Larry Kramer Slams Gay Orgs: ‘Lazy, Torpid, Unimaginative, Useless’

In a follow-up to his interview with actor Rupert Everett, in which Everett spewed a vitriolic rant about gays who want to be surrogate parents ("It is utterly hideous. I think
it’s egocentric and vain.") and get married, Kevin Sessums talks to AIDS activist Peter Staley, comedienne Kate Clinton, and longtime activist and playwright Larry Kramer on those topics.

Here's part of Kramer's reaction on marriage and the state of the LGBT movement:

Kramer “I don’t think we are going to win anything federal—which is really
the only important place where it counts—until a few of these Supreme
Court justices expire (including that homophobe Anthony Scalia) and
Obama replaces them with people sympathetic to our side. This, of course, is by no means a sure thing. I have high hopes for
Obama, but I do not feel all warm and fuzzy that he is going to be
enough of a friend when push comes to shove. I hope I am wrong. I have
never believed in patience, but I do not see that we have either the
leaders or the troops enough—a la ACT UP—to go out there and fight. We
continue to be a passive population. It drives me nuts. It has always
driven me nuts. I do not think the gay population has been all that
rabid for gay marriage. Note that I do not use the words ‘gay
community.’ Expunge that expression from your vocabulary. We are not a
community. There are too many of us to qualify for that word, which
connotes something much smaller and more intimate than the huge
multipeopled grab bag of our rainbow coalition…

"The work, as it was done for AIDS, has been done by
relatively few warriors. And we are losing sight of the HIV/AIDS
battle. What is not being done about HIV/AIDS in the United States is
shocking. It is more than shocking. It is tragic. Three percent of the
entire population of Washington, D.C., is infected. One in ten of its
residents between the ages of 40 and 49 is infected. Seven percent of
its male African-American population is infected. Gay politics? What
gay politics? I don’t see any gay politics. I see a few lazy, torpid,
unimaginative—certainly passionless—‘organizations’ that maintain they
fight for us when what they do is relatively useless. It has never been
otherwise. I am afraid we have never ever had a decent gay
organization, outside of ACT UP, that accomplished what we need to
accomplish—which is to free ourselves from the tyranny of THEM!”

'Awful Middle-Class Queens' [the daily beast]

(image source)


  1. fred says

    Jews represent what percent of the us population – 3% – anyone that wants to get into office needs to be pro-israel. Gays represent what percent of the us populations – 10% – and we are so disorganized we can’t get anything done.

    Kramer claims act up was so successful, at what – maybe theatre.

    Further – I love what Everett had to say. DONT ASSIMILATE!

  2. DCposter says

    Larry Kramer is the latest in a long line of activists who can’t imagine any generation is capable of advocating as well as he and his did. How boring.

    There has been massive, undeniable and serious progress for “the gay population” in the years since ACT UP folded. It has come from engagement in politics and the electoral process, not from screaming at people.

  3. Derrick from Philly says


    I think Kinsey’s 10% referes to people who’ve are having or have had homosexual sex. It may not apply to people who identify socially/politically/culturally as “gay”. In other words, probably many more homosexuals than gays in the world.

    Also, Jewish people stick together–even when they don’t like each other (something gays and blacks can’t seem to do).

  4. Derrick from Philly says

    “refers to people who are having or have had….”

    Lord, are those just typos or early senility? And I only had a little Vodka in my orange juice this morning–imagine my communication skills by about 7:00pm.

  5. Jeff says

    Respect your fuckin elders.

    REMEBER without Kramer and his like you wouldn’t have what little freedom or rights that you have now.

    I totally agree with him.

    “I see a few lazy, torpid, unimaginative—certainly passionless—‘organizations’ that maintain they fight for us when what they do is relatively useless”

    Their generationa had more passion, commitment, strength and bravery than the new one does and acomplished more in 10 years under greater odds, hate, and harassment than yours have in 25.

  6. Wayne says

    Scream at Larry all you want, but it was Larry Kramer and ACT UP’s “theatre” that forced politicians and the American people to finally stop ignoring the utter brutality and homophobia that was rampant during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. I remember those years all too well. And he’s right, there are a small amount of activists that are doing a lion’s share of the work on LGBT issues. WE ALL NEED TO BECOME MORE INVOLVED!

