Sunday, August 14, 2011

ACT UPer Maddow Ignorant of
Hatfield's Homosexuality & Closetry?

Out MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, way before she got her high-profile and well-earned TV news perch, was an activist with the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power in San Francisco. From an August 2008 profile of her in the Nation:

Maddow grew up in the Bay Area; she came out just before college in 1990 and became an AIDS activist at the epicenter of the epidemic. She earned a degree in public policy from Stanford before beginning work with ACT UP and the AIDS Legal Referral Panel. But Maddow had trouble breaking into treatment activism, which was then the rock-star world of AIDS policy. "It was boys' land," she says. "I knew like two women total who were doing treatment activism. And I didn't totally get it. I'm not like Barbie--'Math is hard!'--but it was a techie world, and I didn't feel like I could be all that helpful."

Given that at the time she was with ACT UP was when the outing campaign against Oregon Sen. Mark Hatfield was receiving buckets of ink in the gay media and (obliquely) in the straight press, while also quite controversial among ACT UP chapters, how could she be ignorant of his closetry?

I'm finding it harder, as the days go by since she movingly eulogized Hatfield on her MSNBC program, to believe that she knew nothing about his gayness, how he harmed the gay community over the decades and why he was the subject of a sustained outing campaign.

On a separate matter, as someone who was on the ACT UP/NYC Treatment and Data Committee, I'm surprised she found treatment activism was something she couldn't wrap her brain around. An integral part of such activism was making all treatment issues - from development to the effect of drugs to the approval process - as easy as possible for non-brainiacs to understand and be involved with.

Maddow's 2008 comment about knowing only two women working on treatment issues reminds me of some of the women I worked with during those years. Let's name a few of them: Garance Franke-Ruta, Dr. Iris Long, Linda Dee, Dr. Joyce Wallace, Kate Krauss, Dr. Lori Kohler, Rebecca Pringle-Smith, and Linda Meredith.

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