Larry Kramer Speech 7 November 2004
THE TRAGEDY OF TODAY'S GAYS
An address to the gay community
By Larry Kramer
(A speech made at Cooper Union, New York on Sunday, November 7, 2004,
presented by HIV Forum in conjunction with NYU's Office of LGBT Student
Services, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, Callen-Lorde, and the Gill
I think this has been the most difficult speech I have ever had to write
and to deliver. It is a long speech. I pray you will bear with me until
It is an attempt to give you some idea of who and what we are up against.
It is also an attempt to discuss our ability to deal with these.
I recently learned about two dear friends, both exceptionally smart and
talented and each in his own way a leader of our community. One, in his
middle age, has sero-converted. The other, in his middle-age, has become
hooked on crystal meth. Both of them are here with us tonight.
I love being gay. I love gay people. I think we're better than other
people. I really do. I think we're smarter and more talented and more
aware and I do, I do, I totally do. And I think we're more tuned in to
what's happening, tuned into the moment, tuned into our emotions, and
other people's emotions, and we're better friends. I really do think all
To us it defies rational analysis that this incompetent dishonest man and
his party should be re-elected. Or does it?
I hope we all realize that, as of November 2nd, gay rights are officially
dead. And that from here on we are going to be led even closer to the
guillotine. This past week almost 60 million of our so-called "fellow"
Americans voted against us. Indeed 23% of self-identified gay people voted
against us, too. That one I can't figure.
The absoluteness of what has happened is terrifying. On the gay marriage
initiatives alone: 2.6 million against us in Michigan. 3.2 million in
Ohio. 1.1 million in Oklahoma, 2.2 million in Georgia. 1.2 million in
Kentucky. George Bush won his Presidency of our country by selling our
futures. Almost 60 million people whom we live and work with every day
think we are immoral. "Moral values" was top of many lists of why people
supported George Bush. Not Iraq. Not the economy. Not terrorism. "Moral
values." In case you need a translation that means us. It is hard to stand
up to so much hate. Which of course is just the way they want it. Please
know that a huge portion of the population of the United States hates us.
I don't mean dislike. I mean hate. You may not choose to call it hate, but
I do. Not only because they refuse us certain marital rights but because
they have also elected a congress that is overflowing with men and women
who refuse us just about every other right to exist as well. "Moral
values" is really a misnomer; it means just the reverse. It means they
think we are immoral. And that we're dangerous and contaminated. How do
you like being called immoral by some 60 million people? This is not just
anti-gay. This is what Doug Ireland calls "homo hate" on the grandest
scale. How do we stand up to 60 million people who have found a voice and
a President who declares he has a mandate?
The new Supreme Court, due any moment now, will erase us from the slate of
everything possible in no time at all. Gay marriage? Forget it. Gay
anything, forget it. Civil rights for gays? Equal protection for gays.
Adoption rights? The only thing we are going to get from now on is years
of increasing and escalating hate. Surely you must know this. Laws and
regulations that now protect us will be repealed and rewritten. Please
know all this. With the arrival of this second term of these hateful
people we come even closer to our extinction. We should have seen it
coming. We are all smart people. How could we not have been prepared?
They have not exactly been making a secret of their hate. This last
campaign has seen examples of daily hate on TV and in the media that I do
not believe the world has witnessed since Nazi Germany. I have been
reading Ambassador Dodd's Diary; he was Roosevelt's ambassador to Germany
in the 30's, and people are always popping in and out of his office
proclaiming the most awful things out loud about Jews. It has been like
All Mary Cheyney is is a lesbian! Even her mother is hateful! That Cheney
must be one fucked-up kid to stick around that family. I hope she doesn't
want to teach school. One of the reelected Congress persons vows to make
it illegal for lesbians to teach school.
I know many people look to me for answers. Perhaps that is why many of you
are here. You want answers? We're living in pigshit and its up to each one
of us to figure out how to get out of it. You must know that by now.
Crystal meth is not an answer. You must know that by now. And quite
frankly statistically it is only happening to so few of us that it is hard
to get anyone worked up about that problem. Just as it hard to get worked
up about a middle-aged man with brains who sero-converts. You want to kill
yourself. Go kill yourself. I'm sorry. It takes hard work to behave like
an adult. It takes discipline. You want it to be simple. It isn't simple.
