NEW YORK -- During their bus ride here Sunday, members of the Maryland delegation used the intercom system to introduce themselves and to talk briefly about expectations for the Democratic convention.
When John Stuban's name was called, someone said, "He's the guy with the earrings."
Mr. Stuban stood and said, "To those who may have been wondering and who may have put two and two together, I'm queer."
The word he chose for his introduction, he said, "is a harsh one, but it's softer when gay people use it. We do it to take the sting away from it when you're called queer by heterosexual people."
Wearing a "Silence Equals Death" button, Mr. Stuban said he hopes the convention will be a venue for continuing the education of Americans about acquired immune deficiency syndrome and about the rights of gays and lesbians.
What he hopes for, he said, is "positive movement" -- more money and more commitment to provide adequate research and care for people with AIDS. The Democrats and their presidential ticket of Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and Tennessee Sen. Al Gore represent "our hope," he said.
"These people," he said of the party and its leaders, "are people who will listen to tough issues."
The 35-year-old Baltimore resident said his party was helping to further the process of public education by including a lesbian and a person who is HIV-infected, as is Mr. Stuban, during its presentation on AIDS last night.
The Maryland delegation sat transfixed as Elizabeth Glazer, founder of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, described how she struggled for more government attention to the problem as her ** daughter died of the disease at age 7.
Mr. Stuban called the speeches "moving, poignant and a plea for
leadership. I feel good. Seeing the reaction of the crowd gave me hope."
Active in local and presidential politics since 1968, Mr. Stuban became a convention delegate after he volunteered to work for former presidential candidate Paul E. Tsongas. Mr. Tsongas sponsored a gay and lesbian rights bill while he was in the U.S. Senate.
Mr. Stuban, who said he fears he may not survive for another convention, came to New York at some increased risk to his health. With a weakened immune system, he is more vulnerable to fatal infection in crowds and in a big city. "I don't think about it," he said of the risk. "Some people are extremely sensitive, but I'm free of phobia."