Do you know who BJ Bud was? She was a hero in Phoenix at the height of the AIDS crisis. BJ was a woman who would help anyone, and she would do whatever it took to keep her people alive. This was at a time when gay men like me were dying everyday. We were dropping like flies and yet very few with the power to act would hear our pleas, take us seriously, or fight along side us.
When I worked as the Coordinator of the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center I was responsible for the care and operation of the BJ Bud Memorial Library, a monument to an incredible lesbian who fought for us when we could not fight for ourselves, and when others would not care so much as to listen to news reports of our decimation. The library is a monument created in her honor and in remembrance of her. This monument’s inception was catalyzed by the demolition of an historic gay bar: the 307 located in Downtown Phoenix on Roosevelt.
It’s true—gay bars have long been destinations that carry significant symbolic weight for our community. We existed well before the tragic events of the Orlando Pulse Massacre on June 12, 2016. Because of those tragic events, 53 people woke up the next day as victims of a hate crime, while 49 people never woke up at all. And once again, those of us lucky enough to live another day were reminded, there are still those out there who would wage war against a people only now learning to survive in the years following a plague. We’re still here.
BJ Bud’s library houses over 7000 items of LGBTQ media: fiction and nonfiction books, periodicals, zines, movies, TV shows, audiobooks, and an archive of our local LGBTQ community’s history from BJ’s time through the present. Even today, with society’s progressively-shifted values, getting caught by your parents with LGBTQ media can prove to be a worst case scenario for many of our youth, a population still four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers, according to the CDC.
When I served as Coordinator of the Center, two specific branches of my tribe utilized our services more than any other: our Trans community and our Gay male elders. True, there were days when I could be less than enthusiastic about my job at the Center, but it is the work I will always value and take pride in. Some of the men who I was proud to serve as they met every week for social support were the very same men BJ fought for. Because of her mission, people she saved outlived even BJ. I can’t think of anything else that more epitomizes the case of a job well done, of Mission: Accomplished.
BJ Bud was a hero I never met, but whose legacy makes me swell with pride every day to be a member of the LGBTQ Community.