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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Eric Rofes Has Died

Posted by on June 27 at 9:43 AM


The author, educator, activist, and leader of the gay men’s health movement died of natural causes yesterday at his home in Provincetown. It appears to have been a heart attack. More info here.

The Stranger clashed with Rofes over the direction of the gay men’s health movement, but we always respected his commitment to improving the lives of gay men and celebrating gay male sexuality. He wrote numerous books, the two most important being Reviving the Tribe: Regenerating Gay Men’s Sexuality and Culture in the Ongoing Epidemic, and Dry Bones Breathe: Gay Men Creating Post-AIDS Identities and Cultures. In 1999 Rofes wrote piece for us on barebacking—you can read it by clicking here.

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I saw Eric Rofes give a presentation at the 1999 Creating Change in Oakland where he deconstructed all the HIV medication ads with hot, buff guys (sometimes the same models used in circuit party ads,) accusing the pharma industry of sexualizing HIV positive status. He was amazing writer that looked out from the nadir of pre-retroviral life in the community and predicted the rise of circuit culture. RIP.

Eric was one of the giants of the gay movement--physically, politically, and spiritually. We have lost one of the most articulate voices of a worldview that challenged the status quo--at a time when such voices are increasingly relevant. i am grateful for his personal friendship and his professional counsel. He is survived by his husband Crispin Hollings. Your words and lessons will not be forgotten, Eric.

Eric was my teacher for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade at Fayerweather School from 1978-1981. As an eleven-year-old, I had the privilege of having a proud, activist gay role model at a time when most teachers were fired (as he had been previously) for coming out. We remained friends over the next 25 years—as all Eric’s pals know, he was a loyal and committed friend who took great pleasure in the strength of his friendships spanning many years.

People have written eloquently elsewhere of his powerful critical thinking, his courage, his brilliant yet always accessible writing, his enormous influence on gay men’s health, and his commitment to progressive education. In addition to these, I will miss terribly his wonderful sense of fun, his great warm bear hugs, his rhyming Christmas cards, his love of food, his refusal to be culturally shamed for who he was, his openness about sex, the enthusiasm in his voice, and his total authenticity.

In life he taught me many valuable things, among them, that I could be a writer (our early success with The Kids’ Book of Divorce showed me how possible it was), and that I, as a person in an opposite-sex relationship, could refuse to get married until marriage becomes a democratic institution. In death he has imparted two more key lessons: Live as fully as he did, passionately and honestly and well; and tell your loved ones how much they mean to you--now. The funeral home yesterday was packed with shocked and weeping people; all of us, I think, were wishing we could have told Eric we loved him one more time.

We had the chance to publish Eric's last long essay "Gay Bodies, Gay Selves: Understanding the Gay Men’s Health Movement" last Fall. It was a work of amazing depth and historical insight into the long journey gay health has traveled, pre-AIDS, through AIDS to now. It was such an important piece we've posted it in full on our website and offer it up for everyone.
He was such a visionary, but he was also a great lover of gay people as beautiful beings. Beautiful, powerful and fully able to solve our own problems. Empowering and alive. It's such an enormous loss but also a tremendous legacy and vision to live up to and extend.

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