Every day is one for heroes on the AIDS/LifeCycle. There’s the Chicken Lady, the condom guy, the drag queens cheering you on, the incongruously ordinary people passing out strawberries, all the straight guys, and the lady in Santa Cruz who each year honors her brother who passed away from AIDS by cheering us on all day long (you’ll see her on the route with a big photograph). Then there’s the kid who started out the ride barely able to pedal, who sweeps past you and finishes every mile. There are the many uplifting and tragic stories about loss, regret, and redemption. Each of these people think they are just living their ordinary lives, but in living them — even for those 7 days — for someone else, they are heroes.
But outside the ride, many gay and lesbian men and women have influenced the world for the better. Here are my top three heroes without whom I could not be writing this blog and we would not be riding in the AIDS/LifeCycle
Harvey Milk (1930–1978). Gay rights activist and San Francisco Supervisor. The first openly-gay politician. Milk urged gay men and women to come out and live openly as the best and only way to fight homophobia. Only then can we win our deserved civil rights.
Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better. –Harvey Milk
Alan Turing (1912–1954). Father of computer science and artificial intelligence. The Turing Machine is a proto-typical general-purpose computer at the heart of all your devices. With his help, the Allies finally deciphered the Axis Enigma Code, leading to the end of World War II. He was chemically castrated for homosexuality and ultimately took his own life.
Keith Haring (1958–1990). Openly gay artist and HIV activist. Tramping about the subways, I was always delighted to see his iconic drawings on derelict billboards. His images have been inspirational for all of us coming out and fighting HIV.
There are thousands more people who advance the cause of civil rights just by doing what they do. Barbara Gittings, founder of the Daughters of Bilitis. Eric Allman, author of sendmail, the system used to deliver email. Sandra Bernhard, comedian. Ellen DeGeneres, of course, actor. Eric Paul Leue, Mr. L.A. Leather and gay rights activist.
But most of all, my hero and the reason I ride is you.
For participating in the AIDS/LifeCycle as a rider, roadie, or donor, you are a hero. You are the reason why I ride and will continue to ride until we have served every person who needs it.