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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bill Hull, June 21, 2001. Interview K-0844. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Impact of HIV and AIDS on homosexuals

Hull explains the impact of HIV and AIDS on the gay community. He recalls the palpable fear of the disease and describes how HIV altered his social relationships with other men.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bill Hull, June 21, 2001. Interview K-0844. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right, right. Let me see here. So we have discussed the Ponderosa, tell me a little more about HIV and AIDS and how it affected the community. How do you see it, I kind of tabled that a little later, which is now. I mean, how—you said that it changed the gay community in terms of how it dealt with itself, and so forth can you discuss that?
BILL HULL:
I can't discuss it as far as the gay community is concerned, because I was not that involved with the gay community. I was gay and there was a community, but I was not. Tim and I have always been sort of sequestered in our relationship. I was sequestered in this sort of gay nuclear family that I had. It became frightening. I don't know how it affected the entire gay community. I hoped during all of that, when I saw friends dying and people sick that people were becoming more aware of the risks of being indiscriminate, which for me, if I had been their age at that time, would have probably have ignored also. It was an unknown—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Ignored, in terms of the warnings?
BILL HULL:
Safety, yeah. I mean, everybody in your twenties and thirties, you know you are immortal. You don't sense risk. There is a lot of for the moment, which is fine, but you have to take precautions. Luckily, I didn't have to experience that. I really can't express it in terms of how the gay community is concerned, but I knew that people were trying to be made aware and they had to be made cautious and they had to be concerned, and they had to look at something other than just the moment of pleasure. I didn't do T-rooms and cruise and stuff like that. By that period, I was beyond that, I guess.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
You were in a relationship and didn't feel the need for that outlet. So with Glen Rowan's death, that made a lot of news, got a lot of news.
BILL HULL:
It did. None of us really knew what it was all about. The impact on me was very sobering. I realized that he was a decent, wonderful person for no reason or other, whatever happened in his life, just fate had caused him to succumb to this evil curse. I had another friend who passed away and was very devastating in my life. He was one of my best friends. He probably passed away in 87. Who had every power to survive? I don't need to go into that, I will get spiritual in all of this. But, it really had a great impact on me and my relationships with anybody in the world. I realized that they were fragile, life was fragile. They were fragile, and I didn't need to caution them, but I needed to become very sensitive to how they approached life, if they were a little more flippant than they should be about their encounters with people, I just almost had to turn my back on them because I realized that I was going to lose them. I think that, that may have happened a lot in the gay community.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Do you think that it was a dividing wedge? Do you think that people became more homophobic of themselves because of the disease?
BILL HULL:
May have been, I don't know.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
I kind of got the impression that you alluded to that.
BILL HULL:
I can't speak of that. I just thought that because of the whole philosophy was "God's curse on homosexuals" I think that a lot people could take that stance and feel comfortable or at least feel superior.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Were you in Chapel Hill when Glen Rowan died?
BILL HULL:
No, no I was not in Chapel Hill, I lived in Raleigh probably.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
But you were in the area.
BILL HULL:
But, I met him; I went to his home that sort of thing. We were social, but I didn't live in Chapel Hill at that time.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
How many other people, were there very many other people that died?
BILL HULL:
A lot. I wasn't.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
In Chapel Hill or the area?
BILL HULL:
Chapel Hill, I was almost immune to it, because I lived in Raleigh at the time. Chapel Hill and Raleigh at that time, were like time warps. I knew people who died and at that point, I had to shut myself out of that, waiting for me to die next.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right, it was just a protection mechanism, an emotional protection mechanism.
BILL HULL:
Yes, now that you pointed that out. It was a protection mechanism. I just sort of focused forward and find Tim. [Laughter] Somehow, that would happen. I thought, "My God, you are next. You could be next." If I had a pimple on my hand, I thought, "You're dead." You know. You had a head cold, "You're dead."
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
[Laughter] Been there.
BILL HULL:
If I had the flu, I would call in "dying" If I had the flu or AIDS, I didn't know, it could have even been the potato famine.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
You become very—you become a hypochondriac.
BILL HULL:
Well, I wasn't a hypochondriac, I just figured that anything could be the first sign of something. Thank God, I am still here.