Many of us AIDS-generation survivors in some way have unprocessed grief, or guilt, or an overwhelming sense of abandonment from a gay community that turned its back on us and increasingly stigmatizes us, all in an attempt to pretend that AIDS isn't its problem anymore.
All of us who were in the trenches of the AIDS war are today dealing with the grief and the survivor guilt. Many are grappling with deeper scars and something akin to post-traumatic stress. But unlike for veterans of other wars, there isn't any built-in support system for us.
In med school, future physicians are trained to look for the prosaic horse -- not the exotic zebra -- when making diagnoses. So I've been told, variously, that I'm a migraineur, a hypochondriac, a schizophrenic. But I'm none of those: I'm a zebra.
Those of us who tackled the AIDS epidemic head-on are facing a new plague -- the one that likely killed Spencer Cox. As yet unnamed, it manifests in aimlessness, depression, broken relationships, substance abuse, unsafe sex and suicide.
This death hit us hard. We have grappled to make sense of it. Why did he stop his meds? What role did his struggle with crystal meth play? Was this a failure of community? Are there lessons we can learn? These aren't just nosy questions by idle bystanders.
Spencer Cox's death last month was a wake-up call that highlighted once again the critical need for mental health programs and studies of the powerful trauma experienced by gay men in their 40s through 70s who've lived through the loss and destruction of entire communities due to AIDS.
AIDS has always been creative in its cruelty. And it has learned to reach through the decades with the second-hand tools of disillusionment and depression and heart-numbing traumas, or, more to the point, using the simple weapon of crystal meth, with all its seductions and deceits.
It's high time for gay America finally to end the silence and speak out boldly about the plague of crystal meth addiction and abuse in our community that contributed to Spencer Cox's death -- and continues to destroy the lives of so many others.