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Originally from New
Albany, Mississippi, Brian Bradley became a seminal gay and HIV activist
in the early 1990s after the death of his lover, Irvin "Josh"
Fox. He was first involved in ACT UP and later as a founding member
of Queer Nation where he fought homophobia and discrimination against
people living with AIDS.
Bradley's approach to activism was to do so with flair. To bring attention
to the indifference shown to HIV he dressed in grim reaper drag and
disrupted a Baylor College of Medicine Commencement Address by Health
and Human Services Director Louis Sullivan. In the same costume he disrupted
Jon Lindsay and Commissioner's Court which were attempting to destroy
the Great Houston AIDS Alliance, where he served on the board.
Protesting the incompetence of Sue Cooper, the executive director of
the HIV division of the Harris County Health Department, Bradley wore
Sue Cooper drag at a breakfast she was hosting, and stood
outside greeting people. At a David Duke for president campaign rally
he stood up in the middle of a crowd, unfurling a banner proclaiming
"Nazi, go home.
Bradley disclosed being
HIV positive in a Houston Chronicle article and was transferred from
his job as a scrub technician in the operating room to an administrative
role removed from contact with patients. He sued M.D. Anderson, taking
his case all the way to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He was interviewed
on Oprah, Good Morning, America; and Nightline. Bradley was one of ten
people originally writing policy for the Ryan White Emergency Care Act,
and served as a member of the National Advisory Committee on housing
for HIV-positive people. He ran for an at-large position for city council
as part of the gay slate in 1993 and was named Grand Marshal of Houston's
Pride Parade that same year.
When no one was listening, he took on the role of agitator for the cause;
he would take on battles that no one else wanted to fight. Those seeing
him on the news categorized him as a radical, someone who made trouble,
but in person he was known as being witty, generous, kind and supportive.
He had fun at the demonstrations; he was always prepared with a car
full of signs and a couple of costumes. His fearlessness was matched
only by his flamboyance. In response to an arrest for disrupting a public
meeting, he said, "We will never have the response to AIDS in this
country that other countries have unless some people are willing to
take risks." Brian Bradley died November 5, 1995.
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