In 1989, shortly before he died, Haring was interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine and talked about his art, his activism, his parents, having AIDS, safe sex messages and Andy Warhol and Madonna. He also discussed his point of view on being openly gay and the impact of AIDS on our culture.
Rolling Stone: Are you emphatic in your belief that people should be open about their homosexuality?
Normal about it. It’s not an issue to me. It doesn’t have that much to do with the rest of my life. It shouldn’t prevent me from being able to work with children.It doesn’t mean I’m going to molest them. A lot of people can’t even imagine the idea of someone that is gay working with children. They assume they’re going to be lecherous. It’s very sad. And now, within the last few years, AIDS has changed everything. AIDS has made it even harder for people to accept, because homosexuality has been made to be synonymous with death.
It’s a justifiable fright with people that are just totally uninformed and therefore ignorant. Now it means that you’re a potential harborer of death. That’s why it is so important for people to know what AIDS is and what it isn’t. Because there is the potential for far, far worse things to happen, the possibility of more hysteria or more fascist reaction. It’s really dangerous. Jews weren’t even causing anyone to die, and they became this incredible target of hate. All it will take is some major economic disaster for it to get totally out of hand.
That’s the biggest fear that I have. I’m cynical enough to be very curious how this whole thing could have even started. We know they’re capable of making diseases. They do it. They have laboratories for germ warfare. They could have done it. The original targets were just homosexual men and IV drug users. Perfect people to wipe out.
I think part of the reason grown-ups have such a hard time dealing with illness and death is because we have no experience with it growing up; kids are always kept away from it. I was struck by your reluctance to talk. At first about being sick because you’re afraid that people ignorant of the disease will stop you from being able to work with kids; they won’t invite you to their schools to paint with kids.
I know they won’t invite me. But I think it’s not fair for them not to know and to go on and then find out: “He was here, and he had AIDS.” I think that what will happen with people knowing will be far more interesting than just going on as if nothing had changed and having them find out later. It will force things to happen. Maybe they won’t be good. There will be people who will make a stand and want me to still do the work with kids and a lot who won’t.
By keeping quiet about it, Rock Hudson helped perpetuate the ignorance.
Because he didn’t talk about it, the media was able to perpetuate this thing that AIDS was punishment for something he did that was bad.
And made it seem like he was ashamed of being gay.
To me, one of the most important things is that being sick is not going to make me go back on anything in my life. I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done. I wouldn’t change anything. Everything was natural and out in the open.
I think one of the hardest things AIDS has done is to kids growing up now, trying to figure out their sexuality in an unbiased way. They always will have their sexuality shoved down their throats, but they’ll make their own way because it’s such a strong thing- it will override everything, no matter how much brainwashing’s going on.
So imagine how horrible it must be to some young kid who knows he’s gay or someone thinking of experimenting. They could have a sentence of death. It’s horribly frightening. It gives so much firel to the people who are telling you that it’s wrong to be who you are. There are so few people who are good openly gay role models or just good people who are respected who are open about their sexuality. Now there has to be openness about all these issues. Kids are going to have sex, so help them have safe sex. People still don’t do safe sex. I know so many kids that think that if they’re screwing girls it doesn’t apply to them. They hate wearing condoms. But heterosexual transmissions is one of the leading causes of new cases.