Yes it is. Grow up. Behave responsibly. Fight for your rights. Take care
of yourself and each other. These are the answers. It takes courage to
live. Are you living? Not so I can see it. Gay people are all but
invisible to me now. I wish you weren't. But you are. And I look real
No one likes to be told to grow up. It's insulting. But these are always
the answers. They will always be the answers. The only answers. There will
never be any other answers. Grow up. Behave responsibly. Fight for your
rights. Take care of yourself and each other. Be proud of yourself. Be
proud you are gay. I don't know why so many find all this so complicated.
But then I am 69 years old and have less patience for the many problems I
had myself when young. It is one of the privileges of getting old.
It is 25 years since 100,000 of us marched on Washington.
The Aids service organizations are all about to collapse. No money. And
the problem is too big to handle anymore. We have not slowed this thing
down at all. $100 billion we're spending on Iraq. This is a conscious
choice by our "leaders" and by a large portion of the population of this
country. They have in their infinite and never-ending cruelty decided this
was the most effective thing to do with 100 billion dollars that might
also end Aids, and a few other things like worldwide hunger. But the cabal
doesn't care about these. People say: well we can't take care of the rest
of the world. That is so stupid. The rest of the world is us. We are so
intertwined geopolitically that we cannot separate ourselves off into
parts, into sections. Those days are over. If they ever were here. We have
everything required to save the world except the will to do it. In a
recent New Yorker piece Michael Specter writes that because of Aids Russia
is on its way to disappearing. Disappearing. Imagine that.
The immense knowledge we have learned about Aids has provided us with
precious little more than that knowledge. HIV/AIDS is now the worst
disaster in recorded human history. In parts of Africa 7,000 people are
infecting each other each and every day. We who are here are idiots if we
think this fact is not going to alter our lives mightily. If your company
loses enough world markets, which it most certainly will, you are going to
lose your job. You will not have health insurance, for a start. And for a
finish. Economies are simply going to collapse. This is already happening.
In 1990, that is some nine years into what was happening, 46% of gay men
in San Francisco were still fucking without condoms.
60% of the syphilis in America today is in gay men. Excuse me, men who
have sex with men.
Palm Springs has the highest number of syphilis cases in California. Palm
I do not want to hear each week how many more of you are becoming hooked
HIV infections are up as much as 40%.
You cannot continue to allow yourselves and each other to act and live
One of these days the miraculous drugs we have to keep us alive are going
to stop working. Our systems cannot process these extreme chemotherapies
indefinitely. That is what we are on. We are on daily chemotherapy. No one
wants to call it that. We call it the cocktail. We are on chemotherapy!
Chemotherapy either kills the disease or kills us! What are we going to do
when they don't work any longer?
Some 70 million people so far are expected to die. "July 3, 1981, Rare
cancer seen in 41 homosexuals." When I first started yelling about
whatever it was there were 41 cases. THERE ARE NOW OVER 70 MILLION WHO
HAVE BEEN INFECTED WITH HIV. Somebody up there is really listening, don't
you think? There is no way that all infected people can be saved. No one
ever says that out loud. Have you noticed? Somehow in some dream world we
are going to get treatment into 70 million people. It is never going to
happen. IT IS TOO LATE. We told them. But they didn't do anything. Did you
notice? Nobody every does anything. I hope it's finally dawning on you
that maybe they didn't and don't want to. So, in case you haven't noticed,
we have lost the war against Aids. I thought I'd tell you that, too. I
hope you might have noticed. I can't tell.
The President refuses to buy generic drugs for dying people. He is still
saying he is waiting to hear if they are safe. These drugs have been
approved. In some cases for several years. Does this sound like a
President who wants to save anyone?
I do not understand why some of you believe that because we have drugs
that deal with the virus more or less effectively that it is worth the
gamble to have unprotected sex. These drugs are not easy to take. There
are many side effects. Not life- but certainly comfort-threatening. I must
allow at least one day out of every week or two to feel really shitty, to
have no sleep, to be constipated, to have diarrhea, to require blood tests
and monitoring at hospitals or in doctors' offices, and to have the
shakes. The shakes, which come often, are not useful with a mouse or
reading a newspaper or with a lover in your arms. And I don't enjoy eating
anymore. Keeping on weight is a constant problem. I have dry mouth. I get
up six or seven times a night to pee. Many of the meds we are now taking
are new meds and were approved quickly and side effects have a sneaky way
of showing up after FDA approval, not before. I recently discovered that I
was taking an FDA approved dose of Viread that has turned out to be five
times the amount I actually need. We are all probably taking too much or
too little of every single one of our drugs. Doctors don't want to test
for this; tests are not readily available. You have to do a lot of
homework yourselves on these drugs. Is a fuck without a condom worth not
being able to taste food? Obviously for too many of you it is.
