Our story about the unsolved murder of Wayne State University professor Philip Traci in 1984 reminded me how much has changed over the last three decades. As Monica Mercer reports, many close friends and fans of Traci’s believe the crime remained unsolved because of police indifference. Who cared about a gay man’s murder?
At first, I was surprised. I didn’t recall that much discrimination against gays in 1984. Then I reconsidered.
Even though there was a full-blown crisis, President Ronald Reagan could barely utter the word “AIDS.” He finally mentioned it at a press conference in September 1985. A few years later, a very close friend came out to us, but only after we were well lubricated at a wedding.
Today’s environment is more tolerant — for the most part. There are “out” movie stars, politicians, and even a few athletes.
But have we come far enough? Michigan legislators recently couldn’t pass a bipartisan bill to add protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender residents in the state’s anti-discrimination law. And LGBT teens and young adults have high rates of suicide attempts. Bullying is a contributing factor. And don’t forget the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests at military funerals.
So we’re not there yet. But there’s hope. When Hollywood leading man Rock Hudson’s AIDS diagnosis was announced in 1985, it changed some stereotypes — and sparked donations for research.
Today there are countless fundraisers. One favorite: In late September, Hour Detroit sponsored a table at DIFFA — Dining by Design. Since 1984, DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) has granted some $40 million to AIDS service organizations. Locally, the event has raised more than $500,000 over the past five years for the Michigan AIDS Coalition. Talented designers create dynamic dining installations that are functional works of art. The weekend culminates in a gala dinner with seating at the installations.
You don’t have to go that far for your party needs. Dorothy Hernandez asks area chefs and event planners for recipes and advice on how to pull off your own full-fledged soirée.
What we drink before dinner has also changed since I tended bar in the ’80s. I made a very dry martini (a civilized way of asking for a glass of gin or vodka), but a Long Island Iced Tea was about as complicated as I got. Check out new methods of mixology from some of the area’s hottest new distilleries and restaurants.
This issue also highlights organizations and individuals that make a difference — from the Kiwanis and a nonprofit that is keeping the Native American “ghost supper” tradition alive to a look at the amazing life of local activist Grace Lee Boggs.
As the “giving” season approaches, let’s remember those who have taught or influenced us — and realize we can all be agents for change.