It’s hard to believe sometimes in this day of amazing developments for the LGBT community -- Caitlyn Jenner and trans visibility, gay marriage, a pansexual Miley Cyrus -- that being out and talking about your personal struggles was rare, if not revolutionary.
But it was, and it was not too long ago.
A Kickstarter campaign by two Columbia University journalism professors is aiming to preserve the memory of an important and heroic voice in LGBT history, the late New York Times journalist Jeffrey Schmalz.
Schmalz, who died 22 years ago of AIDS, was perhaps the most important chronicler of the disease back then, a dozen years into the epidemic when it had fallen off the front pages, when there were no modern drug cocktails to fight it, and when it was still a death sentence.
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They were his dying words.
“I have come to the realization that I will almost certainly die of AIDS,” Schmalz, 39 at the time, wrote.
“I have lived longer than the median survival time by 10 months. The treatments simply are not there. They are not even in the pipeline. A miracle is possible, of course. And for a long time, I thought one would happen. But let's face it, a miracle isn't going to happen.”
Columbia’s Kerry Donahue, who directs the school’s radio program, and Samuel G. Friedman, a Times journalist who considers Schmalz a mentor, needed $20,000 for their plans to produce an audio documentary and companion book to be released by year’s end.
The Kickstarter expires in three days and already they’re up to more than $26,000.
Friedman told Metro he is overwhelmed and gratified by the response and the hundred who have donated amounts ranging from $10 to $350.
“Kickstarter is a real empirical test of people's commitment to a project at one level,” he said.
“I'm very heartened by the fact that people, both straight and lgbt, who lived through the horrific first wave of the AIDS crisis, want that history to be preserved.”
“And at another level, it's confirming to have young people, who've grown up in a far more tolerant era, show such interest in the experience of someone like Jeff Schmalz who faced such obstacles even in coming out.”