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Take a Hay Ride: Remembering Louise Hay

Did the bestselling self-help author do more harm than good for early patients with AIDS?
In the midst of this neglect and hatred, many of the men I knew who were infected with HIV looked in many directions for a solution. My friend Phil, one of the members of the affinity group to which I belonged, and with whom I protested in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on October 13, 1987, was a member of a macrobiotic society. Phil swore that the combination of coming out to his family and a macrobiotic diet was making him better. In one of our affinity group’s first meetings, he told us that the thrush from which he had suffered had disappeared, and that he felt healthier than he had in years.

While Hay blamed the ill for their illnesses, she also preached love. “Louise Hay, an advocate for unconditional love and forgiveness during the height of the AIDS crisis, died peacefully Wednesday morning of natural causes,” is the first line of Hay’s obituary in the LGBT Los Angeles Blade. In a blog called, “My Fabulous Disease,” Mark S. King wrote that Hay’s “message of self-love and unconditional acceptance—of our lives and other people—resonated like a beacon to the frightened gay men of Los Angeles.”

It was in Los Angeles in 1987 that the Hay Rides started, gatherings of people with AIDS, mostly gay men, looking for an answer or, at the very least, loving human contact. Some came away from the Hay Rides in despair, but others came away with self-love that was hard to find as a gay man in the 1980s. As Hay wrote, “Often what we think of as the things ‘wrong’ with us are only our experiences of our own individuality.” This message, alone, was a powerful one.
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