“The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power”: HIV Criminalization, Blackness, and the continued construction of Homonormative Whiteness.

One of the consequences of the success of ART (Antiretroviral Therapy) in an age of the Homonormative Turn, where nonheterosexuals are divided into two groups, gay Americans and deviant queers, is the abandoning of HIV as a central concern of the Gay Rights Movement. Consequently, archaic discriminatory HIV criminalization laws have continued to be enforced. Recently with the arrest and conviction of Michael “Tiger Mandingo” Johnson in Missouri, HIV criminalization has started to receive greater attention.

In this paper I claim that HIV criminalization not only shows how we have yet to answer Gayle Rubin’s call for a more sexually progressive society in her essay “Thinking Sex,” but also, allows for the continued legal sanctioning of homophobia post-Lawrence v. Texas. Additionally, I show with Michael Johnson specifically how HIV criminalization also allows for the policing and criminalizing of Black bodies, and does so in a way that ties the queer Black body to mythical Black rapist brute cited by a racist American society to “justify” lynching. Moreover, I will show, by recounting my experience of witnessing the trial and using various media coverages of the Michael Johnson spectacle, how through this process, some gay people become homonormative, while others remain dangerous deviant queers.


Part of panel Policing Sex
October 1, 2016, 11:15–13:00