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Manhattanchester: Gay Icons: Part 2 — Larry Kramer

Gay Icons: Part 2 — Larry Kramer
excerpted from Manhattan-chester, Novem-ber 25, 2009

‘I love being gay. I love gay people. I think we’re better than other people. I really do. I think we’re smarter and more talented and more aware and I do, I do, I totally do. And I think we’re more tuned in to what’s happening, tuned into the moment, tuned into our emotions, and other people’s emotions, and we’re better friends. I really do think all these things.’

Larry Kramer wrote the screenplay for Ken Russell’s Women In Love but what brought him more lasting prominence, or at least notoriety, was the novel Faggots which in 1978 documented the last great years of sexual freedom for gay men in New York before AIDS cut through the city like an invisible tidal wave. Faggots was no celebration of debauchery, rather it was a plea for understanding from a community that needed love but got only betrayal, sex, opiates and self-loathing. Lots of gay men hated the book. The scene depicting the fire in the bathhouse (based on an actual blaze that killed nine men) seems something like a hell of our own making. The party was soon over.

‘Kramer became involved in gay activism when friends he knew from Fire Island began getting sick in 1980. In 1981, Kramer invited the “A-list” group of gay men from the New York City area to his apartment to listen to a doctor say their friends’ illnesses were related, and research needed to be done. The next year, they named themselves the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), and became the primary organization to raise funds for and provide services to people stricken with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the New York area.’ (Wikipedia)

GMHC is still the largest organisation of its kind in the US. After this point Kramer became the thorn in the side of both the homophobic establishment and gay apathy alike. When the government was wilfully slow to act on hundreds of dying Americans in the 1980s, Kramer started ACT-UP.

He’s 74 years old, still fighting both his own illness and the establishment that didn’t expect him to live so long.



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