My lover often sits on top of me to make me eat. The first time this
happened I was in the hospital just after my liver transplant and I
wouldn't eat and Dr. Fung said I had to eat, or else I would die, and I
just couldn't eat (do you know how strange this is to someone who was
always on a diet?). It was New Year's Eve. We were in beautiful downtown
Pittsburgh. David had brought a hamper filled with my favorite dishes. And
I could not eat anything. Furiously he crawled into bed with me, boots and
all, and started to cry. "We haven't come this far for you to die because
you won't eat," he screamed, tears streaming down his face. I will never
forget that. I will never forget this man I love so much in bed with me
with his snowy boots on starting slowly to spoon into me whatever he'd
made and I trying so desperately hard to swallow it, looking at him, this
man I love so much, doing this for me, both of us now bawling our eyes out
and hugging each other in this strange bed in this strange town, wondering
how we got here.
It's so wonderful being a gay person. I said that before. I'm going to say
it again. I love being gay. And I love gay people. I think we're better
than other people. I really do. I think we're smarter and more talented
and more aware and I do, I do, I totally do. And I think we're more tuned
in to what's happening, tuned into the moment, tuned into our emotions,
and other people's emotions, and we're better friends. I really do think
all of these things. And I try not to forget them.
Since the very first day of this plague we have been given, almost as if
by some cosmic intentionality, American leaders who most assuredly wish us
dead. There can no longer be any way to deny this fact. Each day brings
more and more acts of hatred. Tell me it is not so. Tell me that the
amount of good that is being attempted is not totally and intentionally
overwhelmed by the evil. Point out to me how this is not so. I cannot see
it. I have been unable to see it since July 3, 1981. I thought it was
because it was a tricky virus. That is what we have been told. It's a very
tricky virus. I hoped for a while. But we are being played for chumps and
it has been so since July 3, 1981. And we never saw it.
We of course continue to be in our usual state of total denial and
disarray. Whatever structure the gay world had, if we ever had one, is
gone. Our organizations stink. Almost every single one of them. I cannot
think of one single gay organization that despite the best will in the
world is now anything but worthless to us. Oh maybe one or two. We have no
power. Nobody listens to us. We have no access to power. The cabal
disdains us totally. We are completely disposable. It is a horror show.
There is not one single person in Washington who will get us or give us
anything but shit and more shit. I'm sorry. This is where we are now.
Nowhere. And you expect me to cry for you if you get hooked on meth or
can't stop the circuit parties or the orgies. OK, I feel sorry for you.
Does that change anything? I would say I feel sorry for myself, but I
don't. I know I am fighting as hard as I can. I may not be getting
anywhere but I am trying. It's exhausting and I have to do it every day,
every single day, like taking my meds which if I stop I know my body will
cease doing something or other. I have accidentally missed a few days of
meds and boy do I know fast that was a mistake.
I fear for us as a people. Is that crazy? I am always being called crazy
by somebody. I love being called crazy. That's a sign to me that I'm on
the right track. Maybe it takes a crazy person to see into the future and
see what's coming. Straight people say "my how much progress gay people
are making. Isn't that Will and Grace wonderful." If it's so wonderful why
am I scared to death? More and more I am filled with dread. That is my
truth that I bring to you today. Larry is scared. Do you see what I see? I
don't think so. Most gay people I see appear to me to act as if they're
bored to death. Too much time on your hands, my mother would say. Hell, if
you have time to get hooked on crystal and do your endless rounds of
sex-seeking, you have too much time on your hands. Ah, you say, aren't we
to have a little fun? Can't I get stoned and try barebacking one last
time. ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND! At this moment in our history, no,
you cannot. Anyway, we had your fun and look what it got us into. And it
is still getting us into. You kids want to die? Because that's what I
sometimes think. Well, then, die.
You cannot continue to allow yourselves and each other to act and live
And by the way, when are you going to realize that for the rest of your
lives, probably for the rest of life on earth, you are never going to be
able to have sex with another person without a condom! Never! Every time
you even so much as consider this I want you to hear my voice screaming
like crazy in your ears. STOP! DON'T! NEVER! NO WAY, JOSE! Canadian
scientists now warn that even partners who are both un-infected should
practice safe sex. As I understand it, more and more new viruses and
mutant viruses and partial viruses that are not understood are floating
around. Are you ready for that one?
Does it ever occur to you how much you have been robbed by both your
country and your behavior? America let the men who should have carved out
a space for you in the social discourse, the development of your history
and being, America let these men who should have been your role models
die. So there is this big empty space in which you live. And you don't
know where to go or how to fill it in. This is not my original thought but
Michael Brown's of the NYU gay student organizations that helped to bring
me here, who gave me this to think about. It is sad for a young gay person
to feel this way.
