December 1st marks World AIDS Day, a day of remembrance and awareness, and a great opportunity for younger generations of queer folk to connect with and learn from the gay men who made it through the tragic AIDS epidemic.
Since the 1980's, gay dad and leading psychiatrist Dr. Marshall Forstein has gone from treating gay men suffering from AIDS and HIV, to helping gay men live healthy lives. He’s even witnessed his patients’ primary issues change from the then-prevalent fear of dying of AIDS to the almost unthinkable; planning how to become fathers.
“For several years, I was the only psychiatrist resident at the time who was willing to see [gay HIV-positive] patients,” Dr. Forstein explained on this week’s episode of GWK the Podcast. “Some of the internal medicine doctors and infectious disease doctors were sending [AIDS] patients to me, because there was no other psychiatrist willing to take [them] on. They didn’t know much about the disease, they didn’t actually want to learn a whole lot.”
Not only did Dr. Forstein care for AIDS patients in Boston at the height of the epidemic, he also made history as also part of the first gay couple to adopt a child in Massachusetts in 1986.
According to GWK founder Brian Rosenberg, who is an HIV-positive gay dad, for the majority of out gay men during the 1980s and ’90s, fatherhood was not even on the radar. Their main concern was surviving beyond the age of 40. However, there were two exceptions Brian knew of in Boston at the time, which gave him some hope.
“The first exception is the gentleman sitting on this podcast with us, Dr. Marshall Forstein, who had one son when I met him,” Brian told GWK Podcast host David Dodge. “I’ve always wanted to be a dad, I just never thought it was possible… It was just an awful, awful time."
As two gay men who survived the AIDS epidemic and went on to form their own families, Dr. Forstein (pictured above) and Brian also discussed the survivor's guilt felt by many HIV-positive men who watched a generation of gay men die around them. Importantly, Dr. Forstein said, that tremendous loss is part of the reason why it’s important for younger gay men to hear the stories of the AIDS epidemic.
“Think about making acquaintances and friends across generations, because we have a lot to learn from you, and you have a lot to learn from us,” Dr. Forstein said. “Don’t assume that the interest is anything more than platonic and generous. We have a lot of experience in the world, to teach you how to be advocates... We are all warriors in the same war against oppression, and we’re on your side. Let’s talk… The world is not finished being what it can be.”
Listen to the full episode of GWK the Podcast: "S2E4: A Gay Dad Doctor In the AIDS Epidemic with Dr. Marshall Forstein" below, or search for GWK on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.