Homophobia spreads with Monkeypox

Ananya Thekkemelepatt, News Editor

Monkeypox (MPV) was first detected in May, in Africa, and later showed a pattern of cases within the gay men community. Now, although tracing the virus is a responsibility of health officials, the homophobia that stemmed from this is exceedingly similar to that of the AIDS epidemic.

AIDS also started out as a disease commonly found in gay and bisexual men, and led to it being criminally untreated and labeled as a “gay disease.” According to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, tailored messaging is extremely important in order to avoid stigma similar to that which surrounded the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s. 

Despite recent findings that monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease or a “gay disease,” the U.S. has still done little to contain the virus and the homophobic outcries stemming from it. Though it is much better compared it, the initial release of information that MPV was commonly found in men that have sex with other men has increased the amount of homophobia that gay and bisexual men are experiencing.

Now, the CDC has not classified MPV as a sexually transmitted disease, but is still emphasizing that only gay and bisexual men stay away from sexual contact. While we should still be encouraging communities that are disproportionately affected by such a virus to proceed with caution, there must be equal effort to combat the stigma if we do not want history to repeat.

But the CDC is not solely to blame for the lack of strength in the U.S.’s response to MPV. It is the government’s as well. Jonathan Van Ness, nonbinary Queer Eye personality, wrote that when there is an issue that is disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men, many of our government officials will be discouraged to act accordingly.

Van Ness further explains that any response from our government is too little too late. And they are right;  the government’s delayed reaction to tackle the virus with a proactive solution only further teaches LGBTQ+ youth that their government officials do not care about them as much as other communities. 

The government’s lack of coordination and planning to come up with a response puts the CDC in a tough position. How can they possibly acknowledge that currently the community that is affected the most is gay and bisexual men while also combating the stigma that has existed since the 1980s? How are they supposed to respond when rightwing and homophobic commentators like Tucker Carlson using monkeypox as yet another tool to attack the queer community?

The U.S. made a promise back in the 1980’s when gay and bisexual men were under attack to never allow such a crisis of mass ignorance regarding health emergencies occur ever again. But are they willing to finally step up once again and uphold that promise?