I had people to follow and many of you have not. No baton was passed to
you. In a way you must start everything over. You must invent a world from
which you can move forward from. This is both an extraordinarily exciting
challenge and a terrifying one, one that can just as easily leave you by
the wayside as make a new man of you. I say man because it is gay men who
appear to have the greatest difficulty, it seems to me, in moving forward,
getting off their particular dime.
Many of you deny the horrors of what happened to your predecessors. That
is something I do not understand. Every moral code I know of requires
respect for the dead. I often hear that many of you don't want to know
about them or admit to them. You disdain anyone older who was there.
This is denial of a most destructive nature. You cannot move forward
without accepting your past. I am going to say that again. We cannot move
forward without accepting and understanding our past. We were as varied as
you are. We were no different, really. We were very different from those
who preceded us. We were the first free gay generation and we were
murdered because of our freedom. And yes you were robbed of this freedom
that for obvious reasons could not be passed on to you as your heritage.
So instead of being understanding of all this, you condemn your
predecessors to non-existence and flounder into a future that you seem
unable to fashion into anything you can hold on to that gives you
emotional sustenance. You refuse to be part of any community. But if you
don't have any community you have no political strength. You are too busy
denying and disassociating to know that. You do not seem able, it seems to
me, to fashion your future. To discover what you want. You don't even ask
what you want. You don't even ask what you need. Your needs are as mighty
as needs always have been, but you don't ask what they are, which amazes
me. How can you not have curiosity about your future as a gay person?
Don't you want to go anywhere? Do you want to stay where you are? That is
too bad if you do because we are about to enter a place more monstrously
worse. You can deny that, as you deny those of us who went before you, but
just know that down this path of your numerous denials lies your own
continued destruction, the continuing destruction of gay people as gay
people, which this cabal of haters I shall shortly describe, and its
supporters, which are legion, are intent on accomplishing with
increasingly ruthless vengeance. If you do not fight back you will be
murdered in ways just as hideous as the ways in which we got murdered.
Every single president since 1981 has denied our existence and denied the
existence of AIDS. And we let them get away with it. Oh a few thousand of
us fought for the drugs that we got but many millions of us did nothing
and of course an enormous number of them died. They died because they lost
their health along their journey of non-involvement and their lack of
responsibility to their brothers and sisters. Instead of learning from
this lesson, you are repeating it. And you are acting like this with your
health intact, many of you, which strikes me as even more perverse than
what your dead predecessors did to destroy themselves.
Does it occur to you that we brought this plague of aids upon ourselves? I
know I am getting into dangerous waters here but it is time. With the
cabal breathing even more murderously down our backs it is time. And you
are still doing it. You are still murdering each other. Please stop with
all the generalizations and avoidance excuses gays have used since the
beginning to ditch this responsibility for this fact. From the very first
moment we were told in 1981 that the suspected cause was a virus, gay men
have refused to accept our responsibility for choosing not to listen, and,
starting in 1984, when we were told it definitely was a virus, this
behavior turned murderous. Make whatever excuses you can to carry on
living in your state of denial but this is the fact of the matter. I wish
we could understand and take some responsibility for the fact that for
some 30 years we have been murdering each other with great facility and
that down deep inside of us, we knew what we were doing. Don't tell me you
have never had sex without thinking down deep that there was more involved
in what you were doing than just maintaining a hard-on.
I have recently gone through my diaries of the worst of the plague years.
I saw day after day a notation of another friend's death. I listed all the
ones I'd slept with. There were a couple hundred. Was it my sperm that
killed them, that did the trick? It is no longer possible for me to avoid
this question of myself. Have you ever wondered how many men you killed? I
know I murdered some of them. I just know. You know how you sometimes know
things? I know. Several hundred over a bunch of years, I have to have
murdered some of them, planting in him the original seed. I have put this
to several doctors. Mostly they refuse to discuss it, even if they are
gay. Most doctors do not like to discuss sex or what we do or did. (I
still have not heard a consensus on the true dangers of oral sex, for
instance.) They play blind. God knows what they must be thinking when they
examine us. Particularly if they aren't gay. One doctor answered me, it
takes two to tango so you cannot take the responsibility alone. But in
some cases it isn't so easy to answer so flippantly. The sweet young boy
who didn't know anything and was in awe of me. I was the first man who
fucked him. I think I murdered him. The old boyfriend who did not want to
go to bed with me and I made him. The man I let fuck me because I was
trying to make my then boyfriend, now lover, jealous. I know, by the way,
that that other one is the one who infected me. You know how you sometime
know things? I know he infected me. I tried to murder myself on that one.
