As Monkeypox Spreads, the World Is More Focused on Shaming Gay People
Healthcare workers with New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene help people register for the monkeypox vaccine at one of the City's vaccination sites, Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in New York. The World Health Organization recently declared that the expanding monkeypox outbreak is a global emergency. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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First came Covid and now, here comes Monkeypox. But this time, the world at-large isn’t blaming China for the spread of a virus–it’s blaming gay people

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is also not related to chickenpox.

Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Despite being named “monkeypox,” the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) might harbor the virus and infect people.

Monkeypox is making a comeback after its first documentation of human infection in 1970. There were initially several outbreaks in five West African countries but the virus has since spread worldwide and is being declared a health emergency.

With over 16,000 cases in 70 different countries, Monkeypox is reportedly easily transmissible through sexual intercourse. Also, experts have largely pointed to LGBTQ+ people for the spread of the virus with studies suggesting that sex between men is a major driver

However, this data has been turned into misinformation to fuel an anti-LBGTQ+ campaign. And just like that, 2022 looking a lot like the 1980s when HIV/AIDS was portrayed as a “gay disease.”

First there’s this mischaracterization of Monkeypox as an sexually transmitted infection (STI) being carelessly passed around by gay men having sex with strangers. Again, while the virus can be spread through sexual activity, it can also come from direct contact with infectiouses rashes, scabs or body fluids. Therefore, the virus is spread by contact, not sex itself. 

Then there’s the general homophobia. Over the weekend, homophobic posters with incorrect messaging around Monkeypox were put up the same day as pride parade in a city in India. And here in the U.S.,  a UT-Dallas professor is being investigated for a homophobic tweet related to the outbreak.

Finally – and probably the most egregious of them all – there’s the dismissal of LGBTQ+ people and the virus altogether.

The person so many of us love to hate, Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, took to TikTok to say, “Monkeypox is really, only transmitted mostly through gay sex…but you know what? That is not satisfying to these folks. They have to make it scarier…and they have been editing their website to make Monkeypox much more frightening to explain to you that anyone can catch it. Clearly the Monkeypox is going to jump person to person without the gay sex. That’s what they’re telling you now.”

Messy Marjorie is saying three things. One, “since this virus only affects gay people”, heterosexual people need not worry. Basically, screw the gays. Secondly, her tone says that she clearly doesn’t believe that it’s transmissible through skin-to-skin contact or other contaminated products. And third, the U.S. government, CDC and World Health Organization are pushing some kind of fear campaign and Monkeypox really isn’t a big deal. No need to sound an alarm.  

In true fashion, Greene has also been busy tweeting this misinformation to her followers. In reference to one tweet questioning how two young people recently contracted the virus if it’s a STD, she left some wondering if she’s insinuating that these children were sexually assaulted. If that is what she is implying, she’s now added the criminalization of gay people to her résumé of debauchery.

After two years and counting of life being turned upside down by Covid -19, the world doesn’t have the time or patience for another pandemic. But it seems it always has time to persecute a marginalized group. If we learned anything from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 80s, it’s that no matter who diseases or viruses impact individually, we all suffer in some way, collectively. The energy spent on shaming LGBTQ+ people is misdirected and ignorant. And it would be nice if, for once,  people could stay focused on the larger issues at hand–another growing pandemic.

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work--"If not me then who?" As a strategist and injustice interrupter, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for radical...

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