SS: My family were mostly gay guys, who were my babysitters and the guys who you know, took the pictures at my birthday parties. And I felt like I had this amazing family. I called them my aunties. And it was a really wonderful, amazing world that came crashing down. Starting in ’82, the first person I knew, died of AIDS. Um, a young guy named Steve.
BT: And how old were you at the time?
SS: I was ten when he was diagnosed. I remember, I was on the beach and I saw Steve and he was covered in these purple spots and I remember asking my dad, like what’s wrong with Steve? And my dad said, “Oh he has this skin cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma.” And I said, well what is that? And my dad said, “Well nobody really knows, but there are some gay men that are getting it.”
And within I think 2 months, Steve was dead. And it was pretty much a succession of deaths of my family throughout the next decade. My step dad bill died in ’87, my dad died in ’91, after a really grueling six months of me taking care of him. You know, I was 19 and at that point, everyone had died except for a handful of stragglers who I now hold near and dear to my heart. My aunties. It was a powerful family. There was a lot of love. And they modeled for me how to survive an epidemic, even if you were dying while doing it.