Activist Larry Kramer Calls for New “Gay Army” in Speech Marking ACT UP’s 20th Anniversary

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L_larry_kramerWE ARE NOT CRUMBS; WE MUST NOT ACCEPT CRUMBS
Remarks on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of ACT UP,
NY Lesbian and Gay Community Center,
March 13, 9007
By Larry Kramer

Rodger McFarlane, Eric Sawyer, Jim Eigo, Peter Staley, Troy Masters, Mark Harrington, David Webster, Jeremy Waldron, and Hannah Arendt contributed to the following remarks.

One day AIDS came along. It happened fast. Almost every man I was friendly with died. Eric still talks about his first boyfriend, 180 pounds, 28 years old, former college athlete, who became a 119 pound bag of bones covered in purple splotches in months. Many of us will always have memories like this that we can never escape.

Out of this came ACT UP. We grew to have chapters and affinity groups and spin-offs and affiliations all over the world. Hundreds of men and women once met weekly in New York City alone. Every single treatment against HIV is out there because of activists who forced these drugs out of the system, out of the labs, out of the pharmaceutical companies, out of the government, into the world. It is an achievement unlike any other in the history of the world. All gay men and women must let ourselves feel colossally proud of such an achievement. Hundreds of millions of people will be healthier because of us. Would that they could be grateful to us for saving their lives.

So many people have forgotten, or never knew what it was like. We must never let anyone forget that no one, and I mean no one, wanted to help dying faggots. Sen. Edward Kennedy described it in 2006 as “the appalling indifference to the suffering of so many.” Ronald Reagan had made it very clear that he was “irrevocably opposed” to anything to do with homosexuality. It would be seven years into his reign before he even said the word “AIDS” out loud, by which time almost every gay man in the entire world who’d had sex with another man had been exposed to the virus. During this entire time his government issued not one single health warning, not one single word of caution. Who cares if a faggot dies. I believe that Ronald Reagan is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler. This is not hyperbole. This is fact.

These are just a few of the things ACT UP did to make the world pay attention: We invaded the offices of drug companies and scientific laboratories and chained ourselves to the desks of those in charge. We chained ourselves to the trucks trying to deliver a drug company’s products. We liberally poured buckets of fake blood in public places. We closed the tunnels and bridges of New York and San Francisco. Our Catholic kids stormed St. Patrick’s at Sunday Mass and spit out Cardinal O’Connor’s host. We tossed the ashes from dead bodies from their urns on to the White House lawn. We draped a gigantic condom over Jesse Helms’ house. We infiltrated the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for the first time in its history so we could confetti the place with flyers urging the brokers to “SELL WELLCOME.” We boarded ourselves up inside Burroughs-Wellcome, (now named GlaxoSmithKline), which owns AZT, in Research Triangle so they had to blast us out. We had regular demonstrations, Die-Ins we called them, at the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, at City Halls, at the White House, in the halls of Congress, at government buildings everywhere, starting with our first demonstration on Wall Street, where crowds of us lay flat on the ground with our arms crossed over our chests or holding cardboard tombstones until the cops had to cart us away by the vans-full. We had massive demonstrations at the FDA and the NIH. There was no important meeting anywhere that we did not invade, interrupt, and infiltrate. We threatened Bristol-Myers that if they did not distribute it immediately we would manufacture it ourselves and distribute a promising drug some San Francisco activists had stolen from its Canadian factory and had duplicated. (The drug, now known as Videx, was released. Ironically Videx was discovered at Yale, where I went to school and with whom I am still engaged in annoyingly delicious activist battles to shape them up; they too are a stubborn lot.) We utterly destroyed a Hoffmann-LaRoche luncheon when they delayed a decent drug’s release. And always, we went after the New York Times for their shockingly, tragically, inept reporting of this plague. We plastered this city with tens of thousands of stickers reading, “Gina Kolata of the New York Times is the worst AIDS reporter in America.” We picketed the Fifth Avenue home of the publisher of the Times, one Arthur Sulzberger. We picketed everywhere. You name a gross impediment and we picketed there, from our historic 24-hour round the clock for seven days and nights picket of Sloan Kettering to another hateful murderer, our closeted mayor, Edward I. Koch. 3000 of us picketed that monster at City Hall. And, always we protested against our ignoble presidents: Reagan. We actually booed him at a huge AmFAR benefit in Washington. He was not amused. And Bush. 2500 of us actually tracked him down at his vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, which did not know what had hit it. And Clinton. I cannot tell you what a disappointment he was for us. He was such a bullshitter, as I fear his wife to be. And Bush again. The newest and most evil emperor in the fullest most repellant plumage. We can no longer summon those kinds of numbers to go after him.

A lot of us got arrested a lot of times. A lot of us. A lot of us. We kept our lawyer members busy. It actually was a wonderful feeling being locked up behind bars in cells with the brothers and sisters you have fought with side by side for what you fervently believe is right.

Slowly we were noticed and even more slowly we were listened to.

Along this journey some of our members taught themselves so much about our illness and the science of it and the politics of it and the bureaucracy of it that we soon knew more than anyone else did. We got ourselves into meetings with drug company scientists who could not believe our people weren’t doctors. I took a group to a meeting with Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom I had called our chief murderer in publications across the land. Dr. Fauci was and still is the government’s chief AIDS person, the Director of Infectious Diseases at NIH. We were able to show him how inferior all his plans and ideas under consideration were compared to the ones that we had figured out in minute detail. We told him what they should be doing and were not doing. We showed him how he and all his staff of doctors and scientists and researchers and statisticians did not understand this patient population and that we did. By then we had located our own doctors and scientists and researchers and statisticians to talk to, some of them even joining us. When our ideas were tried, they worked. We were consistently right. Our “chief murderer” Dr. Fauci became our hero when he opened the doors at NIH and let us in, an historic moment and an historic gesture. Soon we were on the very committees we had picketed, and soon we were making the most important decisions for treating our own bodies. We redesigned the whole system of clinical trials that is in use to this day for every major illness. And of course, we got those drugs out. And the FDA approval for a new drug that once took an average of 7-12 years can now be had in less than one. ACT UP did all this. My children—you must forgive me for coming to think of them as that—most of whom are dead. You must have some idea what it is like when your children die. Most of them did not live to enjoy the benefits of their courage. They were courageous because they knew they might die. They could and were willing to fight because they felt they soon would die and there was nothing to lose, and maybe everything to gain.

And of course funeral after funeral after funeral. We made funerals into an art form, too, just as our demonstrations, our street theater, our graphics, many of which are now in museums and art galleries, were all art forms as well. God, we were so creative as we were dying.

It is important to celebrate. But it is hard to do so when so many of us aren’t here. At least that is the way for me. I know we are twenty years old. It seems impossible to me that it has been so many years. I remember much of it as if it were yesterday. It is difficult to celebrate when one has such potent, painful tragic memories. We held so many of each other in our arms. One never forgets love like that. Make no mistake, AIDS was and is a terrible tragedy that need not have escalated into a worldwide plague. There were 41 cases when I started. There are some 75 million now. It takes a lot of help from a lot of enemies to rack up a tally like that.

