Instead, we need to recognize the specific challenges the LGBT population faces, while couching those challenges in a broader, empathic narrative about the universal desire for health. As an example, our designs could tell the stories of young LGBT people who are living with HIV — living on their own terms and not dying on somebody else’s. Instead of emphasizing the link between silence and death, we should draw a connection between openness and life. Being tested for HIV and asking about HIV status before sex should be regarded as an essential part of this openness.
In addition, we need to provide a basis from which non-LGBT people can relate to these stories by making the case that every person living with HIV/AIDS — gay or not — is somebody’s son or daughter and deserves an equal measure of respect and dignity. Broadly speaking, we need to portray LGBT people as part of the collective human tapestry rather than external to it. We need to put a stop to the “us against them” mentality that has typified the thinking behind the previous generation’s design solutions: instead of trying to reclaim words like “queer” in attempts at resistance, we need to get mainstream society to see LGBT people as “human.” Instead of staging kiss-ins intended to elicit feelings of disgust among the heteronormative mainstream, we should strive to create a condition where two men kissing in public is just as acceptable as a man and woman kissing. Social dissent is not more powerful simply because it aims to antagonize.