R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe first described himself as queer in 2001, but prior to that, he felt he had to live a life of secrecy. During his appearance at Logo TV’s Trailblazers event, which airs Thursday night and honors pioneers in LGBTQ equality, he used part of his allotted time introducing Ugandan civil rights activist John Abadallah Wambere to discuss his experience of being young and queer.
“In the early Eighties, as a 22-year-old queer man living during the Reagan-Bush administration, I was afraid to get tested for HIV for fear of quarantine, the threat of internment camps and having my basic civil rights stripped away,” he said. “I waited five years to get my first anonymous test. I am happy that attitudes have matured and changed, and I feel lucky that I live in a country where acceptance, tolerance and policy toward HIV-AIDS and LGBTQ issues have advanced as far as they have.”
He then introduced Wambere, who cofounded the nonprofit organization Spectrum Uganda Initiatives that provides medical services to gay Ugandans living with HIV and AIDS. “Today in Uganda, this event would be illegal,” Wambere said. “We would be all arrested or closed. This event would not be here. I’m here standing before you to celebrate what I did not expect. Because, to me, I did what I felt was part of me and who I am and for the people I care about.”
A one-hour broadcast of Trailblazers will air on Logo on June 26th at 9 p.m. EST. Not coincidentally, Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the Defense of Marriage Act being overruled and, in addition to Wambere, the event’s organizers honored DOMA challengers Edie Windsor and Roberta Kaplan. Trailblazers will also honor Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete in a major sport and Orange Is the New Black for their roles in the civil rights movement. It will also feature performances from Sia and A Great Big World alongside appearances by President Bill Clinton, Daniel Radcliffe, Adam Levine, Jared Leto, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Ed Sheeran, Nate Ruess, Iggy Azaela and others.