Nancy Pelosi ‘lost friends’ over support of gay people during the AIDS crisis

Nancy Pelosi speaking during a legislative session.

Former US House speaker and long-tie LGBTQ+ ally Nancy Pelosi has recalled how she lost friends because of her support for queer people at the height of the HIV/Aids pandemic.

The 84-year-old Democratic representative for California’s 11th congressional district – which includes most of San Francisco – recalled her decision to march alongside LGBTQ+ people at a Pride parade more than 35 years ago, adding that several friends refused to enter her home due to to her support of the community.

“I lost some friends over it,” she said. “You know, people would say: ‘I’m not coming to your house if you’re having gay people help with your cooking or anything’.”

Speaking to The Advocate, Pelosi recalled her decades of LGBTQ+ support, saying that one of her first interactions with the community, as a member of congress, was at the height of the HIV/Aids crisis.

Nancy Pelosi calls US transgender military ban an ‘act of cruelty’
Nancy Pelosi. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

“My first Pride parade as a member of congress, we walked,” she said. “We got a lot of press because this was well over 35 years ago and not many members of congress were in gay parades at that time.

“I got calls from all over, with people saying: ‘You stood with us’. It meant so much for people beyond San Francisco and the joy that I had marching with my constituents and taking pride.”

You may like to watch

Pelosi first became a representative in 1987 and has been a tireless advocate for LGBTQ+ people ever since.

“I said to my friends in the gay community, stand with me at the food table, so when the guests are there, [they] see both of us dipping into the dip with our chips at the same time,” she said. “It was small but, at the time, it was quite a big gesture.”

During the interview, Pelosi also recalled the Aids quilt, a 54-tonne piece of community art celebrating the lives of people who died of Aids-related illnesses. Pelosi first saw it in October 1987, at the National Mall in Washington DC, and she gets emotional every time she thinks about it.

The AIDS Quilt laying across the National Mall in the 1980s.
The Aids quilt at the National Mall in the 1980s. (Getty)

“When the idea surfaced, I [said] we should [put] the quilt on the Mall, [but] the Park Service said no, it’s going to kill the grass.”

Activist Cleve Jones, who conceived the idea of a quilt, suggested volunteers could pick up the quilt every 20 minutes to preserve the grass, Pelosi revealed.

“And that’s what happens,” she said. “When the helicopters flew over the Mall with the beautiful quilt all spread out, we knew we had something spectacular because it was not only beautiful, but it also told the stories of so many people who lost their loved ones.”

The quilt is now at the National Aids Memorial in San Francisco.

Please login or register to comment on this story.