In late May, Conde Nast’s LGBT site them.us went out of its way to distance a nascent viral scourge known as monkeypox from the main demographic who was catching it — gay men.
The piece headlined, “The Monkeypox Virus Is Affecting Queer Men, but Has Nothing to Do With Being Queer,” stated that “while a large fraction of those infected in [the] current global outbreak identify as gay or bisexual men… there is no correlation between the identity and the illness.
“Blaming the gay community or gay behavior,” it concluded, “is not sound public health.”
Last week, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a full-scale global emergency as the disease has spread rapidly in just three months. In late May, 100 people reportedly had the virus; now there are more than 18,000 cases worldwide, with nearly 4,000 in the US alone, according to the CDC. New York state is also now calling monkeypox an “imminent threat.”
It is true that gay men are not “responsible”’ for the monkeypox outbreak. Like HIV or COVID-19, viruses can’t target specific communities. But those early monkeypox cases were nearly all contracted at large-scale “circuit parties” across Europe, which are almost exclusively frequented by gay men. This is not stigma – it’s simply fact.
Also fact: Sex wasn’t the main mode of transmission, close physical contact was. Monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin contact — the type of close physical contact that occurs at parties where groups of men, often half dressed, dance in close proximity. (Unsurprisingly, circuit parties were also early-COVID super-spreader events).
The unwillingness of “woke” media and nervous health authorities to make this link clear is a disgrace. Their political correctness likely helped spread the disease.
Even though the majority of cases back in May were already connected to gay male social venues, most media outlets not only refused to acknowledge it, they said doing so would encourage discrimination.
“Charities Warn Against Stigmitization of Gay and Bisexual Groups Amid Outbreak,” declared The Independent. “Could Monkeypox Bring a New Wave of Homophobia,” pondered Slate. “Blaming Gay Men for Monkeypox Will Harm Everyone,” Scientific America foreboded.
Even the UN weighed in on the potential monkeypox blame-game, stating in a May 22 release that the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) was concerned “that some media reporting and commentary was reinforcing homophobic and racist stereotypes.”
Few things are more predictable than progressives blaming racism and homophobia for a public ill, but the monkeypox outbreak takes this to confounding new levels. Just as with other “woke” obsessions such as gun violence or the transgender debate, the insistence on placing politics above data and science has led to confused messaging — and very few solutions.
Now, ironically, LGBT leaders are singing a different tune. As hundreds of cases course through New York City and other metropolises, with virtually all of them detected in gay men, suddenly not only is monkeypox a “queer” disease, community leaders are blasting local health departments for failing to adequately treat the LGBT community. “Public health failure” is how out California State Sen. Scott Wiener and Assembly Member Matt Haney described the federal government’s response this month.
Even the lack of sufficient monkeypox vaccines — along with a bungled vaccination roll-out across the US — was down to, you guessed it, “homophobia,” according to a Los Angeles Times headline last week, along with a “collective indifference that stems from the disease largely hitting LGBTQ communities.”
As a gay man of a certain age, this sounds all too familiar. Nearly four decades ago, during the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, doctors and LGBT community leaders like Larry Kramer urged gay men to embrace safer sex practices once it became clear that HIV was contracted through sexual contact. Some did, but many others refused, citing the shame and stigma that could result from being singled out as a minority population. While the US government waited too long to sound the alarm, even as thousands died, the reluctance of some gay men to accept the facts of the virus’ spread also allowed the plague to grow faster.
While monkeypox is not usually fatal (it leads to an unsightly rash and fever), it has this much in common with AIDS: political correctness may have hastened its status as a global health emergency. When a communicable disease arises, people deserve to know the facts: How is it spread, and who is mostly likely to suffer from it? Shying away from the truth helps no one.