  7. Bobby says

    Kramer is a smart man and he’s absolutely right. Self serving organizations that say they’ll work for us but end up working for and making money and playing politics are bullshit and need to be dismantled.

    I guess until they start legally killing us will the “fashionistas” and those worried more about fuckin’ and partying start to take notice.

    We are slowly being put into slavery and every politician, including Obama, is promising everything and delivering NOTHING.

    Stand up now or be mowed down later.

  8. DR says

    He’s right. what the hell has the HRC done for us lately? Joe S. can’t even do a soundbite on CNN properly! Do we need to remind people of the disaster which was the “No on 8″ campaign? For crying out loud, they couldn’t even get a letter from Obama out and published! D’UH!

    I would love to see some of the major so-called “gay rights” groups do more than beg me for money. They need to go back to the ACTUP mindset of grassroots concept; right now, we’re just ATM cards and bank accounts to them. That needs to stop NOW.

  9. Pender says

    Yeah, I agree that writing big checks to HRC is not the way to get change these days. But the answer is not ACT-UP style protests and stunts. The answer is getting involved with local politics and working with the system. We didn’t win Vermont with chanting, we won it with a million conversations and phone calls, with campaign contributions and political pressure. The time for wearing tie-dye and chaining ourselves to doors is over; now it is time to wear suits and knock on doors during campaigns.

    To some people, this kind of effective engagement is “selling out.” These people — primarily, I’ve noticed, older gay people — have been pushed to the margins of society for so long that they have convinced themselves that the margins of society is a good place to be. It’s not; it’s exile.

    And he’s still wearing a Mario costume.

  10. Leland Frances says

    Derrick is correct that the most famous of the EXTREMELY complex “Kinsey studies,” measured same-gender acts, not “identity” which Kinsey said was impossible to document because of all the differences in the way people define themselves generally and over periods of time in their lives.

    For the record [and quick before that Kinsey-hating loon clocks in again], the 10% figure applied only to [mostly white] males who were predominantly homosexual [in their choice of sex acts] between the ages of 16 and 55 [8% exlusively during that period & “4% of white males exclusively …after the onset of adolescence up to the time of their interviews.”

    “2 to 6% of females, aged 20-35, were more or less exclusively homosexual in experience/response” and “1 to 3% of unmarried females aged 20-35 were exclusively homosexual in experience/response.”

    Our greatest weakness is that we rarely come from family units where the majority of other members are like us. THAT is the source of Jewish strength, however much individuals might ultimately believe differently from what they were taught.

    And, the closest to “massive” progress we’ve experienced is in attitudes, not laws. And, while thankful for it, we remain “bent” somehow to the majority of the population. See the thread about the inane “Esquire” article, and recall the plague of gay assaults, murders, and suicides we’re still experiencing.

    Locally, an out gay politician is still as much “news” as a black one was 50 years ago, and federally we are represented by only three out people in Congress.

    Our only truly major specific successes have been the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Colorado’s antigay law and sodomy laws nationally, popular ballot votes in and state supreme court/legislature decisions in less than a dozen of FIFTY states.

    Functionally, it’s still perfectly legal in the majority of states to fire someone for being gay, and the vast majority of states don’t allow even “civil unions.” And somewhere at this very minute, a gay man or woman is in the process of being kicked out of the military.

    Kramer is wrong that ACT UP has been the only group with any effect, but they DID revolutionize the way the government, medicine and pharmaceutical companies responded to AIDS. And, YES, that was, in large part, as ALL of our progress to some degree, EVEN in Vermont and Iowa, began with screaming and our legal progress has stalled in too many places because too many of us have stopped.

  11. jimmyboyo says

    Fred you dumb ass schmuck (spll chk)



    rights? Hell without Kramer founding ACT UP = more than half of the current gay population would be dead.

    Act up

    – promoted condoms in our community to prevent the spread of aids when nobody in our community used condoms

    – pushed politicians and drug companies to invest in aids research = the drugs we have now to help those who are positive.

