Musician & Lover of Michael Callen
I met Michael Callen in June of 1982, when I answered a classified ad he’d placed looking for gay and lesbian musicians. He got a drummer, I got a vocalist and keyboard player, and we each got the love of our lives.
This was very early on in the epidemic, before the discovery of HIV, and even before GRID was renamed AIDS. Most of my friends thought I was bonkers to get romantically involved with someone diagnosed. Their reaction was, “Why bother?” All I can remember saying is that ‘love is a funny thing.”
Michael was an AIDS activist before there was an AIDS movement. Immediately after diagnosis he began writing, organizing, speaking, and making music for and about our community not as a doomed victim, but as a fully functioning human being. Watching him tackle all that he was doing, I decided that if he could be front-and-center as someone with the most stigmatized disease of the 20th century, I could show the world that someone could fall in love and be intimate with such an “untouchable pariah.”
Michael accomplished so much in the 11 years between his diagnosis and his demise. He was a co-founder of the People with AIDS Coalition, the Community Research Initiative, and the People with AIDS Health Group. He was a plaintiff in the world’s first AIDS discrimination lawsuit. He testified before a Congressional committee. He and I recorded and released two solo albums, and he recorded and toured with the world’s first gay male politically correct a cappella group, The Flirtations.
But I think he was most proud of having a hand in the “invention” of safer sex.
I know that Callen-Lorde carries on the work not just of Michael, but of Audre Lorde and the multitude of fallen comrades who made common cause with two remarkable individuals.