Blog: Jo Peres – It’s a sin

Published on 10/02/2021

LGBT+ History Month is a brilliant opportunity to get together and talk about the next steps forward towards equality. It’s also a chance to reflect, on both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, for here lie valuable lessons.

We’ve come such a long way in the last few years that sometimes it’s difficult to think that darker days were just a matter of decades ago. This has been highlighted recently on Channel Four’s ‘It’s a Sin’, taking its name for the song by The Pet Shop Boys released only in June 1987 – just 34 years ago. The show, written by the infamous Russell T Davis who brought us Queer as Folk, is a drama largely based around a chronicle of five friends during a decade where everything changed, including the rise of AIDS.

It’s just forty years since the first cases of AIDS were identified in America, although back then it was called Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome – which also tells you a lot…

The depiction of people left to die in hospital wards under lock and key was incredibly accurate. These people were alone, away from families and friends with no human contact. They were treated as sub-human, as even deserving of this illness and made to feel immense shame.

This was all the harsh reality of life in the LGBTQIA+ community, with many relatives too ashamed to even visit or acknowledge them. When their family member passed away, many were too ashamed to admit the truth and tried to cover up the death, afraid of alienation from the local community.

Although so many of us are now out and proud, celebrated by each other and most importantly ourselves, we know that shame is still a feeling many members of the LGBTQIA+ community feel simply for being themselves. The harsh reality of Section 28 and the legacy left behind from the hurtful shaming, discrimination and isolation of the AIDS pandemic is still a very raw and traumatic reminder for our community.

We now know that being gay is not a ‘sin’, nor AIDS a ‘gay virus’ – yet these things still happened and such thinking was still widely accepted (and even fought to be protected) by so many. And that hurts.

LGBTQIA+ History Month is a chance to look back at how far we’ve come while also acknowledging the way still to go. Prejudice and discrimination still exist, and so too therefore do feelings of shame for some members of our community – but our Pride marches go on, louder than ever, making up for the years we were made to feel like we had to be quiet.

To be alive and not to be seen, is the harsh reality we find ourselves in this world.” - JVP

In Loving Memory of my oldest sister Clotilde Peres who herself succumbed to HIV & AIDS and sadly lost her battle in 2001.

My sister did not identify as LGBTQIA+ and sadly found out she was positive when it was too late to get help in South Africa.