    Remember when it first hit Reagan wouldn’t acknowledge it and no drug company wanted to do any research

    our few rights = thanks to act up

    more than 1/2 of our community not dead= thanks to Act Up

    We all need to honor Kramer as we do Harvey Milk and our orgs need to get back to being like ACT UP as vs HRC cocktail party circuit celeb worship bs


    PS Fred

    what the fuck does the current US support for the RIGHT-LEANING gov regime in Israel have to do with this?

    The whole “support” for Israel (what i would refer to as the right leaning gov of Israel as vs a left leaning gov) isn’t due to the power of the american jewish community but rather due to our xtianistas!!!!!!!

    The xtianistas throw more money at politicians and Israel’s current gov than any combination of Jewish groups.

    Why? because they want war war war in the middle east to bring their jesus back. they want expansion of settlements to bring their jesus back though the majority in Israel consider the illegal settlers as just that = illegal and the cause of much trouble.

    Israeli media constantly interviews israeli millitary officials bitching about the troubles the settlers cause and the friction they generate with palestinians.

    The US current policies vis a vis Israel are pushed by our xtianistas more than american Jews.

  12. jimmyboyo says


    while rupert was a rent boy snorting cocaine

    kramer was organizing protests against politcians, drug companies that weren’t investing a dime in any drug research for us, and the catholic church

    rupert more a hero than kramer?

    Fred you seriously have your priorities mixed up.

  13. JT says

    Ha ha! Mario ! But Larry Kramer is probably just pissed off that Vermont and Iowa have pulled so far ahead of New York (because NYC gay activists are so fumbling and useless). Anyway, there’s a protest at the Iraq embassy in NYC today. I wonder how many gays will even turn out for that one.

  14. DCposter says

    Okay, my comment may have been too harsh. Larry Kramer is, of course, a hero. He is the reason many people my age are still alive today. He deserves to say whatever he wants.

    That doesn’t make it true however. Social change starts in the streets, but it cannot stay there and it doesn’t end there. It moves into the board rooms and legislatures where decisions are made.

    We have been extremely successful in the years since ACT UP closed up. Are we done? Hell no. But the pace is far quicker than just about any civil rights movement in U.S. history.

    2009 is not 1986, no matter how badly some of you wish it was.

  15. alguien says

    “expunge that expression from your vocabulary.”

    yes! i’m in so total agreement with that statement because there is no “gay community” there’s several million individuals who are drawn sexually to their own genders. But that does not a community make.

  16. JT says

    Derrick from Philly is so right again. Jews basically watch out for each other (totally understandable, given their history of being set upon by everybody else). I’m not AA so I don’t know what their problem is, but I am gay and I know why gays don’t stick together. I’m guilty of it myself. But I don’t feel “guilty.”

  17. says

    Kramer is right. There is no community, and our diversity prevents any real unity. Then add to that our egos – my God – us gays have “the ego” (including myself so calm down). If 1/2 of the readers here were suddenly homeless and/or living on less than $8,000/year SPECIFICALLY due to discrimination, the RAGE would be palpable instead of closeted, and the “equality party” would suddenly be a fight for life or death.

    Here is what prevents us from attaining FEDERAL EQUALITY: An UN-Unified Front

  18. JT says

    Alguien : That’s true about individuals, mostly. But there really are some gays out there who have a sort of “community.” But those are the ones who really have nthing in their lives except “being gay.” Gay is their political party, religion, AND ethnicity.

  19. jimmyboyo says


    You should read some Tolstoy

    Tolstoy had an interesting perspective on history.

    Nothing gets done in the board rooms and loby houses.

    In fact all of history is the masses of people in the streets. The board rooms and political houses generally hold such back and or get pushed aside to be replaced by someone representing the wishes of the people at the minimum extent that the masses are somewhat appeased and calm down a bit.

    Tolstoy on Napolean = the french people would have made anyone emperor. napolean was not special. It was the french people’s desire for empire that pushed someone to the front who just happened to be napolean. He was carried on an inevitable wave of generated by the masses in the streets and anyone would have filled the role, it just happened to be napolean

    If Tolstoy had been around during hitler = hitler didn’t do shit. It was the german people. The german people would have placed someone else, anyone else in hitler’s place if there had been no hitler. The german people with dreams of empire, ultra nationalism, and anti-semitism would have pushed someone else to the forefront to do the same exact shit if their had been no hitler. this view condemns the german people more for the actions of the nazis than the current paradigm of them being seduced by hitler

    Both examples were on the bad end of history but you should get the point. ALL movement of history/ change is in/ on the streets. The board rooms and political houses (even the most liberal) only hold back the inevitable till the pressure/ movement of the masses becomes too great and washes them away in an overwhelming wave.

    lets look at a recent not bad thing. Obama! tolstoy’s view on history points out that obama did nothing / was not/ is not unique (not discounting his overwhelming intelligence and charisma). The masses would have pushed someone to the position Obama took as the anti-bush and yes in many cases the anti-clinton. The masses would have pushed a minority because brown skin is not the minority any more when taken as a whole (latino, black, tanish asian, etcas vs caucasian numbers in the US). Obama became the change/ movment of the people, but if he had not existed then the masses would have pushed forward a minority male of high intelligence and charisma to fill the spot anyway. It was inevitable and had to do with the masses in the street and nothing with the board rooms etc.

    This perspective on history shines a bright light on ACT UP and Act Up’s ACTIONS in the streets while casting a shadow of uselessness on HRC , board rooms, politcal houses, etc.

  20. anon says

    Gee, I thought I saw news articles on massive rallies around California after Prop 8 passed. Was I mistaken?? His mindset is totally top-down even when all progress has been bottom-up. Totally smug and self-satisfied of the “you’ll never be as good as me!!” type. I should spank the kid.

  21. says


    1. Do we enable our oppressors MORE when we allow them to organize elections against our family? Submission to the Abuser? Did we ENABLE more legal hate?

    2. Should we refer to “winning” rights, or “crossing our fingers”…when it comes to our family’s own safety and security?

    3. Is there DIGNITY when you pay taxes to a government that singles out your family as inferior, esp. in times of death and disease?

    4. Did placing our family’s safety and security on a ballot trivialize our family, making the PROP 8 DEBACLE feel more like winning or losing a lottery INSTEAD of threatening our very loved ones?

    5. Should we jettison words like “protest” and “demand”, and instead start ACTING EQUAL, and REVOLT when treated differently?

    6. Go ahead, go hatin’ on me if you need to – I don’t care – you STILL have to pay my taxes. Legal H8 has left me permanently disabled, but I’m sure some “comfortable gays” will find that amusing.

  22. Leland Frances says

    Yes, there were some “massive rallies” after Prop H8 passed, but THEY ACCOMPLISHED NOTHING repeat

    N O T H I N G

    save for mass smug self-satisfaction and self-delusion.

    “Rallies” are NOT what Kramer is talking about.

    But in sum, we need to use EVERY approach to progress for one begets, reinforces, or completes the goals of the others. Mass civil disobedience, in the streets and inside, and economic boycotts—and some screaming—were what finally killed Jim Crow, but passing and signing and administering the laws required to bury him were implemented in “suit & tie” ways.

  23. Sargon Bighorn says

    Leland, you say Kramer is not talking about rallies. What is he talking about? Breaking windows, over turning cars, starting fires, picking up arms and using them? What is Kramer really saying should happen?

    The tempest swirling around marriage seems an abstraction for most Gay citizens as I suspect most don’t have anyone to marry. Kramer’s BF won’t marry him.

    As far as losing sight of the HIV/AIDS battle, I have have not lost sight of it. I see lots and lots and lots of stupid, arrogant, closeted, and out Gay men not listening to anyone but their dick and hence they take sexual risks and contract a virus they know alot about. I’m tired of fighting Gay men to get them to do what they know will only protect them. Kramer misses the mark on the MODERN HIV/AIDS situation. Now it’s about not wanting to protect oneself as apposed to not knowing what is happening.

  24. jimmyboyo says


    from a tolstoy esque look

    The protests didn’t accomplish much since they were too small, too few, not kept up, too nice, not violent enough.

    we the gay community and our allies are not moved enough yet to become an overwhelming wave forcing the change/ movement. Only when our protests become large enough, constant enough, and violent enough that the board rooms and political houses must toss us bones to calm the waves generated by the masses or be swept away and replaced with those pushed foreword by the masses to give us just enough to calm the waves we the masses generate.

    Asimov did a sci -fi take on such a perspective of history via his Foundation series (a classic) with future political events even being possible to predict based on the movements of the masses. predicting events becoming easier with larger and larger groupings of people = herd mentality etc

    Anyway; it isn’t the sole answer to how things come about but it is an interesting way to view events

  25. jimmyboyo says


    such a perspective cuts us to the bone because it denounces all of history’s heroes and each of us about being unique / special

    The masses are what cause everything. leaders, heroes, etc are pushed foreword by the masses. Nothing special about anyone because the masses will find someone / anyone to fill the role when the waves generated by the masses become overwhelming.

    another example

    moses (if not myth) didn’t have anything what so ever to do with the Jews evolution towards monotheism or even trying to keep them from polytheism (the golden calf). moses (if a real person) was pushed to the forefront (probably very surprising to him) by the masses under and surounding him and was only useful as far as expressing the wishes of the masses of jews who were rejecting polytheism and were already monotheists. If he did not fulfill the masses movement towards what they were inevitably moving towards then the masses would have replaced him with someone else who was also not so special.

    this of course denounces my earlier statment/ reaction about Kramer being a hero. Natural reaction to Fred’s denunciations of act up. Act up was inevitable. the masses of gay people were mad as hell and were not going to take it anymore and kramer happened to be at the right place and time to get pushed foreword as an organizer of that anger. the masses of gay people would have put soemone else foreword if he did not fulfill the anger and frustration of the larger community. even Harvey milk would have been replaced with someone else to express and symbolize the anger and political movements of the masses of gay people in SF if he did not perform as the masses were naturally moving towards anyway.

  26. says

    I remember seeing Larry ranting on TV when I was a closeted young thing, and he scared me to death! Later on, I came to appreciate him, because he really does care, and much of what he says is true, the kind of truth we don’t always want to hear. (I heard him speak to a college audience once, and I think he managed to severely bum out everyone in the room.) He’s the eternal curmudgeon (publicly at least, in person I found him quite sweet), never seeing the silver lining. I think he sells short smaller grassroots actions (like those in VT–where we were a community, and a quietly effective one) and underestimates the progress we’ve made and will make, particularly on marriage, but if, as a community, we had half of Larry’s fire, we’d get there a lot sooner. Long may he rant.

  27. crispy says

    John, John, John. I was gonna stop trashing you and your horribly misguided gay tax protest. But you keep pulling that “dignity” and “coward” crap.

    Yes, I am gonna file my tax return this weekend because unlike you and the Freeper Tea Party retards, I actually don’t mind contributing to programs that help less-fortuned Americans and strengthen our nation. I can assure you my dignity is intact (despite any photos that might be floating around the internet).

    So let me be clear:

    1. By accepting welfare, you are 100% complicit in the federal tax system.

    2. If you are not able or refuse to participate in your own call to action, then shut the fuck up! You come across as the most arrogant douchebag hypocrite. Put your energy into another type of protest that you might actually participate in.

    3. No one is buying your can’t work excuse because you went thru a bad breakup. We’ve all been there, and most of us go back to work. Get a job, asshole.

  28. DB says

    Larry has always kind of been Cassandra for the gay community–and because of that he’s always been reviled.

    I think he’s actually right. Gay people are pretty apathetic–look how quickly the post prop 8 demonstrations fell apart. We also let things slide way too often, we don’t want to appear uptight so we laugh at the most offensive insults. I think we should listen to Larry Kramer rather than dismiss him with the most shallow comments.

  29. DCposter says


    Interesting. No, I haven’t read Tolstoy.

    I think Leland Frances is right though. We need people in the streets, in the boardrooms, in Congress, in state legislatures, on TV, in the classroom and perhaps most importantly, in the living room.

