Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community
Victoria Noe, author
The history of the AIDS epidemic has largely been told from the perspective of gay men: their losses, struggles, and contributions. But what about women - in particular, straight women? Not just Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana, but thousands whose accomplishments have never been recognized? Drawing on personal interviews and archival research, Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community, is the first book to share the stories of women around the world, throughout the epidemic. Victoria Noe assures their place in women’s history, for their determination to educate and advocate, to end the epidemic once and for all.
In this well-researched but somewhat aggrieved history, Noe, a writer and AIDS activist, recounts the history of the AIDS epidemic with a focus on the unsung contributions of straight women. Noe writes, “Straight women have entered the AIDS community throughout the epidemic for various reasons, but all with the same intent: to make a difference.” Noe traces “the battle lines drawn in the first years of the epidemic” and identifies key players such as Elizabeth Taylor (“She was hands-on when it counted, because the epidemic was always personal to her. Friends were dying”) and Princess Diana (who, in 1987, at the first HIV/AIDS hospital unit in London, “shook hands—no gloves, no hesitation—with a man with AIDS... to prove that the virus could not be passed through casual contact”). Noe also includes “stories of [straight] women who were largely unknown, but whose influence affected thousands,” including volunteers, educators, activists, nonprofit executives, doctors, researchers, spiritual leaders, artists, mothers, caregivers, and “fag hags” (“denoting a straight woman who associates with gay men”). In telling her own story (she writes of being antagonized and resented by gay colleagues), Noe takes a somewhat resentful tone, but in general, this lucid and detailed account provides a valuable timeline for those interested in and impacted by the AIDS crisis. (BookLife)
Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the book's title. It also incorrectly identified the author as a social worker.