Rodger McFarlane made this list of ACT UP’s achievements: accelerated approval of investigational new drugs; expanded compassionate use of experimental drugs and new applications of existing drugs; mathematical alternatives to the deadly double-blind-placebo-controlled studies of old; rigorous statistical methods for community-based research models; accelerated and expanded research in basic immunology, virology, and pharmacology; public exposure of and procedural remedies to sweetheart practices between the NIH and FDA on one hand and pharmaceutical companies on the other (now, with our own decline, unfortunately out of control again); institutionalized consumer oversight and political scrutiny of FDA approvals for all drug classes and for vast NIH appropriations for research in every disease; state drug assistance programs; and vastly expanded consumer oversight of insurance and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement formularies. Each of these reforms profoundly benefits the health and survival of hundreds of millions of people far, far beyond AIDS and will do so for generations to come.

To this I might add that out of ACT UP came Needle Exchange and Housing Works and AID for AIDS and The AIDS Treatment Data Network and the Global AIDS Action Committee and HealthGAP and TAG, too, the Treatment Action Group.

Perhaps you did not know we did all this. As we know, historians do not include gay anything in their histories. Gays are never included in the history of anything.

Dr. Fauci now tells the world that modern medicine can be divided into two periods. Before us and after us. “ACT UP put medicine back in the hands of the patients, which is where it belongs,” he said to the New Yorker.

How could a population of gay people, call us the survivors, or the descendents, of those who did all this, be so relatively useless now? Maybe useless is too harsh. Ineffectual. Invisible. No, useless is not too harsh. Oh let us just call ourselves underutilized. As long as I live I will never figure this out.

Then, we only had the present. We were freed of the responsibility of thinking of the future. So we were able to act up. Now we only have our future. Imagine thinking that way. Those who had no future now only have a future. That includes not only everyone in this room but gay people everywhere. We are back to worrying about what “they” think about us. It seems we are not so free, most of us, to act up now. Our fear had been turned into energy. We were able to cry out fuck you fuck you fuck you. Troy Masters, the publisher of LGNY, wrote to me: ACT UP recognized evil and confronted it loudly.

Yes, we confronted evil. For a while.

We don’t say fuck you, fuck you, fuck you anymore. At least so anyone can hear.

Well the evil things that made me angry then still make me angry now. I keep asking around, doesn’t anything make you angry, too? Doesn’t anything make anyone angry? Or are we back in 1981, surrounded and suffocated by people as uninterested in saving their lives as so many of us were in 1981. I made a speech and wrote a little book called The Tragedy of Today’s Gays about all this. That was about two years ago. Lots of applause. Lots of thanks. No action.

There was a Danish study a few weeks ago. The life expectancy after infection by HIV is now thirty-five years. Thirty five years. Can you imagine that? That is because of ACT UP. A bunch of kids who learned how to launch street actions and release a propaganda machine and manipulate media masterfully, and use naked coercion, occasional litigations, and adept behind-the-scenes maneuverings that led to sweeping institutional changes with vast ramifications. We drove the creation of hundreds of AIDS service organizations across the country, leveraging hundreds of millions of dollars a year and fielding tens of thousands of volunteers, all the while amassing a huge body of clinical expertise and moral authority unprecedented among any group of patients and advocates in medical history.

We did all this. And we got all those drugs. The NIH didn’t get all those drugs. The FDA didn’t get all those drugs. We got all those drugs. And we rammed them down their fucking throats until they approved them and released them.

It was very useful, old ACT UP.

It is no longer useful. The old ACT UP is no longer useful enough. There are not enough of us. Few people go to meetings. Our chapters have evaporated. Our voice has dimmed in its volume and its luster. Our protests are no longer heard.

We must be heard! We must be.

We are not crumbs! We should not accept crumbs! We must not accept crumbs! There is not one single candidate running for public office anywhere that deserves our support. Not one. Every day they vote against us in increasingly brutal fashion. I will not vote for a one of them and neither should you. To vote for any one of them, to lend any one of them your support, is to collude with them in their utter disdain for us. And we must let every single one of them know that we will not support them. Perhaps it will win them more votes, that faggots won’t support them, but at least we will have our self-respect. And, I predict, the respect of many others who have long wondered why we allow ourselves to be treated so brutally year after year after year, as they take away our manhood, our womanhood, our personhood. There is not one single one of them, candidate or major public figure, that, given half a chance, would not sell us down the river. We have seen this time after time, from Bill Clinton with his Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and his full support of the hideous Defense of Marriage Act (talk about selling us down the river), to Hillary with her unacceptable waffling on all our positions. The woman does not know how to make simple declarative statements that involve definite details. (Read David Mixner on Hillary and Bill. It’s scary. Go to his site: DMixner.com). To Ann Coulter calling people faggots and queers and getting away with it. As Andrew Sullivan responded to her: “The emasculation of men in minority groups is an ancient trope of the vilest bigotry!” To this very morning’s statement to the world by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, that he believes the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops fighting right this very minute for our country are immoral. That our country’s top soldier can say something like this out loud and get away with it is disgusting.

If I am going after Hillary and Bill Clinton it is because I think she just might win, or should I say they might win. Two for the price of one will prove irresistible. Thus it is important to go after the Clintons now, while it still might be possible to negotiate their acceptance and support of our concerns, nay our demands, instead of climbing on their bandwagon that is akin to a juggernaut smashing all in their way as David Mixner describes. Too many gay and lesbians and our organizations are giving her fundraisers and kissing her ass too unreservedly and way way too early. As for Bill, yes, he is at last doing great work for AIDS in Africa but it sure would be nice if we had his generics in America for all those who fall through the cracks of the Ryan White Drug Assistance Program. Have you noticed how fashionable it is for foundations and the two Bills, Gates and Clinton, to do AIDS good deeds in Africa and obviously much too unfashionable to do them in America? I don’t like this woman, but I could, if she wasn’t cockteasing us just like her husband did.

We are not crumbs! We must not accept crumbs!

The CDC says some 300,000 men who had sex with men have died during the past 20 years. If I knew at last 500 of them, I know this CDC figure is a lie. Just as I know the CDC figure of gay people as only several percentage points of the population is a lie, instead of the at least some 20% of the population that the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School calculates it is possible to maintain. Who says that intentional genocide of “us” by “them” isn’t going on? They don’t want us here. When are we going to face up to this?

We are discriminated against at every turn. As we prepare to die the older among us will be taxed beyond belief. That prevents us leaving our estates to our lovers or to gay charities. God forbid the latter should happen, that gays with any money should endow gay organizations with all their gay riches. Do you think I am being too elitist in this concern? Well, you are using this gay and lesbian community center now. How do you think it supports itself? Taxation without representation is what led to our Revolutionary War. Well, way over two hundred years later gay people still have no equality.

