Gay Rights Hero Thinks Kids These Days Aren’t Gay Enough
Larry Kramer, legendary and cranky gay-rights gadfly, is still mad, but this time instead of directing his righteous discontent at the establishment, he’s speaking out against gay youth.
Kramer’s 1985 play “The Normal Heart” opened recently on Broadway, and he spoke with Salon.com for an interview about how his views and the world around him have(n’t) changed. He spoke about how he feels that younger gays are apathetic. His most telling quotation discussed gay identity:
“I am a gay person before I’m anything else. I’m a gay person before I’m a white person, before I’m a Jew, before I’m a writer, before I’m American, anything. That is my most identifying characteristic and I don’t find many people who would say that.”
To me, this is the basis of why I don’t agree with Kramer’s criticism. When I hesitated to come out in high school, my deepest fear was not homelessness or violence, social exclusion or AIDS; it was losing my identity. I thought to myself, “I am so many things, I don’t want to give it all up just to be ‘gay.’” Part of this fear was based on a desperate shortage of positive gay role models, but part of it was also a response to attitudes within the gay community. I didn’t want to have become a different person, lose all my friends and my interests, to become a Gay Man instead.
In earlier times, I think the attitude of “you’re in or you’re out” 100 percent gay identity made more sense. The dangers were more grave and there was not much place to be “gay AND [Fill in the blank],” whether the blank was “father,” “lawyer,” or “football fan.” But I think the very core of my perceptions about my own homosexuality (and incidentally the core of the attitudes on this blog) is that it’s just another part of me. I am not gay first. I’m not a contant political agitator or a Fire Island circuit boy. I’m gay, but also I’m an American, a man, a New Yorker, and a writer. I don’t feel that being one of these precludes me from seeking happiness by being others as well.
While writing this it’s important to recognize how much our current generation is indebted to the previous waves of out and proud homosexuals who fought and lost so much that we might have this basic right. I am endlessly greatful that I live in a world where the fact that I’m gay is not the most interesting thing about me.
We owe Larry Kramer and his generation a huge debt of gratitude, some of us probably owe them our lives, but that doesn’t mean they can also claim our souls.
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