    And yes, we always have to be on guard for our organizations (which are still very necessary) becoming too bloated or lazy. Some have, but most haven’t.

  30. Michael @ Leonard says

    Sorry, Jimmy. I agree with you about many things but your brush is too broad when you claim that individuals figures in the gay movement were products of the “masses,” and equate ACT UP with “masses of gay people.”

    Focusing just on our U.S. history, each progressive step was first taken by courageous individuals, invariably initially told by most others [speaking representatively if not officially for “the masses”] to sit down and stop rocking the boat, drawing more attention to us, etc. From Henry Gerber in Chicago in the 20s to Henry Hay and Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin in the 50s to Frank Kameny and Randy Wicker and Barbara Gittings in the 60s forward. Time and time again, they were able to attract only a handful of individuals to work with them, failing repeatedly to wake “the masses.”

    Unknown to most is that the first gay gatherings of any size [sponsored by a formal gay group versus the balls in 20s Harlme] began in 1945 at dances sponsored by the Veterans Benevolent Association which attracted a few hundred attendees, but the group fractured and died a few years later over the efforts of some to make it more political.

    Stonewall did rapidly inspire the creation of more and more groups across the country, but, again, the closest we’ve come to “mass” protest have been the marches on Washington which, except for the undeniable positive effect on most of its participants directly changed not a single law or policy.

    The fight to overturn the military’s ban on gays, which dates to the first gay rights demonstration in 1964, did not really become a “movement” until a single man, Leonard Matlovich, stepped forward and outed himself to his Air Force superiors [after being inspired by an interview he read with Kameny]. Initially, other military gays he knew ran for cover.

    The most demonstrably successful group action, those by ACT UP, again, were NOT started by individuals created by the masses but created by individuals who ultimately convinced a large enough group to join them in actions that disrupted the status quo enough to generate responses.

    Note, “large enough,” not “masses”—in fact, a far larger number of gays thought they were embarrassing, would be counterproductive, etc. [And Kramer’s first effort to create such a group turned into the the NY’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis that refused his called to direct action over just AIDS services and dumped him.]

    Our greatest legal successes, again, have been achieved by individuals…willing to file suit [e.g., “Lawrence v. Texas” not “Gay Masses v. Texas”] or lobby as civilians or public officials themselves local, state, and federal government bodies.

    Would that your Tolstoyian analysis were true. We would have long ago achievement gay equality, instead of still being second class citizens 85 years after Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights and 164 years after Karl Heinrich Ulrichs published his first pamphlet in Germany.

    Pride Parades? Imagine everyone in the next one in New York or LA or DC or SF…anywhere…suddenly stopping and refusing to move except by police force. Note: not holding breath.

  31. fred says

    “Fred you dumb ass schmuck (spll chk)”

    I’m your brother – not so DUM – just different from you – I was working in the AIDS industry in 80/90 – I have a lot of respect for Larry Kramer – I don’t have all the answers –

    But I think gays are magic – radical fairies – not necessarily the best neighbors.

  32. Rowan says

    @ jimmyboyo

    Have to concur.

    Though I do agree with what you are saying, it is to a point, simply because as someone who is constantly trying to set things up thus rallying people…

    80% of the time these projects fail because I stop leading/inspring the group/people…

    I get societies obsession with thinking everything is started by one man or character and agree it is terribly narcisstic and misguided.

    Madoff was the cherry on top…more people were involved in the situation etc etc..

    BUT I think an incredibly inspirational and motivated person CAN inspire protest and action..

  33. says

    From what I know of the VT success and Oregon’s success against Measure 9 (see the movie!) is that one-on-one and door-to-door is the most effective. It’s a long, hard slog.

    I also know that getting people to do the legwork with you can be difficult. Many of the families that I know who most need marriage rights are not able to do this kind of work because they are busy supporting their families. It’s a terrible and serious Catch-22.

    I think the folks in Chicago who tried to get marriage licenses and stayed on premises were on to something that’s dramatic and possibly effective, but did they get even local news coverage?

    We definitely need a Milk or a King. Perhaps Maddow?

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