Gay Rights | Larry Kramer | Los Angeles | News

Larry Kramer: "Who Cares if a Faggot Dies?"

As a follow-up to his speech at New York's Gay & Lesbian Center and last week's Times Square ACT-UP Army protest, Larry Kramer writes an open letter to heterosexuals in today's L.A. Times, asking them why many stand silently as the hate parade goes by:

Larry_kramer"Gays are hated. Prove me wrong. Your top general just called us immoral. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is in charge of an estimated 65,000 gay and lesbian troops, some fighting for our country in Iraq. A right-wing political commentator, Ann Coulter, gets away with calling a straight presidential candidate a faggot. Even Garrison Keillor, of all people, is making really tacky jokes about gay parents in his column. This, I guess, does not qualify as hate except that it is so distasteful and dumb, often a first step on the way to hate. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama tried to duck the questions that Pace's bigotry raised, confirming what gay people know: that there is not one candidate running for public office anywhere who dares to come right out, unequivocally, and say decent, supportive things about us."

And make no mistake, Kramer places much of the blame on gays themselves: "You may say you don't hate us, but the people you vote for do, so what's the difference? Our own country's democratic process declares us to be unequal. Which means, in a democracy, that our enemy is you. You treat us like crumbs. You hate us. And sadly, we let you."

Now here's a kicker.

The L.A. Times identifies Kramer in the tagline to the piece as "an aging 72-year-old gay man (who) isn't hopeful about the future."

AgingWhether or not you agree with Kramer's approach, you would think that the paper could find a bit more respect in its description of the longtime activist. After all, his work with ACT UP was a major force in getting the AIDS epidemic the attention it deserved at crucial moments throughout the crisis. It's pretty sick that the L.A. Times chooses to write him off as "an aging 72-year-old gay man."

Would they have had the balls to classify Gloria Steinem as "an aging old woman?"
I think not.

UPDATE: I just received an email from Larry Kramer and he says that he did not write the tagline. Kramer says they also changed the title of the piece, which was originally "A Letter to America's Heterosexuals".

And in related news, here's a new interview with Kramer from Rex Wockner.

Why do straights hate gays? [la times]

You may have missed...
Jim McGreevey Joins Larry Kramer in Times Square Protest [tr]
Activist Larry Kramer Calls for New "Gay Army" in Speech Marking ACT UP's 20th Anniversary [tr]

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  1. Tag-lines are, traditionally, approved by both parties. And Kramer's most certainly sounds straight out of his mouth.

    While i don't agree with everything his says, right now he's the closest thing our community has in the form a National Sage. The future does not look good for a community with so many self-loathing habits and values.

    Presently, the Gay-American community is only united in our spending habits.

    Posted by: rob adams | Mar 20, 2007 11:19:24 AM

  2. Thanks for posting this bit re: Kramer's op-ed. I found it to be a well-written piece and quite expressive of my own feelings about the prejudice we live with each and ever day.

    Were that all gays were as focused on winning the battle for our full measure of equality as they are with finding that perfect outfit or picking up that cute trick at the bar on Friday night.

    Posted by: Jonathon | Mar 20, 2007 11:22:35 AM

  3. In my experience, tag-lines are usually not approved by both parties. The use of the word "aging" is pretty stupid, since every living person is "aging."

    Posted by: homer | Mar 20, 2007 11:28:10 AM

  4. The LA Times isn't known for its decorum.

    Posted by: anon | Mar 20, 2007 11:28:33 AM

  5. Yeah, I agree that Kramer wrote the byline as well.

    After reading the entire letter, I think we all should be posting this on our blogs. He is 100% correct.

    Posted by: Jon-Marc | Mar 20, 2007 11:35:20 AM

  6. After reading the article I think it is fair to say that this tag line was part of the title or tag line from Larry Kramer. Knowing his humor and sarcasm, It seems like something he would say. Has anyone seen a response from him?

    Posted by: David | Mar 20, 2007 11:37:22 AM

  7. I don't know if you guys read March's Atlantic on Tim Gill - I really resonate with it.

    Gill's main point is that people only respond to fear (created in a legal and ethical manner) - we need to create a culture of fear for gays. Ultimately that is how minority groups gain power and social status.

    Create fear in your corporation, organization. Don't be a flowery girlie stereotype. Sue, intimidate (legally), and take money away from people who don't approve of you.

    If we don't do this, we are letting them hate us and get away with it.

