I feel dumb asking this, but I swear I’ve googled everywhere and I can’t find the answers I’m looking for. Were lesbians affected by aids in the aids crisis? Bisexual women? I’ve heard of many men passing from it and never women, but I don’t want to be incorrect in my history. I really do feel dumb asking, but, I’m 15 and new to learning queer history as I’m just starting to adjust to being a lesbian. It’s not like they teach this stuff in school. I’m all on my own in learning about it. :/
Never feel silly for asking! You have to learn somewhere, and this is absolutely the space for it! A teacher once told me, “We don’t know until we learn.” Which, yeah, but it’s good to keep in mind sometimes. We’re all learning.
Lesbians, bisexual women, and queer women were absolutely affected by the AIDS crisis. Many women did die. However, it’s complicated. Of all women, trans women were the most affected, especially trans sex workers of color, especially black women. Cis women who only had sex exclusively with cis women were not really at risk via sex*, but of course, that is not the only means of transmission.
For cis WSW, the biggest risk is sharing needles and blood to blood contact. A huge issue was/is thinking there is no risk because there is little to no risk via one mean of transmission. For bi and queer women who have sex with men, especially MSM, there is a risk of transmission via sex, as well as other means. This is all to say that yes, LBQ women died during the AIDS crisis and are still affected today.
The reason you hear mainly about gay men is that in the beginning and for some time after, it was believed that only gay (and eventually bi men) were affected. The initial name for AIDS was gay-related immune deficiency (GRID). “Gay cancer” and “community-acquired immune dysfunction” were also used.
All that said, the biggest effect on LBQ women was social. By far, LBTQ women can be credited with bringing the LGBTQIA+ community together in the first place. Gay and bi men and LBQ women were generally very separate in the 70s. After the AIDS crisis really hit gay and bi men, LBQ women started food banks, blood drives, home care. They went with gay men to doctor’s appointments and hospitals. When people died and funeral homes and cemeteries refused the bodies, they would hold funerals in their homes.
It is rumored that Vito Russo, on his deathbed, said: “Remember the lesbians and what they did for us.”
* ”According to the CDC, there are no confirmed cases of HIV from female-to-female transmission” (Deol, Heath-Toby, Smith, Cahill. HIV Risk for Lesbians, Bisexuals & Other Women Who Have Sex With Women. Women’s Institute at GMHC. June 2009.)
I’d also recommend this list of HIV/AIDS-related books.