Gays are equal to nothing good or acceptable in this country. It is criminal how they treat us. We get further and further from progress and equality with each passing year. George Bush will leave a legacy of hate that will take who knows how many eons to cleanse away. He has packed every court in the land with a conservative judge who serves for life. He has staffed every single government job from high to low with a conservative inhabitant who, under the laws of Civil Service, cannot be removed. So even with the most tolerant of new Presidents we will be unable to break free from this yoke of hate for as long as most of us will live. Congresspersons now call judges to pressure them, which is illegal, and if the President doesn’t like a judge’s record, he fires them, which is also illegal. The Supreme Court is not going to give us our equality in any foreseeable future, and it is from the Supreme Court that it must come. They are the law of this land that will not make us equal. If that is not hate, if what I am talking about does not represent hate, I do not know what hate is. We are crumbs to them, if even that.

This is not just about gay marriage. Political candidates only talk about gay marriage, making nicey-nice maybes. But they are not talking about gay equality. And we are not demanding that they talk about the kind of equality I am talking about, marriage or no marriage. Gay marriage is a useful red herring for them to pretend they are talking about gays when they are not. For some reason our movement has confined its feeble demands to marriage. Well, my lover and I don’t want to get married just yet but we sure want to be equal.

I wish I could make all gay people everywhere accept this one fact I know to be an undisputed truth. We are hated. Haven’t enough of us died for all of us to believe this? Some seventy million cases of HIV were all brewed in a cauldron of hate.

Mark Harrington said to me last week that one of the great things about ACT UP was that it made us proud to be gay. Our activism came out of love. Our activism came out of our love for each other as we tried to take care of each other, and to keep each other alive.

No one is looking out for us anymore the way ACT UP looked out for us once upon a time.

ACT UP is not saving us now. This is not meant as finger-pointing or blame. It just is. No one goes to meetings and our chapters all over the globe have almost disappeared. And we must recognize this, I beg of you.

I don’t want to start another organization. And yet I know we must start another organization. Or at the very least administer major shock therapy to this one.

And I know that if we do go down a new road, we must do it right and just accept this fact that the old ACT UP we knew is no longer useful enough to the needs that we have now and move on to reparative therapy.

I also know that any organization that we start now must be an army. You have resisted this word in the past. Perhaps now that the man in charge of America’s army is calling you immoral you won’t resist it army anymore. We must field an organized army with elected leaders and a chain of command. It must be a gay army with gay leaders fighting for gay people under a gay flag, in gay battle formations against our common enemies, uncontaminated by any fear of offending or by any sense that this might not be the time to say what we really need to say. We must cease our never-ending docile cooperation with a status quo that never changes in its relationship to us. We are cutting our own throats raising money for Hillary or Obama or Kerry or, God forbid, Giuliani, or anyone until they come out in full support of all the things I am talking about, not just some tepid maybe-maybes about second-class partnership pieces of worthless paper. Immigration. Taxation without representation. Safety. Why aren’t they all supporting Hate Crimes bills that include us? Twenty-thousand Christian youths now make an annual pilgrimage to San Francisco to pray for gay souls. I am sorry but this is not free speech. This is another version of hate. If any organization sent 20,000 Christian youths to pray for Jewish souls they would lose their tax-exempt status, or they would have before George Bush. Do we protest? It is very wearying to witness our carrying on so passively year after year, particularly now that all of us—and I mean all of us—have been given the gift of staying alive. I know that young gays don’t think this way, but many of us died to give you this gift of staying alive. You are alive because of us. I wish you would see this. And we all owe it to the dead as well as to ourselves to continue a fight that we have stopped fighting.

We do not seem to realize that the more we become visible, the more that more and more of us come out of the closet, the more vulnerable we become to the more and more increasingly visible hate against us. In other words, the more they see us, the more they hate us. The more new gays they see, the more new ways they find to hate us. We do not seem to realize that the more we urge each other to come out—which indeed we must never stop doing—the more we must protect ourselves for and from our exits from our closet on to the stage of the world that hates us more and more. I don’t think we realize this and we must. We must.

Why do I think we need the word “army”? Because it connotes strength and discipline, which we desperately need to convey. Because it scares people, and God knows nobody is all that scared of us. Which they were for a while. The drug companies were afraid of us. The NIH and FDA were afraid of us. Closeted everybodies were afraid of us. No more. Our days of being democratic to a flaw at those endless meetings must cease. It has been a painful lesson to learn but democracy does not protect us. Unity does. United commitment to confront our many foes.

We never consider the establishment of a gay army, just as in the approach of the Holocaust the Jews did not consider one, even though urged, no begged, no implored to do so by their great philosopher, Hannah Arendt, who had the tragic misfortune to see what was coming and to not have her warnings heeded or even believed. Why only last week Mr. Obama implored his people, albeit with a certain timidity: “Put on your marching shoes! Go do some politics! Change this country!” If all the blacks in this country did all that, he would not only win but they would have the power they never have.

What we refuse to see is what is going on around us, believing it is happening to others but not believing that it can happen to us: the use and defense of torture, concentrations of prisoners regarded as threats to America in camps where they languish indefinitely beyond the reach of law; hidden “duplicate” governments existing under the auspices of the homeland security state, shadowing the constitutional government but secret and free of legal constraint.” (Waldron). You don’t think any of this can happen to you. I do. You don’t think that any of those “political” prisoners shipped off to camps are gay? You’re wrong. Much of the Episcopalian church is now aligning itself with Nigeria. Homosexuality is a punishable crime in Nigeria, in Ghana, in Iran, in Saudi Arabia, in a hundred different countires, as is any activism on behalf of it. Punishable means prison. Punishable means death. The Nigerian head archbishop of the Episcopalian church believes we should be put in prison. Episcopalians! Whoever thought we’d have to worry about Episcopalians. Well, whoever thought we’d have to worry about Wyoming. Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming.

When will we acknowledge that we are constantly being lied to? We must have fiercely observant eyes. We must understand and confront the unprecedented, with “attentive facing up to, and resistance of, reality—whatever that might be.”(Arendt) Intelligent people—and gays are certainly that—have proved more than once that we are less capable of judging for ourselves than almost any other social group. When a conservative columnist can get away with calling presidential candidates “a faggot” and “a queer,” without any serious reprisals, than why can’t we see that we are in trouble? When the New York Times does not run an obituary on quite possibly the most famous lesbian in modern times, Barbara Gittings, than we are in trouble. When I can’t get US News and World Report to publish a letter about an insidiously homophobic cover story they wrote on Jamestown, we’re in trouble. When our country’s top military officer can call us immoral, we’re in trouble.

No, ACT UP is not saving us now. No one is saving us now.

We all think we have straight friends. We think if we have straight friends then everything is OK. But these friends are not protesting with us. They aren’t fighting with us. They enjoy the freedoms they have with their marriages and all their fringe benefits. Yes, they like us but are they going to sacrifice any of their freedoms to get us ours? Of course not. And what’s more we should not expect them to. Even though it sure would be nice; we’ve fought for them and theirs often enough.

