Donna Summer

Disco queen Donna Summer was riding high on the fame wave in the late 70’s, until she was quoted by the Village Voice in 1983 as saying “AIDS was God's punishment to gays.”

While drugs and depression contributed to the singer’s downfall, many think it was the fact that the LGBT community—her biggest fan base—never forgave her for those remarks attributed to her.

What many didn’t know is that Summer, who died last month of cancer at the age of 63, was looking to make amends with her gay fans.

On Tuesday, 12 June, AIDS and gay rights activist Peter Staley shared on his blog the text of a letter Summer wrote to the group ACT UP in 1989. According to his post, Staley had joined the AIDS activist group two years before.

According to her letter, the singer wrote she had not responded immediately after the comments attributed to her because at around that time she gave birth to two babies in 18 months, was involved in a major lawsuit, and had suffered through some deaths in her family.

“My manager at the time felt my life and emotional health was at stake so there was no response,” she explained


“Since then, however, I have made numerous replies and spoken openly to try and clear up this misunderstanding,” she wrote. “I did not say God is punishing gays with aids, I did not sit with ill intentions in judgement over your lives. I haven't stopped talking to my friends who are gay, nor have I ever chosen my friends by their sexual preferences.”

Below is the letter posted on Poz blog:

Transcribed:

July 26, 1989

Dear Members of Act-Up:

I am really sorry that my reply has taken so long, but this is not a matter that I take lightly and because of my schedule, I was forced to wait until I was clear and not under pressure.

First of all, let me say that these accusations are unjust and unfair. At first, I was unknowingly protected by those around me from the bad press and hate letters I was receiving regarding this matter. During that time I was pregnant (twice in 18 months), was engulfed in a major law suit and several of my family members passed away. My manager, at that time, felt my life and emotional health was at stake so there was no response.

Since then, however, I have made numerous replies and spoken openly to try and clear up this misunderstanding. I cannot force you to believe what I tell you, so if you choose to continue on with this fighting and arguing, that's up to you. I did not say God is punishing gays with aids, I did not sit with ill intentions in judgement over your lives. I haven't stopped talking to my friends who are gay, nor have I ever chosen my friends by their sexual preferences.

We have too many good memories together to live in this state of unforgiveness. I never denied you or turned away, but in fact you turned away from me. If I have caused you pain, forgive me. It was never my intention to reject you but to extend myself in love. I know that some of you really need me now because you've written and told me so. Can't we just forgive each other for this past confusion?

My motto in this life is 1st Corinthians 13. "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a face that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails, but where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophecy in part; but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope an love. But the greatest of these is love."

I love you,

Donna Summer