Larry Kramer To Release ‘The American People,’ An Examination of U.S. Gays Past

Kramer hesitates to call the 4,000 page history a novel, as publisher Jonathan Galassi has, but does conceded, "[Galassi is] probably right because it makes a lot of claims, and some of them are substantiated more than others, and I don’t want to be forced to have to defend everything." In addition to covering golden oldies like Abraham Lincoln's gay tendencies, Kramer delves into little regarded aspects of American life in the nation's early days.

"All history really up to now has been written by straight historians, and they just haven’t got a clue," Kramer tells The New York Times' Patrick Healy. "When you read about a lot of them like George Washington, or about Samuel Clemens, you see how important other men were in their lives. Yes, they were married, but the overwhelmingly important relationships and outlook in their lives was homosexual."

The book took Kramer three decades to write, largely because he simply couldn't stop himself from looking even further back than the colonial era. "The history of homosexuality in America starts even before America did, but I didn’t know that when I started writing… And the more I wrote, the more I wanted to find out. It became this wild adventure of learning so much about how long we’ve been here and what we’ve accomplished and all the pain that we have been through." 

Too bad today's gays have to wait until 2012 for The American People's publication.

Image via David_Shankbone's Flickr.


  1. dan says

    Ugh. He lost all credit with me when he decided to talk about the history of homosexuality. I have a feeling this book/ magnum opus will have a lot of sweeping generalizations about male-male homosociality and conclude automatically that they are just gay.

    I should mail him a copy of Sedgewick’s intro to _Between Men_

  2. Steve says

    As cranky as Larry Kramer is, I have to respect him as a visionary activist and thinker. As the saying goes, “Nice boys don’t make history.” He’s our angry, articulate, relentless advocate – and even though he rubs many in the GLBT community the wrong way, his ideas have validity and longevity.

    And BTW – the only people getting $8 million advances are ex-Presidents. Even the most famous writer is lucky to command a solid six-figure advance these days.

  3. TANK says

    You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, steve. Ain’t nobody gonna buy kramer’s books save for “Faggots” (pardon the pun)–it’s simply not a mainstream genre. Yes, there are authors other than ex presidents who command more than $8 million book deals. I know them.

  4. Strepsi says

    I am so looking forward to this. I agree with STEVE, Larry Kramer’s crankiness has been necessary (and with the current spate of GOproud appeasers, maybe as necessary as ever).

    I read some of his exerpts, and what I am really looking forward to is his evidence-based argument for Lincoln as a homo.

    Now that’s worth buying a book for!

  5. anon says

    Let’s see:

    Washington looked a Lafayette “in that way”, therefore gay.

    Ben Franklin was very fashion conscious, therefore gay.

    Native Americans had special initiation rites for young males, therefore all gay.

    Andrew Jackson and Abe Lincoln bunked with men, therefore gay.

    Everyone called a “confirmed bachelor” was therefore gay.

    Get the drift? It now goes on for 4000 pgs!

  6. says

    Cranky RULES!!!!

    Go Larry Go!!!!

    I’ve been waiting to read this since the early 90s when I vsitied Larry at his condo and saw PILES of it stacked up all over the living room. At that time I thought it was going to be pubished posthumously.

    But as we all know Larry’s too mean to die.

    Can hardly wait to read this.

  7. says

    sorry Anon

    Ben franklin was a notorious lover of the french whores (females)

    Ben was also considered the handmaiden of satan for the lightning rod “removes the power of god” (quote unquote by hundreds of preachers in the day)and for his debunking xtianity of being anything more than a myth with some moral parables

  8. TomSkylark says

    To state that “All history really up to now has been written by straight historians” is woefully ignorant of the last 30 or more years of (at the very least) academic history. What, did those not count because they weren’t written by someone with enough ego to make patently false generalizations? How is Kramer going to give a decent history of several centuries if he’s so out of touch with the last three decades?

    We already have plenty of amazing histories of queer folks in America, most of them written by folks trained as, well, historians. What exactly is Kramer going to add to the discourse except for some judgmental rhetoric and (by his own admission) a lack of academic rigor?

  9. Is He In the Book? says

    Who’s that farmer in the pic on top? And what’s he smelling?

    Anyway, I hope it’s a coffee table book with lots of pix, like Lincoln doin’ it with Mark Twain.

    Maybe Gore Vidal will write the Intro?

  10. says

    Oh you are so full of shit “Tomskylark.” The ONLY histories of queer folk in America were written by queers. “Gay New York” by George Chauncey, “The Gay Metropolis” by Charles Kaiser, “Gay L.A.” by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons, “Open Secret” by me,and “Secret Historian” by Justin Spring. Larry knows more about gay life and times over the past 40 years at least more than almost anyone currently breathing.

  11. TomSkylark says

    @ David Ehrenstein: Nice language. And I agree entirely, incidentally, and had those exact same books (all of which are on my bookshelves) in mind–which is why I was baffled by Kramer’s assertion, quoted above by both myself and the article in question. So I guess I’m “full of shit” even though we’re in absolute agreement here, yes?

    If Kramer wants to make dramatic statements in order to make his book sound more groundbreaking, then fine–I’m sure it will sell copies. But it’s disingenuous to state, as Kramer does, that the only histories we have are from straight academics–he’s performing the exact erasure of queer visibility he’s always railed against, and is still railing against here. That doesn’t strike me as particularly helpful.

  12. TomSkylark says

    @DE: On second glance, I don’t actually have _your_ book. Of course, since I’m apparently “full of shit,” I’m not in any particular rush to pick it up.

  13. Jimbo says

    Let the shit storm commence!!!

    While Kramer is a hero, it’s outrageously self-promoting to say “All history really up to now has been written by straight historians”.

    It undermines the work of such great gay historians as Charley Shively and Louis Crompton.

  14. Louie says

    You tell ’em DE & LK! All these self-hating gays who have so much shame invested in keeping the status quo.

    How about buying the book when it comes out and learning YOUR history? Losers!

  15. Clay says

    As a gay historian (in training) of gay US history, I shudder to think what amateurish broadsides Kramer will launch in this book. Not ever male friendship is a gay relationship. There’s such a thing as evidence. Just because you want someone to have been gay doesn’t make it so. Indeed it’s equally erroneous to describe every same-sex attracted person in history as “gay” in the way we currently understand the term. For quick proof take a look at how male same-sex activity was understood, by those engaging in it, in the 1919 Newport Naval Scandal.
    The historian’s role is to reconstruct the past, as it was, to the degree he or she can. It is NOT to project current perspectives backwards, and certainly to remake the past as you’d like it to look. I’d be interested to see what archival work Kramer has done. It took George Chauncey a decade to research and write “Gay New York,” with access to enormous untapped records and the best possible professional training. For huge chunk of US history there is simply not the source base on which to build general statements.

    With respect to David Ehrenstein, tomskylark is quite correct (indeed he doesn’t contradict most of the substance of what you say, which makes vomiting on him a strange response). You are incorrect in your assertion that only gay historians have written histories of gay people. I personally know straight historians who have done worthy, even groundbreaking, work in this area. An example would be “Imperial Brotherhood” by Robert Dean. GLBT History, History of Sexuality, etc are vigorous, expanding fields right now, with growing numbers of trained professionals working in them.

    If Kramer publishes a masterpiece I’ll formally apologize on this forum. Unlikely.

  16. Marty says

    Kramer’s “bitter old queen” schtick has gotten sooo tired. Time to wrap it up “doll” because nobody but your “best best girlfriends” are going to buy that homemade pamphlet.

  17. missanthrope says

    Oh yay, more from the “There has only been homosexual identity as I’ve personally imagined it” school of history.

    I’m sure he’ll also use it as a platform to hector anybody under 50 about how we are a bunch of narcissistic, crystal addicted fairies and not doing it right like he does. His ego is big enough to span the Hudson.

  18. Anthony in Nashville says

    This sounds more like fiction than history, given Kramer’s admission that he doesn’t substantiate a lot of the claims, nor does he want to “defend” what he says.

    I’m still looking forward to reading it because he’s interesting. I just won’t take much of it seriously.

  19. Chuck says

    The entire LGBTQ community owes a huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Kramer. He’s been a pioneer, whether we ALL liked or approved of him, and he’s gotten things done that no one else could have. It’s too bad you younger queers (anyone under the age of 35, I guess) can’t/don’t appreciate Mr. Kramer’s talents and determination. You should be so lucky! Go out and do something–anything!–for our “community” instead of whining or figuring out what to wear to your next twink event! I think if more of us had listened to Mr. Kramer over the last 2-3 decades, we all might be a little better off.

  20. says

    If you’re a fan of Received Wisdom on gay life then there’s no question Larry’s book will infuriate you.

    In fact if you’re a true fan of Received Wisdom You probably don’t think of yourself as gay at all — like that freak stalking that college student that Anderson Cooper interviewed on the tube (there’s a link to it on this site.)

    When it comes to Teh Ghey “Who are you going to believe — me or your lying eyes?” has always been the status quo role. Larry has spent his life opposing it and therefore he’s the KAPO’s Enemy Number One.

  21. Enrique on Long Island says

    I am looking forward to rhis book, as a young (23) queer male I look up to him in a time when there are not that many role models worth looking up to in the GLBTQ community.

    You bitter queens need to get a grip. the world does not revolve around your new loafers.

  22. MichaelJ says

    Rather than young queers, I would bet it is old and middle-aged foggies like me — those of us who have been in organizations and been to protests with Kramer, those of us who have had to hear his continual verbal chastising of almost everybody but himself, including a disproportionate number of gay people — who are sick and tired of Kramer: sick and tired of his ego and self-promotion; of hearing (from others as well as him) how we all owe so much to him; of seeing him continually trotted out by the news media as a representative of the gay community for commentary on AIDS or gay issues; and of his inability and/or unwillingness to listen to, respect and learn from other people.
    To say that all the history of this country has been written by straight people is to ignore and belittle the now large body of scholarship on gay men, lesbians and other queers, done over the last four decades by mostly gay academics and some non-academics without six-figure advances, who have struggled to uncover evidence and grappled with issues of how to interpret it and whether there can be one single definition of being gay or queer that can be applied appropriately to people living in all different periods of time. While professing to attack the straight establishment (in this case historians), Kramer has once again managed to denigrate other gay people while promoting himself.

  23. says

    @David Ehrenstein: I, like you, look forward to reading Larry Kramer’s heterosexism-free revelations about American history. But remember, and Kramer himself would tell you so: There ain’t no such thing as a “queer” human being. LGBT folk are so far from anything resembling the concept of queer . . . I can’t begin to tell you.

  24. patrick m says

    The Newport sex scandal… Finally something exciting in Newport!

    Also fascinating to read the Wikipedia summary of this case and the judge’s rationale for dismissing the charges – I have added to my knowledge of US gay history already thanks to Larry !

  25. JT says

    LOL. Kramer doesn’t have to substantiate anything in the book. If you disbelieve it he’ll just scream louder. And warn you, “You better not make me ‘upthet’..!”

  26. Michael says

    I’m still eagerly awaiting Mr. Kramer’s book!

    Even if only termed a “novel”, the book should surely open up new avenues of approaching American history, and I appreciate that.

    I hope it is published and available before the year’s end.

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