You Are Not Alone: HIV/AIDS Activism in Maine

Ian W. Erickson, Bates College


This thesis examines HIV/AIDS mobilization in Maine during the height of the epidemic from the mid-1980s through the late-1990s. A growing body of queer studies scholarship explores the experiences of rural queer individuals and integrates these experiences into broader discussions of the queer experience. This scholarship is particularly devoted to combatting “metronormativity,” or the denigration of rurality in narratives discussing the queer experience. However, despite the growth of such rural queer studies, these scholars have not yet critically assessed the HIV/AIDS crisis—one of the most impactful events on queer communities in recent history—in rural communities. Utilizing archival documents from activist groups across the state held at the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, the thesis leverages social movement theory, particularly a multi-institutional frameworks and theories grounded in emotional politics, to examine and explain mobilization against HIV/AIDS in Maine, with specific focus on mobilization in rural communities. By analyzing how Mainers have mobilized against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a fuller understanding of the experiences of rural queer people can be gained, and the urban biases in how current understandings of mobilization can be exposed.