Holding a photo of her son, Kathy
Gilleran stood on the corner of a busy Vienna street outside of the
Kaiserbrundl gay sauna. Well-heeled men walked past her as they
entered, past her pleas about her son - “Have you seen this man?”
Afterwards, she walked East to the Danube river. There she peered
down into the water that Vienna authorities claim took Aeryn's life.
Kathy's son has been missing since
October 29th, 2007 when the former Mr. Gay Austria ran out
of the Kaiserbrundl and onto the streets of Vienna naked. That's
about the only fact that police and Kathy agree on.
Vienna police claim that Aeryn, 34,
must have committed suicide – running out of the sauna in an
emotional panic because he was HIV positive to the Danube, where he
took his own life.
Kathy believes none of it. In fact,
the Cortland, New York mother of two, believes the owners of the
Kaiserbrudl are hiding something and that the Vienna police have been
apathetic to finding her son because he is gay.
Her suspicions started when she went to
the station to retrieve her son's belongings left at the sauna nine
days earlier. There the reality that her son might actually be lost
caught up to her. Up to this moment Kathy was certain she would have
surprised him at his apartment when she flew in or the phone would
ring and he would console her that he was okay – maybe from
Finland, with his boyfriend.
When the police handed her a black bag
filled with inconsequential personal effects – Aeryn's United
Nation's ID, an MP3 player, a cell phone – she was left devastated.
Holding the bag, flanked by police and a United Nation's translator,
she fell to the floor and broke down.
“As I sat there on the floor crying
uncontrollably there was no reaction at all from the police
investigators,” Kathy told On Top Magazine in
The police had been distant up to this
point, but Kathy believed they were making a concerted effort to find
Aeryn. She had been told that the river was being searched by a team
of professional divers and that patrol boats were actively searching
Hope faded as the police told her
unsympathetically that her son must have committed “spontaneous”
suicide, due to the fact that he was HIV positive and then escorted
the grief-stricken mother out of the building.
That evening police indifference
started looking more like homophobia when she fished out of the bag
lab results of an HIV test. The results, which the police had in
their possession for the past week, said Aeryn was HIV negative. The
police's assertion that Aeryn had jumped to his death because he was
emotionally unstable due to finding out he was HIV positive was all
just a highly prejudiced theory based on anti-gay sentiment.
Happy and productive, Aeryn was an
unlikely candidate for suicide. Living in Austria was an adventure,
working for the United Nations was fulfilling, and a new boyfriend
offered a promising future.
And later, Kathy would be told that
neither divers nor patrol boats had been dispatched to search for her
For six weeks she walked the streets
outside the Kaiserbrundl sauna asking men if they recognized her son,
if they knew of his whereabouts, had they seen a man run out of the
sauna naked. She puzzled together bits of information from their
replies. Like the fact that several people believed there was an
altercation at the sauna the night her son went missing. But,
mysteriously, nobody saw a built American run five long blocks
through the pedestrian-heavy streets of Vienna and jump off a bridge
to his death.
Grieving, confused, and mad Kathy
returned to New York. She asked the State Department for help, only
to be told they were unable to intervene in foreign matters.
Kathy says she finds it difficult to
find hope anymore, her sense being that Aeryl is no longer alive. “I
have not felt him since the 31st of October,” the day
she was first notified by his employer that he was missing. “But I
won't let my son become the 'gay caricature' that the police and
press there painted him to be.”
“Hope is that I wake up tomorrow and
am able to reach out to one more person that can help me find him,”
A question and answer session has been
arranged for Kathy Gilleran at the PFLAG website. Questions can be