Spencer Cox, hero, dies

Spencer Cox

Spencer Cox

I’ve been procrastinating this for thirteen hours now, but I can no longer put it off. I have to write the obituary for a friend of mine, a great man, and a hero to millions.

Spencer Cox, founder of ActUp, and one of the key reasons an HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence, has died of pneumonia.

There is literally no way to explain the impact he had on people, including me. He was a righteous warrior who gave no quarter, not an inch, to those he felt were in the wrong. He was (rightfully) called the Dorothy Parker of HIV, and was a sensitive enough man to take that as a cue to be kinder, although he never shied away from dishing out what was due.

He was the kind of hero who, when asked about his participation in the documentary How to Survive a Plague, could say the following:

One of the visceral things the film brought back for me is the rage that is still almost as fresh as the days when I first discovered it. Footage of virulently homophobic North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms reminds me even today of how much I hate (present tense) this man. I found out he’d died a few years ago when a ‘porter called me to ask for a comment, and while usually I’d ask for fifteen or twenty minutes to compose my thoughts, on this particular occasion it came slipping out before even I knew what I was saying. “It’s too little, too late.” I wanted him to suffer, and I deeply regret that the last few years of his vicious life were spent deep in the fog of senile dementia, leaving not enough consciousness for genuine suffering. His colleagues, including New York’s John Cardinal O’Connor, Mayor Ed Koch, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, Patrick Buchanan, even the low-level Reagan press staffer who, in a transcript of an early White House daily briefing, is asked about AIDS, and reduces it to a smutty joke worthy of a quick chuckle. Karma be damned – I hate these men, and probably will until the day I die.

I met (“met”) Spencer in the comments section of Gawker, which was, for a time, the Algonquin Round Table of the 21st Century. That was some time, and a whole comment model, ago, but back in the day genius could make itself felt, and Spencer‘s always was. He didn’t throw his weight around: hell, in a pseudonymous world, none of us knew who he really was. We respected him because he was visibly wise, visibly kind, visibly passionate, and visibly a marvellous human being. He was also funny as hell.

He would get a kick out of the fact it took me two double Martinis and thirteen hours to bring myself to write this.

Eventually we became Facebook friends, and he read my blog from time to time. I’ll never forget the counsel he gave me about Occupy. “Make sure to have fun,” he said. “Don’t trust a movement that has no room for fun,” remarks he expanded on in his column in POZ.

If I have one piece of advice for young, aspiring activists, it is to always hold on to the joy, always make it fun. If you lose that, you have lost the whole battle.

And now, if you’ve never met Spencer Cox, allow me to introduce him.

15 thoughts on “Spencer Cox, hero, dies

  1. Modern antiretroviral therapies means it’s no longer automatically a grisly, slow death for those afflicted with HIV. These medicines are truly as wonderful, as the devastation of AIDS itself is horrifying.

    Too bad that the same cannot be said of the Canadian legal system, as experienced by those evil motherfuckers who possess a “Y” chromosome. It’s worthwhile, also, noting that that ain’t an evil of nature; it’s a CONSCIOUS HUMAN EVIL ACT resulting from the ludicrous, debunked claims of second-wave feminism.

    Perhaps certain bloggers will figure that out someday. I, personally, am not holding my breath.

  2. Wow, Murray. It’s remarkable the way you turn my friend’s obituary around to be all about the oppression you’ve suffered at the hands of the powerful women who control society. For the first time I’m glad you unfriended me. Don’t bother trying to refriend; you don’t meet my standards.

  3. Wow. What a remarkable human being. Thank you for sharing these stories and that video. I was very moved.

    I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sorry for the world’s loss.

  4. I never knew Spencer, but I did go see “How to Survive a Plague” when it was shown in San Francisco. What a remarkable man. I wish I had known him. The world has lost a great man.

  5. That’s true. He would get a kick out of the fact that Gawker ran his obituary, and he would have absolutely slaughtered the trolls in the comments section there.

  6. Hmmm. Were you friends IRL? Because I was, we were at Bennington together. No offense, as it’s obvious you adored him, but your “facts” about when/how he found out his HIV status are patently false. Since he’s gone, we can’t ask him. But think before you bring your facts out on public.

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  8. Just heard about this and am stunned. Spencer was one hell of a man – truly a great soul. He will be missed much.

  9. if you read through the myriad of obits, it’s quite public that spencer was infected with HIV shortly after he moved the NYC. not at bennington, not in VT. if i’ve free time today, i’ll go look for the articles that confirm this.

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