    Posted by: Art Landis | Mar 20, 2007 11:43:06 AM

  8. How depressing. For what it's worth, I do not feel hated. I amd 52 and live in the MidWest. My family, co-workers and neighbors all accept me and my partner of 17 years. They are terrific. My partner is out at work, too, and his co-workers are terrific. We have no problems whatsoever, zero, nil, zip. Things *have* to be better today than ever before. I remember those days and can assure you that they are. Larry Kramer doesn't speak for me. His view is cranky and warped.

    Posted by: phil | Mar 20, 2007 11:45:17 AM

  9. "...Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama tried to duck the questions that Pace's bigotry raised, confirming what gay people know: that there is not one candidate running for public office anywhere who dares to come right out, unequivocally, and say decent, supportive things about us."

    Um, Giuliani?

    Posted by: PC | Mar 20, 2007 11:45:50 AM

  10. If it weren't for cranky, warped people nothing would ever get done. I'm thankful for Larry Kramer's dogged persistence, even if I might not always agree with him or with how he puts things.

    Posted by: Brian | Mar 20, 2007 11:52:01 AM

  11. While I respect Larry Kramer and his history of activism, I disagree that abstaining from a vote in 2008 is a logical solution.

    I don't like any of the presidential candidates currently out there, but nobody (including Larry Kramer) can tell me that there wouldn't be a world of difference for federal policy toward gay people between Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama being president and John McCain or Mitt Romney. There's just no comparison.

    Withholding a vote because "all candidates sell us down the river" is the ultimate in meaningless cynicism. Larry Kramer can keep his cynicism.

    Posted by: Frank L | Mar 20, 2007 11:53:00 AM

  12. We'll have to wait to see if he responds, but I have a feeling he didn't choose the by-line. Most freelancers don't get to (The NY Times says this explicitly - I don't know about the LA Times). The editors probably picked up what he wrote in his article and used similar phrasing to create that byline. But that doesn't automatically mean he approved it. Often even staff writers don't get to approve headlines and by-lines to their own stories.

    Posted by: DonnyB | Mar 20, 2007 12:00:20 PM

  13. I doubt that Kramer would have approved that tagline. It just makes him look like a whiny out-of-touch septuagenarian crybaby, which (even though the paper agreed to print the op-ed piece in the first place) was probably the LA Times' intent. The Times isn't owned by a bunch of muckraking progressives anymore.

    Posted by: Frank L | Mar 20, 2007 12:03:50 PM

  14. re: Phil's comments.

    Good for you! Glad to know that you have no problems whatsoever, or as you say "zero, zip, nil". Assuming that's even remotely true - good for you, but there a lot of gay men and women who can't say that and one of the reasons is the atomsphere of hate being created by the current administration, Peter Pace, not a few of the evangelical establishment, the Catholic Church...the list goes on so I won't bore you.

    Larry Kramer may not speak for you - so be it, but considering your position of blissful privelege, who do you speak for?

    Posted by: hoya86 | Mar 20, 2007 12:08:32 PM

  15. Though I liked the version of this that was Kramer's speech last week, the same message targeted at straight people came off scolding and shrill. "I think your hate is evil" ? What constructive purpose does that serve? Or any of this article, other than to lay guilt on straight people?
    The idea of an 'open letter to straight America' is a good one, but not as an excuse to moan about things like "My lover and I don't want to get married just yet, but we sure want to be equal."

    It's important to point out the colluding role that straight people have in the ongoing 'hatred' (I like Kramer's term on that) that the country is gripped by. But I think it would be more constructive to point out how much of that hate is still out there, and chide the kind of straight people who say "I have tons of gay friends" but vote for someone who would deny those friends' existence or dignity.

    Being a campy, over-the-top, militant activist for the gay audience is fine: We need to hear that shit, and go out and do something for once. But he should have toned it down for the mass, mainstream audience.

    Posted by: Rottin' in Denmark | Mar 20, 2007 12:09:00 PM

  16. I'm sorry, but Larry Kramer's shrillness has always annoyed me. He makes some good points but the article as a whole is skewed toward the negative. The gay community has made great progress. I can REMEMBER the 1960's, the 1970's...when you never saw the word "gay" in the paper and when people routinely equated gay with child molester. Either you are all young folks or you have forgotten what it was like. Things are better today than ever before. Perfect? No. But my life is pretty darn good. I have NO PROBLEMS being gay in my MidWestern town. My partner and I don't hold hands at the mall, but neither do we hide it from our family, friends, coworkers. Everyone is very accepting. Straight people don't hate ME. Not the straight folks I know.

