Palette Magazine

Larry Kramer stands up and speaks out

By Daniel Shoer Roth

Larry Kramer;
Larry Kramer;

A courageous and strong-willed defender of the underdog, Larry Kramer stood up to prejudice and discrimination since the early days of the AIDS epidemic with the most devastating weapon of all — his voice. In doing so, he saved thousands of lives. A true American hero for many in the LGBTQ community, the playwright, novelist and activist visited the World AIDS Museum and Educational Center in Wilton Manors to discuss his 775-page magnum opus, The American People, Volume 1.

What is your message with The American People?

It is vitally important for the gay population to know its history. We have been here since the beginning of America, and that has never been recorded anywhere. Historians are usually heterosexuals so they don’t pay any attention to people who are obviously not heterosexual. It was time to claim our history, to claim our famous people, and this is the first step in that direction.

How do you think our community should address the hostility coming from the new administration?

As we have to deal with every crisis: You’ve got to fight; you’ve got to be visible. We’ve been very bad as a community at fighting back in numbers. We are going to be screwed royally by this administration. They hate us and we never face up to that fact that we are hated, and that should not make us withdraw; it should make us go out there and say, “Fuck you!”

What responsibility does the LGBT community have to support the Latino community or any other minority group?

I don’t separate these groups; we are all in it together, and we should all fight together. It’s interesting that you use the word responsibility; because I don’t think that most gay people think that they have a responsibility, and that has been very upsetting for me to learn. What bugs me most about a gay person is if they are not fighting for their rights.

What do you have to say to gay men who have become complacent about HIV/AIDS?

That they are being irresponsible, that they are taking not only their lives in their hands, but also sexual partners in their hands. If they are having unprotected sex, it’s not complacency, it’s stupidity, and it’s all part of hiding somehow.

Looking back on your career, what makes you proudest?

Having founded ACT UP [AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power]. It’s because of us that all [HIV] medications are out there. We got them through activism; we didn’t get them from the government, we didn’t get them from the National Institute of Health. We got them because we rammed our faces into the whole system and said, “give us the drugs,” and we learned as much about everything more than they knew so we were able to say, “don’t do it that way, do it our way.”