HIV and ME activist JD Davids aka The Cranky Queer released “I Love Unvaccinated People: a Manifesto for Masks and Humility” on August 1, 2021, a moment in which vaccines themselves—and the discourse surrounding them—were dramatically shifting many people’s experiences of the pandemic. While vaccines enabled many people to re-enter various forms of public life, they also raised difficult questions about access, equity, and blame, particularly around who was not only able and willing to be vaccinated.
As JD Davids told me, the manifesto came out of a desire to critically unpack questions of privilege, and to serve as a reminder not to embrace a polarized and binary way of thinking regarding vaccines. In it, he expresses love for people complex situations, such as in this excerpt:
I love those who receive vaccinations for whom they are likely far less effective — the elders and also some of those of us who are immunosuppressed, whether they have been told that or not, or whether or not they yet know they are immune compromised.
I love people who know that the only other person who could take care of their kids for the day may do them wrong, and who aren’t going to make that mistake again and they’ll take their chances of getting sick rather than scheduling that which may help keep them well when there no discernible way in this city or yours to get them the specific help they need…
I love people with Long COVID who are holding each other online and searching for answers, and so scared knowing others will be joining them soon. And I love people with other complex chronic illnesses who are saying: here is what helps me get through and here is what brings me joy.
In our oral history interview, Davids shared that he wrote this as a way of calling in those in his own communities who were pointing fingers and assigning morality to vaccine adoption, rather than considering the complexities of misinformation, failures of government action, and legacies of harm reduction at play. For me personally, this manifesto made me feel implicated in being too quick to judge or critique others, and I have been glad at several moments of frustration, anger, and despair to have Davids’ words to return to as a reminder of the hard work of solidarity.