedric and my cousin Arthur died from A.I.D.S. A.I.D.S., otherwise known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, was a word in the 80’s synonymous with mystery, disease and the gay community in America. People were so ignorant that it was believed you would contract it by simply being in the same room or breathing the same air as someone who had been diagnosed with the disease.
AIDS was a diagnosis that took the lives of hundreds of thousands like a biblical plague and the prejudice that went with it was horrid. It was hard enough being labeled as a “homosexual”, but if you had A.I.D.S. or were H.I.V. positive, certain groups of people worldwide made life almost unbearable for one to survive freely as a citizen of the human race. It’s interesting the types of emotions and passions that can arise out of fear…isn’t it?
Summer of 1984 in the U.K., Margaret Thatcher was in power and a group of gay activists got together and formed an organization LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) raising money to support the families of miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers. But there is a problem. The Union seems embarrassed to receive their support. Why? Because they are gay, different and assumed to be riddled with AIDS.
LGSM, with the support of the Dulais community produced a fundraiser. At the end of LGSM’s infamous Pits and Perverts gig, South Wales miner David Donovan had this to say to the young activists and donators:
“You have worn our badge, “Coal not Dole”, and you know what harassment means, as we do.
Now we will pin your badge on us, we will support you. It won’t change overnight, but now 140,000 miners know that there are other causes and other problems. We know about blacks, and gays, and nuclear disarmament. And we will never be the same.”
Mark Ashton was the face of LGSM and died just two years later, but he lived long enough to see his dream of gay rights becoming part of the political agenda realized. Also in 1985, the Labour Party Conference saw a motion to support equal rights for gay men and lesbians go down to the wire. It was carried only due to the block votes of the National Union of Mineworkers and its allies. With the release of PRIDE, a surge of interest has been sparked regarding Ashton’s political activism and a fund in his memory has received donations of more than $16,000 since the film’s release.