The old ACT UP model served us well but it is time to take the next step. I am not saying that there are not more fights to be had for AIDS. There are and we must continue to fight them. Infections are up again. Prevention efforts are not good enough. It is still illegal for HIV foreigners to enter America. But these issues no longer appear to excite sufficient participation. Few people come to meetings and our chapters have disappeared. Many of us have tried to figure out what happened to us and why we ceased to be what we were. We all have thoughts about what happened but as I said I think its time to stop trying to figure it out and just move on. Expanding our demands will hopefully not silence our past concerns but invite increased numbers to meld these newer concerns I am talking about into a stronger, total mix.

ACT UP requires a new model to do this. A new model that will allow for different kinds of actions, tactics and issues, not just HIV. I am not asking you if you even want another organization. I am hoping that you are smart enough to realize—eureka!—that the great deeds we once accomplished which changed history can be accomplished again. For we are still facing the same danger, our extermination, and from the same enemy, our own country, our own country’s “democratic process.” Day after day our country declares that we are not equal to anything at all. All the lives we saved are nothing but crumbs if we still aren’t free. And we still aren’t free. Gay people still aren’t free.

Go to Queens, go to Jamaica, go to Iran, go to Wyoming, we still aren’t free. How many places in this country, in this world, can we walk down a street holding a beloved’s hand? I went to my nephew’s wedding in Jamaica twenty years ago. They are out for blood against gay men in Jamaica now. They do it to you the minute you get off the plane. There are men with iron crowbars waiting to maim you at the airport. Does our government protest? Of course not. Who cares if a faggot dies. They are actually beheading gays in Iran. This is progress? The European Parliament which in the past had played a key role in advancing gay rights worldwide, is about to be taken over by conservative delegates that will strengthen their neo-fascist bloc, which will actually call for capital punishment for homosexuals. You don’t think that any of this can’t happen here? I do. Our country’s top soldier said so this morning. We are immoral. The Mayor of Moscow calls us dirt. Polish leaders call us scum. Ann Coulter calls us sissies. General Pace calls us immoral. Who cares if a faggot dies. A gay person murdered in Iraq or Libya or Nigeria or Jamaica or Ghana or Saudi Arabia is the same as a gay person murdered here. Why do I harp so on gay murders in foreign countries. Because gay murders in Iran have a way of becoming gay hate in Paris and London and Chicago and in the highest rank of US Army. Particularly when our own government ignores all attacks against us anywhere. Who cares of a faggot dies. It is all one world now. The disposal of gay people is an equal opportunity employer and hate is a disease that spreads real fast. I repeat: a gay kid murdered anywhere is a gay kid murdered here.
Yes, we have many things to worry about now besides HIV.

You can get married now in New Jersey but New York judges handed down some of the most bigoted “legal” hate outside of Iran, where as I have just said they are now actually decapitating gay men. They are stringing up gay boys and putting masks over their heads and hanging them as Saddam Hussein was hanged. For being gay. Does our government protest? Does any government protest? Of course not. Who cares if a faggot dies. Do you have friends in love with partners forbidden from entering America? To be separated by force from the one you love is one of the saddest things I can think of. What kind of police state do we live in? This is not right. This is wrong. It does not happen for straight lovers. It can only happen to gays who live in a country where we are hated. How many years do we have to endure being treated like this? If countries like Australia and New Zealand recognize relationship residencies for mixed nationalities, why can’t we? There was not one single demonstration against those New York judges, or indeed against any judges who are such dictators of our lives, where they work and live and sleep each night. They cannot be allowed to continue to hate us so legally. America cannot be allowed to continue to hate us so actively. It is not right. It is wrong. Don’t right and wrong mean anything anymore? Why are we not specifically included in Hate Crimes laws in many states? How many Matthew Shepherds must there be before we are specifically included in Hate Crime laws in every state?

We have right on our side and we must make everyone know it. If ACT UP is to stand for anything, let it stand for our Army Corps to Unleash Power.

Think about it. Think about all of this. Please.

We are the only people in America that it is socially acceptable to hate and discriminate against. Indeed so much hate of us exists that it is legally acceptable to pass constitutional amendments to hate us even more. This is democracy? This is how our courts and laws protect us? These are the equal rights for all that America’s Bill of Rights proclaims for all?

The biggest enemy we must fight continues to be our own government. How dare we stop? We cannot stop. We are not crumbs and we must not accept crumbs and we must stop acting like crumbs.

ACT UP is the most successful grass roots organization that ever lived. Period. There never was, never has been one more successful that has achieved as much as we. We did it before. We can do it again. But to be successful, activism must be practiced every day. By a lot of people. It made us proud once. It united us.

I constantly hear in my ears the refrain: “an army of lovers cannot lose.” Then why are we losing so? We must trust each other to an extent we never have, enough to allow the appointment of leaders and a chain of command to stay on top of things and keep some sort of order so that we not only don’t self destruct as we seem to have more or less done, but also, this time, as we did not do before, institutionalize ourselves for longevity.

I am very aware that as I spin this out I am creating reams of unanswered questions. Well, we didn’t know when we first met in this very room twenty years ago what we wanted ACT UP to become. But we figured it out. Bit by bit and piece by piece we put it together. We have a lot to thrash out and codify in a more private fashion. Armies shouldn’t show all their cards to the world. Many parts of the old ACT UP will still serve us: the choices of a variety of issues to obsess us in the detail that we became famous for; the use of affinity groups that develop their own forms of guerilla warfare. Our call for Health Care for All must still be sought. I have a personal bug up my ass that gay history is not taught in the schools. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were gay. It may be up to activists to ram this truth down the throats of America because gay historians are too timid to. Timidity is so boring, don’t you agree?

Much of what I am calling for involves laws, changing them, getting them. We need to cobble together an omnibus gay rights bill and then hold every politician’s feet to this fire until he or she supports it. We’d find out fast enough who are friends aren’t. TAG and AmFAR once cobbled together a bunch of research priorities into a bill that they got through congress.

How about this: Jim Eigo wrote me: “a full generation after AIDS emerged as a recognizable disease, having sex still poses the same risk for HIV infection or reinfection. Having a sexual encounter with another person—a central, meaningful activity in most people’s lives—has been shadowed by fear, by the prospect of a long-term disease and by a whole new reason for guilt for more than a quarter of a century now. How have we allowed this unnatural state of affairs to persist for so long? Where are the 21st century tools for preventing the sexual transmission of HIV: cheap, effective, and utterly unobtrusive. Lovers deserve nothing less. Instead of sinking time, effort, and money into excavating the fossils of its ancient achievement, ACT UP might consider marking its birthday by mounting a fresh drive to remind government and industry that people have a right to sex without fear, without being forced to make a choice between pleasure and health. It’s an issue that might actually speak across the divides of generation, race, gender and sero-status. And it might regain for the organization some measure of the relevance it once had for the grassroots activists that gave of themselves as if their lives depended on it, because they really did.” Jim is calling for nothing less than the reclamation of our sex lives. What an utterly fantastic notion, or shall I now say goal? Why even raising this issue will find us hated even more. I am so ready for another organized fight.

Are you beginning to see how all this that I am talking about can be streamed into one new ACT UP army?

I have asked Eric to convey the main difference of what is available to us now that we did not have to work with in the past:
“In the age of the internet we can do much of what we did in our meetings and on the streets, on the world wide web.
“The information technology available today could help end the need for those endless meetings.
“Creating a blog could, in fact, incorporate even more voices and varieties of opinions and ideas than any meeting ever could.
“Where ACT UP once had chapters in many cities, we could now involve thousands more via simple list-serves and blogs. We can draw in students and schools and colleges all over the world. It is the young we have to get to once again.
“Creating a blog would allow for expression and refinement of ideas and policies, like a Queer Justice League for denouncing our enemies.
“A well organized website could function as an electronic clearing house for sharing information, for posting problems, for demanding solutions, for developing and communicating action plans.
“List-serves and a website could coordinate grassroots organizing and mobilize phone, e-mail and physical zaps or actions. They could also be used to spotlight homophobic actions, articles, movies and tv, and laws.
“Why aren’t we fighting fire with fire? Where is our radical gay left think tank? We need our own “700 Club” and our own talk radio show. Developing such gay content programming for the LOGO or Here Networks or for streaming on-line is completely possible today. Why are all the shows our community is producing about fashion, decorating or just another gay soap?”

Why even Time Magazine is now stating as a fact that websites drive the agendas of political parties.

I know that even without these tools we reordered an entire world’s approach to a disease that would have killed us all. Surely with these tools and with all our creativity we can start to take control of our destinies again.

With these tools, and with a renewed commitment to love and support and to fight to save each other, with a renewed commitment to the anger that saved us once before, with the belief that anger, along with love, are the two most healthy and powerful emotions we are good at, I believe that we could have such a historical success again.

May I conclude these thoughts, these remarks toward the definition of a new ACT UP that will hopefully begin to be discussed forthwith, with this cry from my heart:
Farewell ACT UP.
Long live ACT UP.
Thank you.

–END–

You may have missed…
Larry Kramer Speech at Cooper Union [tr]

Comments

  1. zabadak says

    It’s a bittersweet celebration, at best.
    Tho a cranky ol fuck, he has done a lot for humanity. More for the world than that waste of protoplasm, Andy Sullivan.

  2. tjc says

    ACT-UP was so pivotal in GLBT history. I weep for those who died, and thank those who gave so much to effect change.

    I hope we do proper honor to their memory.

    Now I’ve got to go read Larry’s speech.

    Thank you Larry Kramer.
    Thank you ACT-UP.

  3. Justin... says

    Yes but what about ANNA NICOLE SMITH!! What about BRITNEY!!
    What am I going to wear to the club this weekend??
    Did you hear about that new Adam Sandler film? It’s SOOOOOO offensive! Well, the premise is!
    Are you holding?!
    Listen, I’d wear a condom but then I don’t get as much pleasure for myself.
    _______

    Yeah, good luck with your ‘army’, Larry.

  4. Rey says

    ACT-UP saved my life.

    As a young man coming to terms with his sexuality in the late 80s, I became aware of ACT-UP and their SILENCE = DEATH message was instrumental in getting me to consider not only what it means to be a gay man, but moreso what it means to be an OUT and proud gay man in a largely-supportive community of similarly-minded individuals.

    That did more for my self-esteem than most anything, and that increased self-esteem enabled me to make (mostly) good decisions about my sexuality and my sex life.

    Plus, on a more shallow note, the ACT-UP guys that I met were always way hotter than anybody else, but I suspect that had more to do with the respect I had for many of them.

    May the gods bless Larry Kramer.

  5. Leland says

    Hyperbole aside, the core of Kramer’s message is EXACTLY what we need: putting the act[ion] back in activism. HRC and NGLTF and GLAAD behave as if the gay movement just started last year and they think they can change the world with words alone [most of them never heard by mainstream America which controls our lives anyway]. Someone should alert them: we don’t celebrate “The Stonewall Press Release” every June!

    DISRUPT the lives of our enemies, individual and group, and they WILL reduce their acts against us. Who cares if the LIKE us or not? But we should fuck up their status quo if they attack or block our rights.

    If you are unable or unwilling to participate yourself, send money to Soulforce—NOT to HRC, NGLTF, or GLAAD who can form a circle, bend over, and shove their worthless press releases up their asses.

    Matt: I know I’ve been harsh with you before, but I give you credit for wanting to contribute to the dialogue. But, with all due respect, there is NO excuse for any gay man who does who has the money for a PC and a Net connection and wants to discuss such important things to not know about ACT UP. There ARE many gay history books out there. “Out of the Past” by Neil Miller, while flawed, is a good overview of many people and events. But you don’t even have to buy or borrow it or others. Go to Google and enter “gay history” and you’ll find dozens of sites with various degrees of information, some in simple timeline form. Then, read, sir, read!

  6. Will says

    I still have my Silence=Death black t-shirt from the late 80s. It no longer fits, it hasn’t in years. I will never throw it out.

    Thank you Act-Up
    Thank you Larry Kramer. Like all my best teachers, he never lets you rest on your laurels.

  7. says

    Yep ACT-UP was and still is important, let’s not forget that jackass Ronald Reagan. *ACT UP’s published numbers indicate 41,027 dead and 71,176 diagnosed by the time reagan first used the word AIDS publicly in 1987. And with another jackass in office we can’t let things slide, the cost is too high!

  8. says

    What an eye-opening speech. Thanks, Larry.

    Though I think the ‘army’ talk might be a bit extreme, Kramer makes some really good points here. Why *is* marriage seemingly the only front of the gay movement right now? Where *is* the anger at the international community for tolerating the executions of gays. Homosexuality carries a 28 year sentence in Zanzibar. What are we waiting for?
    I don’t know if anything will ever come out of this speech, or if Kramer will get his ‘army,’ but whatever the next phase is, sign me the fuck up.

  9. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says

    Eewww, ….10 points-off for having McCreepey present.

    Larry Kramer was always too-militant, too-angry and too-urban for me to relate too. I grew up in that era, but not in his world of dark conspiracies, malignant ignorance (and hedonism), and to-the-barricades direct-action. I always felt that he saw the world only from the perspective of the urban-gay ghettoes of NYC and SF….like the famous New Yorker cover of a Manhattenite’s Map of America; just a howling, trackless wilderness beyond Hoboken stretching to San Francisco Bay in the distance. While a useful and worthy social-critic, he’s neither Moses nor John the Baptist…despite his pretensions.

  10. anon says

    He was always Mr. Annoying to me. It was really Anthony Fauci who pushed the meds trials and got AIDS under control. He was the one taking real career risks during the Reagan and Bush I presidencies, though he was a bit over-cautious at first. ACT-UP was a visibility campaign modeled on the civil rights movement–civil disobediance stuff, and it got attention but mostly negative. I don’t know who dreamed up the whole “AIDS is a disease anyone can catch” disinformation campaign, but these kind of scare tactics should be discouraged. Larry strikes me as an army of One.

  11. FizziekruntNT says

    Matt, that’s very sad to know that you didn’t know that about your own history, but I suppose that’s what happens in a world of selective perception journalism and politics. I AM thankful, however, that you took the time to read this post.

    I too grew up with 80s era Reaganomics and his senile politics and the horrifying fear that my sexuality could result in an even more horrifying death. ACT UP did indeed have a bad reputation and at the time of its heyday, I even wondered why the extremism was necessary. Well, I believe the article illustrated the necessity quite clearly.

    Anon, I’m not quite certain if you have a specific ad campaign in mind, and while you are certainly entitled to your opinion, I feel the need to say that your statement in regard to the “AIDS is a disease anyone can catch” being a disinformation campaign is quite possibly the most moronic I have ever read.

  12. Leland says

    Much of Kramer’s essay is, as I referenced earlier, hyperbolic nonsense, but how can Ted and Anon read or type with their heads so far up their own asses of arrogant self-delusion? ACT UP, as Kramer, made mistakes, but he is entirely correct in saying that the actions of ACT UP are almost solely responsible for the positive changes in government and medical and pharmaceutical communities. Why the fuck do you think Fauci awoke from his slumber, his over-cautiousness? Both of you and every other gay man benefits from their actions, and your lack of understanding and appreciation of that makes you nothing but parasites, infected with that other disease you identify: malignant ignorance.

    When I think of those “too urban, too angry, too militant” who died fighting while you live makes me sick to my stomach. A plague on your houses!

  13. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says

    …”When I think of those “too urban, too angry, too militant” who died fighting while you live makes me sick to my stomach. A plague on your houses!”

    “Died fighting”…in what war? I don’t remember ACT-UP members being gunned-down in the streets in their hundreds and thousands. I’m living in who’se blood-debt? Why do I owe my life to ACT-UP? Or, to Larry Kramer? Or, to you? For AIDS drugs and protocols?? For cutting the razor-wire so I could escape from the imfamous “secret camps” in Montana?

    To whom to I “owe” this blood-debt you proclaim? And why?

  14. says

    Yes, Larry Kramer may sound bitter and angry about the state of gay rights. I can certainly understand why. We pick the wrong battles and get too sidetracked by worrying about how we look rather than the important things. Years of working towards assimilation rather than true GLBT liberation has basically made us “tolerable” to some straight people. People are still killed in the US for being gay. It’s time to get out of the gay bubble and visit the real world outside the fabulosity of the gay ghetto…

  15. lee Gordon says

    Larry Kramer is a great American hero. Period.

    A genuis of our own. Truth to Power. The world hates queers, & it really hates Jew Fags.

    Keep talking Larry Kramer. We need our Gay Statesmen and intellectuals to keep informing and voicing our group consciousness. Without Gay and Lesbian social progressives we’d probably still have slaves and be in Vietnam. Remember segregated water fountains, they weren’t that long ago.

    Washington was gay? I’ve heard Bushie was 2, and sent to reprogramming camp, and then married that frosty dyke librarian.

  16. Rey says

    I would love to get involved again. I want to help. I really do.

    But the selfish side of me steps in and despite my friend who was murdered in 1991 for being gay and the few friends that I have lost to AIDS, I read (or hear) comments like many of the ones above and I think:

    There is no community.
    Many of the men I would be helping do not care one whit about me and actually resent my trying to make this world a better place for our forced community.
    I don’t want to help these people.
    And perhaps I’m just too weak to be any sort of a hero like those who came before me.
    I would much rather surround myself only with like-minded friends and let all others fall away.
    I’m tired of the infighting and the bitchiness and catiness that arises in men who would consider themselves “straight acting” or at the very least “not effeminate”.
    And I really don’t care.

    To those of you who persevere and continue to try to make this world a better place for ALL gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, I say THANK YOU. Thank you for doing something that I don’t think I could do for a bunch of ungrateful, ignorant, petty fools. Thank you for taking the high road.

    Now please, if you can, share some of your secrets for not letting those bastards – within or without our community – get you down.

  17. ShawnSF says

    For those seriously interested in GLBT history be sure to rent the Academy Award winning Documentary “The Life and Times of Harvey Milk”. It will open your eyes and your heart.

  18. resurrect says

    Publishing this speech is one of the MOST valuable and worthwhile posts I’ve ever read on towleroad. THANK YOU Andy – I don’t know where else I would come across this piece – certainly not OUT, the Advocate or any of our standard community newspapers.

    Anon – there’s something that nags at me about your post. Perhaps its the sense of “us” and “them” – urban coasts vs. middle America? “angry, dissatisfieds” vs. “content, go-along-to get-alongs”? while I wouldn’t advocate “let’s just get along” as a solution, dismissing Kramer as annoying is just more petty name calling.

    Kramer’s address is a speech – meant to be heard, not read. It needs to stick in brain, catch the ear, and be remembered as a call to action. Hence what reads as hyperbole and repetition in print and virtual text. Have you ever read MLK’s speeches? Under the same analysis, they are equally fantastical and pretentious. But they resonated when spoken with clarity, righteousness and the hope and power of being alive.

    I lived through the 80s like many of you reading – and like perhaps many more who didn’t experience the horror of the plauge. And while that period was horrific, ACT UP – like all great movenments – made me feel like I had a purpose, a mission and a reason to bond with other allies to mobilize, fight and fight back. ACT UP wasn’t perfect – and it didn’t need to be. Neither will whatever action or group we form now – and more importantly, it doesn’t need to be perfectly planned. But it DOES need to happen. The question now is – do any of us have the will to make action again? And in my small, dark moments – I fear we’ll shrink from the call and continue to wonder why we don’t get what we are entitled to.

  19. KevinVT says

    THANK YOU again, Larry.
    And thanks to Andy for posting this!

    Now THAT is an army I’d welcome recruiting on my campus! No don’t ask don’t tell problem there. We had Larry visiting a year ago, and he was fabulous. Yes, he’s angry and shrill, yes he uses hyperbole, but as other posters have commented, it’s all about rhetoric to get people motivated to DO SOMETHING.

    Problem is, now that the world has been made more safe for people who in the old days would never have been out, the more assimilationist among us criticize the angry old queers who have the audacity to speak up. If it weren’t for Larry and his ilk (though was there ever anyone quite that big?) many of us (you) would indeed be either dead or cringing in our closets. Yes, folks, read your history, whether you get it from the net or from a book. Try Paul Halsall’s People with a History site. Or read Shilts’s And The Band Played On (also made into a film).

    Shawnsf: The Milk film is actually just “The Times of Harvey Milk” — an intentional silencing of the “life” part. It’s by Rob Epstein, who went on to collaborate with Jeffrey Friedman on “Common Threads,” “The Celluloid Closet,” and “Paragraph 175″ — more docs of our history.

  20. edfu says

    Kramer has never been proved wrong in anything he has predicted would happen since 1981. Not once. He has been the Cassandra of the AIDS epidemic, and those who know their Greek ancient history realize he has been treated the same as she was–with disdain and hatred. It is what humans do to those who tell the truth. There is no one I admire more, and no one I fear more. He strikes terror in the hearts of men, in us, and we cannot face it. We devise any way possible to deny, negate, and put down such fearful statements. We are our own worst enemies. Deal with it.

  21. James says

    Larry Kramer has always spoken with a prophetic vision like the seers of ancient times. I fully agree with him and it makes me sad to see the gay community’s agenda for full equality dumbed-down to the pursuit of gay marriage rights, especially when marriage is an outmoded form of relationship. I watch injustice after injustice paraded before us in the media by the Democrats, as they continue to wobble in their very own wishy-washy way. Yet, gays and lesbians will vote for them because they are the “lesser” of ‘two’ evils. Folks: evil is still evil. The Democrats are NOT and will never be our friends, as they persist in using us to further their own agenda, all under the guise of populist ideas: NOTHING could be further from the truth. It is HIGH TIME for the ACT-UP ARMY to get going. Where do I enlist?

  22. So Left I'm Right says

    To Leland: Here, fucking here!

    It is shocking to me that people would still treat Larry Kramer as a — thanks edfu — hated and disdained figure or not acknowledge that ACTUP was a pivotal force in a dark time of ignorance, hatred and inaction.

    Is Larry hyperbolic? Yes. Does he go a little over the top sometimes, a little bit, maybe? Thanks god! But look, he gives great speech.

    There’s nothing better than the way he ended the speech. ACTUP RIP, LONG LIVE ACTUP. We could only be so lucky. It’s important, to me, that ACTUP did not become an institutional “gay org” like HRC. It had a purpose, it achieved tremendous goals, its activists literally infiltrated power. It was not meant to continue forever. It is time to create something new. I don’t know what it’s going to be yet, but we will get there. It will be done by direct confrontation, not just sitting at the keyboard! And the point about involving the youth (i.e., using the keyboard to some extent) is critical.

    Thanks for posting the full speech. I believe it’s important, and up to all of us to heed its call and do something other than send checks to organizations that do something less impactful than one meeting of ACTUP back in the day.

  23. dsaklad@gnu.org says

    A thought experiment…

    Any ideas?… suggestions?…

    A few of us with personal experiences have been studying
    a thought experiment… the strategy of potential sex partners
    getting tested TOGETHER for a VARIETY of sexually transmitted
    infections and revealing their results to one another
    BEFORE having sex

    Public health officials have not been observing the phenomenon of
    this strategy. Informally, clinicians for example like those at
    Dartmouth College Health Service student medical serices have
    seen same sex and heterosexual couples who say
    we haven’t had sex yet and we want to know more about what could
    happen before the sexual part of our relationship.

    Journalists have not observed the phenomenon other than
    syndicated Ann Landers’ columns recommending the strategy for
    potential couples concerned about their sexual histories.

    Here’s a collaborative blog
    http://notb4weknow.blogspot.com

    Questions of interest include…

    . How widespread is the phenomenon going on of the strategy of
    let’s get tested TOGETHER for a VARIETY of STDs
    BEFORE we have sex?…

    . Besides reducing ambiguity for the respective sex partners
    doing the strategy, what would be the effects on the epidemic?…
    the effects on transmissions of human immunodeficiency virus?…
    if 1% of the population did the strategy?…
    if 10% of the population did the strategy?…

    If a percentage of the population did the strategy,
    at what level could the course of the epidemic change?…

    . What related studies are going on now or proposed?…

    . What related reports have come out?…

    . What media have covered or mentioned the strategy?…

    All adversarial comment welcome! Or comments that agree
    with the strategy…

  24. Dennis Jaffe says

    Andy,

    I just happened upon your blog. Superbly-written content!

    I clicked on the link for Larry Kramer’s new army. It doesn’t work. If you have the opportunity to learn of the correct one, please post! Thanks.

  25. ter says

    Here is a perfect immage of a Gay Army Sparta style (By the way they fought in the nude)

    History is littered with this issue so I thought I would just show you where the 300 movie comes from in history. Hollywood sanitize the truth right out of the movie but here is some thing for the Generals of the Army & the Politicians should take note of!

    I have decided to lift up a book & give you a little insight into the movie of the “300” or “The Sacred Band of Thebes” (Text: Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe by John Boswell -ISBN 0-679-75164-5 (By the way a wonderful read that would curl the toes of the Chr. Church of out day for it Outs them big time-Hypocrites.

    Pg 61-63 “In the same symposium Phaedrus argued that no one’s behavior is better than that of those who are in love, because they would rather behave badly in sight of father or comrade than in view of those they love. He even advanced the idea that “if we could somewise contrive to have a city or an army composed of lovers & those they loved, they could not be better citizens of their country than by thus refraining from all that is base in a mutual rivalry for honor; & such men as these, when fighting side by side, one might almost consider able to make even a little band victorious over all the world. For a man in love would surely choose to have all the rest of the host rather than the one he loves see him forsaking his station or flinging away his arms; sooner than this, he would prefer to die many deaths,: while, as for leaving the one he loves in the lurch, or not succoring him in peril, no man is such a craven that the influence of Love cannot inspire him with a courage that makes him equal to the bravest born; & without doubt what Homer calls a “fury inspired” by a god in certain heros is the effect produced on lovers by Love’s peculiar power. Moreover, only such as are in love will consent to die for others.” (Symposium-Cambridge, 1967 pp 101-103.
    Perhaps inspired by this recommendation (although it merely expressed common sense in relation to the social relations of men in antiquity), about 20 yrs later (378 B.C.E.). Gorgidas did create such a company of three hundred men, composed of pairs of lovers. They were known as the “Sacred Band” of Thebes, because, as Plutarch later explained, “even Plato calls the lover a friend ‘inspired of God’” Living long after, Plutarch was in a position to know that the troop had played a crucial role in many military engagements (e.g., Tegyra,375, & Leuctra, 371), “& ….was never beaten, until the battle of Chaeronea [338 BCE] & when, after the battle, Philip [of Macedon, who won the battle] was surveying the dead, & stopped at the place where the three hundred were lying, all where they had faced the long spears of his phalanx, with their armor, & mingled one with another, he was amazed, & on learning that this was the band of lovers, burst into tears & said: “Perish miserably they who think that these men did or suffered aught disgraceful.”
    “Much later (3rd century of the Christian Era), Athenaeus (13.602) would echo the idea that young men become exceptionally brave under the influence of love for each other, & added that “This was proved, at any rate, by the Sacred Band organized at Thebes.”

    By the way I believe Philip of Macedon past a law that never again could such a group be formed in the army for due to political fear of they great power! It may be this law that our governments are still living under with regards to gays in the military. Maybe its time to get into the 21st century since we are at war & we do need such a force as the 300-The Sacred Bond of Thebes.

    So if there in a need for a model of a Gay Army we have it big time!

  26. anon says

    I see we’ve brought out the crew from the left-wing twilight zone here. People who “don’t breath the same air” so-to-speak. Well, I looked at the wiki articles on ACT UP, Larry and GMHC just to see a more mainstream opinion (wiki search is not picking these up, so they are hard to find):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIDS_Coalition_to_Unleash_Power

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Kramer

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_Men%27s_Health_Crisis

    Here’s an interesting tidbit from Larry’s article:

    “Kramer was a gay rights advocate from the early 1970s, but never an orthodox one. His 1978 novel, Faggots, was one of the best-selling gay-themed novels, but was heavily criticised by many gay activists for its negative portrayal of male homosexual lifestyles.”

    and

    “After the November 2004 elections, Kramer gave a widely covered speech declaring that gay rights were ‘officially dead’ in America, that most homosexuals were too busy with drugs or sex to care about their future, and that AIDS was exploited as part of a long-range plan by the government to exterminate homosexuals. He also blasted Human Rights Campaign and other gay organizations for what he saw as timidity and selfishness.”

    So, Larry’s never been terribly popular, but I guess everyone else in the world is wrong when the criticize him.

    Now, the list in wiki of concrete accomplishments by ACT-UP is, shall we say, rather thin. I urge people who know better to add to the article (you can do that in wikipedia) and point out how exactly this organization “did so much” for the gay community and fighting AIDS while “sell-outs” like GMHC twiddled their thumbs and jumped as high as Ronald Reagan asked them to.

    As for Larry: He’s still here!–he’s annoying!–get used to it!

    Now, I’m guessing, and it’s just a guess, that it was David Baltimore (Nobel prize winning doctor/researcher) who put forth the notion that AIDS was going to enter the mainstream hetero culture in a big way and therefore required a big federal effort. Now, normally, vaccines are relatively cheap to make and pharmaceutical companies don’t like them too much because of the low profits/high liability dilemma. There just weren’t enough sick people back in the early 80’s to make it worthwhile to develop a vaccine or spend federal research dollars on the disease–after all, there are lots of deadly diseases that only a handful of people get and die from (just ask Dudley Moore) and there isn’t enough political support to spend the money on the cures or vaccines or whatever it would take on every single disease, let alone one that affects gays or other disliked minorities. Whoever pushed the idea that AIDS was going to become a huge plague (in the US) was a genius for this sort of thing, and Baltimore was in the early days at the center of things. However, it was a cynical prediction to make, and scared straight people for no reason really. Would we have gotten all the federal money without the deception? Probably not. However, it has become an AIDS Industry, which has the side-effect of slowing things down. How many years can you listen to the same “we’re making progress but a vaccine is a least 10 years away” stuff? They should just give a billion dollars to the first guy who develops a cure.

    ACT-UP has been good at attracting attention but not good at selling itself to more mainstream gays or the general public.

  27. says

    Wow!!!And I thought I was the angriest gay guy in the world. Damn. Now I’m just the angriest gay guy in Canada…which I realize is a considerably lesser honour (sob)On the other hand give me forty more years of wacko homophobia and I’m sure I can get my crown back.
    I must admit I would hate to be trapped in an elevator with Larry Kramer for say…six hours…which is about the length of time it took me to read his speech.By the time I got to the end I had forgotten what he said at the beginning. Apart from the part about the crumbs…
    But I sure respect that grumpy old dude for all he’s done in the past…and for never giving up.
    And of course he’s right. Gay people do settle for crumbs. If we had more pride and less self loathing…if we didn’t put ourselves down so much, and used our brains and character to define ourselves instead of our cocks…if we organized ourselves and were more aggressive in demanding full equality…if we all stood up together and said this bullshit has gone on long enough…give us our rights now or we’re going to go after you crazy fucked up religious fanatic wackos like we never have before…if we did all that does anyone seriously believe that we wouldn’t get to where we want to be a lost faster than we are now?
    I don’t think that kind of army would wear uniforms…sorry guys…down cadet down!!!although maybe a few hunky bouncer batallions in every town and city might be a good idea.
    But it’s the spirit that counts.When bullies know they could get hurt…they usually stop attacking you. Just like they did in Canada.
    I mean I know we are more liberal, and have less religious fanatics. But we still had to fight for what we got. And once we got our rights…we had to fight to hold on to them. Not so long ago gays fought a pitched battle with police and homophobes in the heart of Toronto.But the gays kept on marching…. fighting…. overturning police cars…slugging it out with homophobes lining the route…until they laid siege to a police station. Things were never the same again.
    We won our rights in the courts and eventually in our Parliament.But the real battle for self respect was won on that street. The same street where a million people now come to watch and take part in the gay pride parade…
    I know you face an uphill battle down there.But even if you don’t sign up for the Gay Army…act with the pride and the discipline of one…and you WILL win.
    Good Luck!

  28. Spoogey says

    I can’t believe that there are any people left wo doubt Larry Kramer’s sincerity! I read his speech and cried. There is so much damned apathy out here it is palpable. Larry Kramer is a “seer”. I have read his books and they are filled with power. Why do some people hate to hear the truth?
    I will do what I can to help save my friends and perhaps myself.

  29. says

    Spoogey, don’t pay attention to the troll haters who are mouthing about Larry because they’re threatened and jealous of us giving some attention to a true gay hero.

    And like I always say: our haters are SO obsessed with us and our sexuality, that they can’t spend a day without thinking about us and wondering what we’re doing. The thing they don’t realize is that all of their hating has only contributed to put us in the news, where we wanna be!!

  30. says

    “After the November 2004 elections, Kramer gave a widely covered speech declaring that gay rights were ‘officially dead’ in America, that most homosexuals were too busy with drugs or sex to care about their future, and that AIDS was exploited as part of a long-range plan by the government to exterminate homosexuals. He also blasted Human Rights Campaign and other gay organizations for what he saw as timidity and selfishness.”

    LOL, it’s so hillarious you’d post that, because I agree with him saying that!!

    So what was your point?

    Larry has done enough for gay rights in his times, to earn the right to scold the new generation at any time he choses..And if he felt that it was the kind of talk it took to wake us up, and inspire us, then I approve of him 200%. Want to know why? Because I know it comes from a place of LOVE.

    And quite frankly, the man is not at a place where he still needs to be doing this anymore, so when you see him with a tshirt reading “where’s the outrage”, you know you have no excuses to give up the fight so early in the game.

    In my opinion, Larry Kramer is the definition of a true warrior. And in the genre, he far outclasses Gen. Pace, who just chosed to hide behind his army badge to spew some condemnation in the general direction of gays, including those relying on him for leadership, without any chances for redemption.

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