    Posted by: phil | Mar 20, 2007 12:15:46 PM

  17. Oh, wait, I'm not done.

    To Phil - with all due respect, and your situation does sound great, but are you sure about that? You may not be personally hated, but are you allowed to marry your partner? I live in the Midwest, too, recently came out with no problems, live with my bf of two years and it's all great. But I can't marry him.

    I think that was Larry's point. By voting for and accepting politicians who will accept our donations and use our tax money but won't treat us as equals, we're allowing ourselves to be treated unequally. I don't agree that we shouldn't vote for anyone, but being accepted in your own little world and being accepted economically and legally nationwide are two different things.

    Posted by: DonnyB | Mar 20, 2007 12:20:02 PM

  18. "While I respect Larry Kramer and his history of activism, I disagree that abstaining from a vote in 2008 is a logical solution."

    Amen, Frank. Is there ever going to be a "perfect" candidate? No. But some sure beat the hell out of others. What if, for example, black Americans decided to not vote (a hard-earned vote, mind you) because a certain candidate didn't represent ALL of their main interests to a perfect T. You telling me Strom Thurmond would have been better than a Lyndon Johnson?

    Posted by: Martin | Mar 20, 2007 12:26:59 PM

  19. "My partner and I don't hold hands at the mall"—thanks, Phil. In one admission, you negated everything else you claimed.

    Posted by: Leland | Mar 20, 2007 12:27:37 PM

  20. Until we can all hold hands with whoever we want at the mall we are not safe.

    Only the war on sex makes it dangerous.

    In Europe and the Middle East men hold hands. (Remember the picture of NaziBush and The Saudi Prince)

    Straight men should be free to hold hands at the mall - without fear of what other citizens will do to them.


    As for the byline ... ALL BYLINES and HEADLINES are written to spin the news by the editors - not the writers.

    Posted by: rjp3 | Mar 20, 2007 12:30:57 PM

  21. I just spoke to Kramer and he didn't write or approve the tagline - also, the LA Times changed the title of the piece - see my update to the post.

    Posted by: andy | Mar 20, 2007 12:33:34 PM

  22. Maybe I'm repeating what one or several people may have written, but it's very difficult to know how to appropriately represent oneself. If I call myself simply a man, then sexuality is not an issue and there is a more pure equality. But then I risk denying, or refusing to acknowlege that which makes me a gay sexuality, which is ultimately integral. It's so frustrating, sad, painful, and complex because I end up working so hard for people to see who I am, and in that effort I could be showing the exact opposite. I hope I have not contradicted myself. I guess I wanted to show how difficult it is to make sense of it all.

    Posted by: Greggie | Mar 20, 2007 12:37:51 PM

  23. I Think that Larry Kramer poses an interesting question. Why is hate directed toward Gay People? Historically why have we been attacked and deprived of equal status under the law? Is there something real achieved by attacking Gay people, and who benefits from such accepted behavior? I wonder whether anyone could point me in the direction of a good piece of Psychoanalytical research in to the mechanism behind such apparent hateful behavior towards gay people, it would be an interesting read.
    I have been lucky in that (so far) my Family, circle of friends, work colleagues, local community have not made me feel hated, but I must say looking at the way I am discriminated against on a collective basis, I certainly do not feel equal, and there is definitely a group mentality that exists that accepts and even promotes Gay bashing, belittlement and deprivation, to the extent that our political representatives can feel totally comfortable ducking the issue with what amounts to contemptuous disdain.
    I think it is important to support one another, stop being reactive & diverted by the cleverly crafted agenda of the bigoted and start to craft a world for ourselves that if necessary keeps our economic wealth within our community. I am tired of being kept on the defensive the whole time, what is it about the way I conduct my life that means that I have to constantly defend my right to do so?

    Posted by: Matt | Mar 20, 2007 12:39:25 PM

  24. I also wanted to write that I truly cherish this blog (even if Anna Wintour hates the word). I feel so much more informed now that I read it daily. Thanks, Andy. Good show!

    Posted by: Greggie | Mar 20, 2007 12:41:59 PM

  25. Greggie you are JUST a MAN.

    Straight men define themself by their sexuality to deminish and overpower you - to scare gay and bi men into silence. Thus they get more power over a group.

    Gay men define themself as GAY to take the POWER BACK.

    Saying you are a MAN is correct. Own that.
    Your equal.

    Saying your a OUT GAY MAN gives you MORE POWER. Your taking power away from those who do not want you to be out.

    Posted by: rjp3 | Mar 20, 2007 12:42:37 PM

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