All We Have Is Each Other

An Open Letter to Young Queers in the Time of COVID-19— By Robert Ostertag

By Robert Ostertag
March 23rd, 2020

Several younger queers have asked those of us who live through the worst of AIDS have any lessons from that. My answer is yes, and the lesson is that THIS IS NOT AIDS.

Why does that matter? HIV is difficult to transmit. You either have to have sex or share needles. If you have sex, the only people you put at risk are you and your partner (and subsequent partners). Many gay men worked out a lifestyle of paying attention to about half of which health authorities told them, figuring that it was their life to live and their risk to take.

COVID-19 is HIGHLY TRANSMISSIBLE. NO ONE CAN PUT ONLY THEMSELVES AT RISK. And the people you will put most at risk by not thinking this through are the nurses and doctors who will care for you. Think about it: In Italy right now there are hospitals which can barely function because of all the nurses who are sick. ICU wards are overflowing with the workers who cared for the first wave.

I am very worried that if some gay men take the sexual practices they developed in the age of PREP, and carry it with them into the age of COVID-19, disaster will ensue.

THE WAY TO PRACTICE RADICAL QUEER LOVE NOW IS TO STAY HOME, DON’T HOOK UP, AND BE RIGOROUS ABOUT SOCIAL DISTANCING.

We will get through this.

And remember: if you have a home and are a citizen you are far better off than many among us.
– Bob Ostertag


Last October with Mami Vinolia, the leader of the waria in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Waria is a traditional Indonesian queer identity which is close to what we in the USA would call transwomen, though not exactly. COVID-19 is exploding in Indonesia, and Mami Vinolia is trying to care for a waria population that is poor, largely un-housed, and dependent on sex work. Count your blessings, everyone. To support her work or send her a message of support, look for Vinolia on Facebook.


Robert Ostertag’s work cannot easily be summarized or pigeonholed. He has published more than twenty albums of music, five books, and a feature film. His writings on contemporary politics have been published on every continent and in many languages, beginning with his work as a journalist covering the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s. His books cover a wide range of topics, from labor unions to the history of journalism to estrogen and testosterone. He has performed at music, film, and multimedia festivals around the globe. His radically diverse musical collaborators include the Kronos Quartet, John Zorn, Mike Patton, transgender cabaret icon Justin Vivian Bond, British guitar innovator Fred Frith, EDM DJ Rrose, and many others.

Check out his forthcoming book: Facebooking the Anthropocene in Raja Ampat: Technics and Civilization in the 21st Century