August, 1989 -


AN EDUCATING AUNTIE, by Susie Hirschfield
            I had been a volunteer at Gay Mens Health Crisis, the first grass roots AIDS organization,  for eighteen months.  I helped serve dinners to about 150 people with AIDS every Friday evening.  I am from England originally and that summer, I had my seven year old niece, Hayley, and my nine year old nephew, Gregg, fly out from London, to spend a week with their Auntie Susie.



            I thought long and hard as to whether or not it was appropriate to take them the following Friday and, as the day arrived, I still had not come to a decision.  Of course, fate intervened.  It was a 95 degree day and we were taking the subway out to Brighton beach when they spotted a poster saying WOMEN CAN GET AIDS TOO.  “That’s not true”, they said.


            Here was my opportunity so for the next 40 minutes, they got a child’s version of safe sex 101.  They were confused when I explained to them that I always use condoms now.


            “Don’t be silly”, they giggled, “You don’t have a “lulu” to put it on”.
            I then told them about the Friday night dinners and asked them if they would like to go.  After reassuring them it would not be like visiting a hospital, they were quite keen.  We arrived in time for the first seating at 5 pm and I introduced them to everyone.  They charmed the staff and clients with their cute cockney accents and vice versa.  They whispered to me that I must have got it wrong.  These guys couldn’t have AIDS - they looked so healthy.  Boy, were they going through a learning curve!  After dinner we were in the office where there is a poster of a naked man, sporting an erection and a condom.  They went into fits of laughter, much to everyone’s amusement.


            Gregg suddenly announced, “Susie, when I look at dirty pictures, my dick gets hard like that”.  Whatever happened to his little boy’s lulu?  This brought up a group discussion on the normalcy of hard-ons and then he saw two clients kiss each other hello on the lips.  He said to one of the staff, “Do some men love each other?”


            Poor guy looked at me, swallowed deeply and said in a little voice “Yes”.


            “Do some men have sex with each other?”


            “Yes” came the  hesitant reply.


            I came to his rescue, sat the two kids down and explained all the possible types of relationships there are and they were definitely left with the impression that anything goes between two consenting adults.
            The flew home the following Sunday and  my sister called to tell me that one of the highlights of their trip had been the visit to the AIDS Center and how they proceeded to explain to her exactly what AIDS was, how to prevent it, how women can get it and how the New York people with AIDS don’t look like the ones you see on the telly in England.
            It wasn’t as much fun as their visit to Action Park but, hopefully, it got rid of any fears they had and started them off on the right foot as they approached their teenage years.


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Susie Hirschfield

Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca