by Lawrence D. Mass

from GMHC’s AIDS Walk New York 2024

Notes in preparation for a 3 minute pep talk to conclude the opening ceremony of GMHC’s AIDS WALK New York 2024.

The Pep Talk:

I love the theme of this year’s AIDS Walk, Stride Past Stigma. It carries messages that never grow old. Hope. Courage. Spirit.

I especially love that image of us striding.

We will stride on to the rhythms of extended family and community, of our pride hard-earned and deep in our hearts.

We will stride forward, come what may. And damn the torpedoes, as the late great Larry Kramer would say.

People in recovery have a slogan: Keep coming back, no matter what. That’s how so many lives became transformed beyond their wildest dreams.

Keep coming back no matter what is what Mz Madonna just did again, no matter what people think or say about her age and defiance of norms.

So, yes, stride past stigma no matter what, especially if you are older like me or younger like most of you. And especially if you are trans, nonbinary, Black, a person of color, Native American, Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian, LGBTQ+, Israeli, Palestinian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, athetist, agnostic, pantheist, rich, poor, working class, middle class, classy, not classy or any other shade of the magnificent rainbow of human diversity.

Stride past sexism, racism, transphobia, Sinophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism, bullying, xenophobia and anti-science denialism. Stride past ignorance, bigotry, hate and fear.

But stay prudent and safe. Despite our gains, HIV, AIDS, other STDs, including Mpox and COVID are on the rise again, made worse by sick and sickening politics and ruthless fraudster politicians.

Though we in the LGBTQ and AIDS communities have also made progress beyond our wildest dreams, we are still fighting for our lives.

But We did not get this far by just hoping for the best. We prevailed, first by showing up, the way we’re doing today.

Facing hard truth and tough decisions on action, and taking action, is what we must not fail to keep doing now. NO MATTER WHAT.

As reactionary forces fulminate and intimidate, we can and must keep on keeping on — showing up and taking action.

As bad as things are out there now and getting worse by the day, we in the LGBTQ+ and AIDS communities actually went through much worse early on. How did we do it? For starters, we did it like we’re doing it today: Together. TO-GE-THUH!

Even against what seem overwhelming odds, we start as Larry Kramer did, by speaking up and out to those close and near, by taking small personal actions that inspire others. That’s how the personal becomes political.

The crucial takeaway for us today is from the legacy of ACT UP, the great AIDS activist organization Larry Kramer went on from GMHC to lead. It’s that first word: ACT.

Before us loom two personal and political actions we all must take this November. Vote and make our votes count.

Today, we stride forth for the preservation and advancement of AIDS services and care so tomorrow can still be beyond our wildest dreams.


On my wrist is my totem, a baby sea turtle. And what is it baby sea turtles do? TOGETHER, they KEEP COMING BACK, NO MATTER WHAT!

Love, Hugs and Thanks Big time to All for Coming Out today.

What Got Edited Out:

The image I have in my mind is of the Lambda, the Greek alphabet letter. In chemistry, it’s a symbol of kinesis — of energy and movement. As such, it inspired Tom Doerr, a founding member of Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) to adopt it as the symbol of Gay Liberation following the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969. Nearly two decades later, leading gay and AIDS activist Vito Russo designed the panel honoring Doerr for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. It featured a blue shirt with the lambda yellow sign and underneath it the words: “In memory of Tom Doerr, Who designed the Lambda as the symbol of the Gay Liberation Movement.”*

So stride past stigma, Mz Lambda, in your in red high heel shoes, dancing your way to the future.

  • Thomas L. Doerr (1947 — August 2, 1987) was an American gay activist. In 1970, he introduced the lambda symbol into the gay rights movement when the image was used to represent the political work of the Gay Activists Alliance…The lambda became “a sign for gay liberation in general.” — Wikipedia

When Doerr died from complications of AIDS, Arnie Kantrowitz inherited the first Lambda ring Doerr had fashioned as the symbol of the Gay Liberation Movement. (See Arnie Kantrowitz and Staten Island, Lawrence D. Mass, 3/18/22,