The Night Larry Kramer Slapped Me

Some gays need a good bashing.

Nothing illustrates that thesis better than screenwriter/playwright/novelist/activist Larry Kramer's new jeremiad, TheTragedyofToday'sGays. The first—and most strident—voice to announce that the gay community was in trouble because of AIDS, this former film executive became the movement's most impassioned provocateur. Kramer not only started the first organization dedicated to caring for the sick—Gay Men's Health Crisis—but ended up being thrown out of the organization he founded. That resulted in the increasingly militant Kramer giving the 1987 speech that led to the creation of the revolutionary ACT UP.

Now 70, Kramer may not be on the streets as much, but he hasn't retired, as this strongly worded, passionate 108-page volume indicates.

Aside from the usual vilification from the usual fag journals, who often denounce Kramer as whiny and self-hating because he's a whistle blower who criticizes his community, the book hasn't received much attention and that's a damn shame. When leaders like Kramer are ignored and the icon of choice at gay pride parades is an empty-headed pair of silicone implants like Paris Hilton, the moral failure of the gay community is writ large. In Tragedy, the gay community's Thomas Paine savagely denounces what he sees as the disconnect of modern queers—aiming both barrels at the proliferation of crystal meth-addicted, intellectually vapid, circuit-party fuck toys whose only interest in the world around them is to commit themselves to murdering each other by screwing without condoms.

What Kramer asks but doesn't answer—and I'm not even sure that any one individual could answer this—is how a group as diverse as the gay community can unite when we're all so different. When some of us engage in behaviors the rest of us find repellent—like joining NAMBLA or voting Republican—how are these people to be included? Shouldthey be included?

Kramer believes that queers are the most talented, most beautiful, smartest, best-educated and progressive humans around, but that they also suffer from a lack of interest in issues concerning their health and safety and are being led to the "showers." Like most insular communities, queers are loathe to criticize themselves. Perhaps when you get called dykeand cocksuckerduring your formative years, you don't want to add to the derision. That's certainly reasonable, but it also stifles constructive criticism and discussions about ethical decision-making and self-analysis. When those things cease to exist, change flounders, growth is inhibited and moral chaos fills the vacuum.

THE TRAGEDY OF TODAY'S GAYS BY LARRY KRAMER; PUBISHED BY JEREMY P. TARCHER/PENGUIN. TRADE PAPERBACK, 108 PAGES; $9.95.

 
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