"No Sorrow, No Pity": Intersections of Disability, HIV/AIDS, and Gay Male Masculinity in the 1980s

Nicholas Hrynyk


This article examines narratives of disease and disability in Canada's gay and lesbian newspaper, The Body Politic (1971-1987), in order to demonstrate how gay male masculinity developed within a gay ableist culture deeply affected by HIV/AIDS. Over the course of the 1980s, two seemingly separate issues of disability and disease were woven together, establishing a dichotomy between the unhealthy and healthy, afflicted and non-afflicted, disabled and non-disabled body, which was marked by tension and, at times, hostility. As a result, two seemingly different discussions of disability and disease in The Body Politic intersected at the site of the gay male body, whereby issues of frailty and undesirability were shaped by pre-existing perceptions around disability. Narratives around disease and disability demonstrate how perceptions of bodily "failure" transferred from the disabled body onto the diseased body during the formative years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic through imagery and text. The aesthetics and language of disability are particularly important for understanding how the disabled body and the HIV/AIDS-afflicted body were culturally framed because the stylization of the body itself was fundamental to the politics of sexual liberation and the formulation of visible lesbian and gay communities.


history; sexuality; identity; queer; masculinity; HIV/AIDS; the body; aesthetics

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v41i2.7148

Copyright (c) 2021 Nicholas Hrynyk

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