Brother, Help Thyself: The Construction of a Gay and Bisexual Men's Health Movement before HIV/AIDS

August 2020
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This project traces the formation and development of a gay and bisexual men’s health movement before HIV/AIDS (1981-1996). The project is an effort to consider the lives and contributions of gay and bisexual men between the Second World War and the HIV/AIDS period. The creation and management of health and clinical programs formed by and directed toward gay and bisexual men are examined. There is particular attention given to the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, DC, and to similar clinical and community outreach programs in selected urban communities in North America. Through archival research methods, the project addresses the intersection of postwar science, public health, and biomedicine with human sexuality, gender, class, and race. This draws from research and publications in a number of humanities and social science disciplines to critique health politics and activism in response to medical discrimination, health disparities, and the pathology of homosexuality. The work of philosophers Michel Foucault and Guy Hocquenghem offers insights into a larger context of sexuality and Western political and health social movements. The project is intended to place the gay and lesbian health movement alongside the histories of the women’s health movement and African American health initiatives of the postwar decades. This work contributes to a growing dialogue among historians about this overlooked period of medical history and establishes new points of intersection between gay health activists and the association of disease to this stigmatized population.

History, United States, Gender Studies, Health Sciences, Public Health