A Brother And A Man


A reader writes:

Thank you, Andrew, for that post. I will testify to you about the bravest man I ever knew.

My brother, eleven years older than me, my godfather, was a semi-nelly queen from rural southeast Texas, where we grew up. Talk about steel. There, especially then, you take your life in your hands if you're queer and honest about it. Far more likely you grow up closeted and hating yourself. Well, my brother didn't hate himself, but plenty of people down there did. And somehow, in the face of hate, he displayed understanding and equanimity. How he managed understanding was sometimes beyond me. Like your friends, Andrew, my brother had more strength and courage and grace than Hannity and Coulter put together. He died of AIDS, Christmas 1994. He lived long enough to have several fatal diseases - Kaposi's, pneumocystis carinii, etc. - by the time he died. He lived his illness without bitterness, complaint, or regret. He planned his death, from the hospice to the urn, so as not to be a burden to our parents or to his brothers or friends. All the while offering comfort to his friends who were sicker, cooking meals, driving to appointments, enforcing medical regimes.

I've never seen someone so kind to the nurses and doctors attending him.
"I'm sorry, I look horrible," he said to the doctor at his last appointment.
"Do you feel like you're dying?" his doctor asked.
"Yes. Is that okay?"

He faced eternity with peace and wisdom and a great good humor that I continue to find simply stunning. I am not prone to experiencing profound revelations. But his death was just that to me. And this, of course, says nothing about who my brother was apart from his disease.

My brother was not a faggot. He was a man.

(Photo: a sanitation workers' strike in Tennessee, February 11, 1968. More info here.)