Who are the Gaymers?

Among many others, one group of volunteers that continues to go above and beyond in the fight against stigma, denial, and hate is the SF Gaymers.

The video game community has a history of hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community. Queer gamers, who often refer to themselves as Gaymers, are targeted for their sexuality while playing the games they love. “Why should you feel in your hobby, in this thing that's supposed to bring you joy, like you're a target of discrimination?” Asks Rick Oculto, a Gaymer living in the Bay Area.

Gaymers find safe havens in online forums like Reddit, where Rick found a sense of community with r/gaymers. Rick and other Gaymers met in person for game nights, movie nights, and more. “The entire purpose of it was to create an inclusive space…” explains Rick, “we wanted to create a space where you could game free of stigma.”

Why is the National AIDS Memorial Grove Important to Them?

In the early 2010s, Rick attended a volunteer workday at the National AIDS Memorial Grove (“the Grove”) with his company. A dedicated space for healing, hope, and remembrance, the Grove provides a haven from stigma, denial, and hate for those in the AIDS community and beyond. “The thing that stuck out to me is that when we came to the Grove…” Rick recalls, “is that it really was a family.” After finding a space and a community that shared the same values as his new friends, Rick knew he had to return with the Gaymers.

One of the Gaymers who joined Rick in the Grove is Ressard Sloan. “I love the dirt and I love the gay folk,” says Ressard of the opportunity, “and so I was like, yes, please.” What Ressard explained within the warm embrace of the trees and trails that comprise the Grove was something even greater. “The Grove is essential, you know?” Explains Ressard. “It's what I look forward to every month… whenever there's anything going wrong in my life, I go to the Grove to meditate and rewind and find myself again.”

Why is the AIDS Memorial Quilt Important to Them?

For more than a decade, Rick, Ressard and other Gaymers attended the monthly workdays when a new opportunity presented itself. The AIDS Memorial Quilt returned home to the Bay Area with the help of the National AIDS Memorial. “When I heard that the (National) AIDS Memorial was going to take stewardship of the Quilt…” Rick recalls, “I could not have gotten onto the staff faster about giving us the privilege of stewarding that piece of history back home.”

Considered the largest community folk arts project in the world, the AIDS Memorial Quilt has helped us remember the unique lives and stories of those we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS since the height of the AIDS crisis. Explaining the importance of the Quilt to him, Rick explained that “the Quilt presents itself in raw nakedness in front of the world to say that ‘we are every bit as human and worthy as you,’” he gets emotional, recalling the sheer number of lives lost. “We will lay down our lives…piece of Quilt by piece of Quilt, each representing the size of a coffin, because this is what (society’s) carelessness has resulted in. The SF Gaymers have volunteered for over a decade to honor those lives and to help build a community forged from the adversity they faced, a space where they would have been cherished and welcomed."

Twice a month, volunteers like the Gaymers gather from around the Bay Area to repair damaged Quilt panels. The work of volunteers like Rick and Ressard maintains our iconic AIDS memorials for people whose stories shall not be forgotten. They help share the story of AIDS to fight stigma, denial, and hate for a just future for all.

How You Can Get Involved

The Gaymers’ dedication to maintaining the Grove and Quilt, two powerful entities for fighting stigma, denial and hate for a just future, does not go unnoticed. “I feel like I’m around the most generous and giving people when I’m with Rick and Ressard and all the other volunteers at the National AIDS Memorial, surrounded by the best in humanity” says Steve Sagaser, the Senior Manager of Programs at the National AIDS Memorial. The sense of “family” that Rick mentioned feeling around the National AIDS Memorial — it is open to all.

Join us in celebrating the incredible work of volunteers like Rick, Ressard, and the Gaymers, and join them at an upcoming volunteer opportunity: Get Involved

“Whenever there's anything going wrong in my life, I go to the Grove to meditate and rewind and find myself again.”

- Ressard Sloan

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the fear, stigma and discrimination. We share the stories of hope, courage, compassion, and love.  And, we bring to light the harsh reality that four decades later, there is no cure and the rates of infection are on the rise, particularly in communities of color.

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