Here’s a weird story. That site Who Dated Who lists Nathan Lane as a rumored ex-boyfriend of Ricky Martin. Naturally I decided to investigate. Turn out t was a fake rumor from Perez Hilton, go figure. Somehow though I decided i wanted to read Lane’s coming out interview. I Googled and found old back issues of The Advocate archived in Google Books.
So I read the interview, and then skim through the rest of the issue. It’s interesting to see where the gay press was in 1999. Apparently Keith Richards is a giant homophobe and Jon Stewart has always been pretty cool. Go figure.
The advertisements are still the kind you’ll see in gay mags today: booze, cigarettes, HIV meds. But then half way though I start seeing a lot of ads for vague financial services, and I don’t really pay attention to them. That is until I see this one. I assumed it was some horrible, horrible joke about negative to positive cash flow, but then I see the word “Viatical settlement.” Then I realize that term is in all of these ads. I have no idea what is, so of course I got to Wikipedia.
Turns out Viatical settlements were a once little used arrangement where you could sell your life insurance policy for cash up front, and then the buyer would get the full payout when you died.
They’re legal, but weren’t very prominent until the ’80s when AIDS took off. Since you know gay marriage wasn’t a thing, gay men often didn’t have anyone to have on their life insurance except their parents, people they may have been estranged from or who might not have needed the money.
So this entire industry pops up around Viatical settlements. Gay men got some of their life insurance money when they were still alive, kicked the bucket from AIDS a little while later, then the buyer cashed in.
“From the perspective of the investor, purchasing a vatical is similar to buying a zero coupon bond with an uncertain maturity date [however an annual maintenance fee is payable i.e. the policy premium],” says. Wiki. “The return depends on the seller’s life expectancy and when he or she dies.”
Gay mens deaths: just like buying a zero coupon bond!
And, ok, on one level, great, it provided a much needed way to get money for gay men dying of a disease. On the other this was sadly the easiest way for them to get money. An entire financial services industry arose around the deaths of hundreds of thousands of gay men.
People found a way to profit off of the AIDS crisis. Like holy shit. There’s people still to this day who probably have vacation homes they bought because gay men died.
America right there.
Keep in mind this issues is dated 1999. This was just 15 years ago.