Has it never, ever occurred to you that not using a condom is tantamount
to murder? I cannot believe you have never considered this. It is such a
simple and intelligent thought to have. And we all should have had it from
day one. Why didn't we? That has been haunting me for a while, that
question. Why didn't we? It is incredibly selfish not to have at least
thought that question at that moment, all those moments when we were
playing Russian roulette.
From here on I am going to get even more complicated. I want you to pay
attention. This is the most important part of this speech.
Bill Moyers recently said this in a speech on October 20, 2004 at the
"For years now, the corporate, political, and religious right -- this is
documented from 1971 on -- the religious and political right has been
joined in an axis of influence whose purpose is to take back the gains of
the democratic renewal in the 20th century and restore America to a rule
of the elites that maintain their privilege and their power at the expense
of everyone else. For years now, a small fraction of American households
have been garnering an extreme concentration of wealth and income while
large corporations and financial institutions have obtained unprecedented
levels of economic and political power over daily life."
"Take note," Moyers continues. "The corporate, political, and religious
conservatives are achieving a vast transformation of America that only
they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its
beneficiaries. In creating the greatest inequality in America since 1929,
they have saddled our nation, our States, and our cities and counties with
structural defects that will last until our children's children are ready
for retirement, and they are systematically stripping government of all
its functions, except rewarding the rich and waging war."
In other words, our country has been taken away from us by a cabal that
includes all the people who hate us.
These people make the rules. They are rarely elected officials. They may
or may not know each other. They have several things in common. They are
very rich or have strong connections to money or power. They are in
agreement on what they do not want. They believe fervently in their God.
And that they are doing all this for Him. And they stay in constant touch.
I hope you realize that all these people Bill Moyers is talking about hate
us. Thriller writers write better histories of our times than actual
Anyway, it is done. What Moyers is talking about. It's already happened.
On a scale of such magnitude that it is difficult to see how we can ever
take it back. It's all in place now, this cabal of power. It almost
doesn't make any difference who is president.
You want to know why AIDS was allowed to happen. This is your answer. You
want to know why gay people have no power and are unlikely to get any.
This is your answer.
The top 1% of wealth holders control 39% of total household wealth.
The richest 5% of households own 2/3 of the value of all stock owned in
the our country.
The the top 1% have as many after-tax dollars to spend as the bottom 100
The richest 20% of households received almost 50% of the national income,
while the bottom 20% received only 3%.
At a time when 265 people in the United States were billionaires, 32
million people were living beneath the official poverty line.
This inequality gap in the United States is the highest in the
"That drive," Moyers continues, "is succeeding with drastic consequences
for an equitable access to public resources, the lifeblood of any
democracy. From land, water, and natural resources, to media and the
broadcast and digital spectrums, to scientific discovery and medical
breakthroughs, and even to politics itself, a broad range of American
democracy is undergoing a powerful shift in the direction of private
"We are experiencing a fanatical drive to dismantle the political
institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and
cultural frameworks that have shaped public responsibility for social
harms arising from the excesses of private power."
In 1971, Lewis Powell, a Richmond lawyer who called himself a centrist,
was secretly commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Congress to write a
confidential plan on how to take back America for the survival of the free
enterprise system. Not democracy. Free enterprise. Barry Goldwater had
lost, Nixon was about to implode, Vietnam had sucked the nation's soul
dry, the cabal saw their world unraveling. They saw the women's movement,
black civil rights. student war protests, the cold war. They saw the world
as they knew it coming to an end. (We are not the first to feel our world
crumbling and becoming powerless.)
This is what Lewis Powell wrote: "Survival lies in organization, in
careful long range planning, in consistency of action over an indefinite
period of years, in the scale of financing only available through joint
effort and in the political power available only through united action."
This was the birth of what is now called the vast right wing conspiracy.
It is known as the Powell Manifesto. You can google Lewis Powell (not the
one who helped to assassinate Lincoln) and read it in its entirety.
Under the supervision of some of the richest families in America, that
plan has been followed faithfully since 1971 and it has resulted in these
past years of horror and the re-election of George Bush. Nine families and
their foundations, all under the insistent goading of Joseph Coors, have
financed much of this. The Bradley Foundation. The Smith Richardson
Foundation. Four Scaife Family Foundations, The John M. Olin Foundation.
The Castle Rock (or Coors) Foundation. Three Koch Family Foundations. The
Earhart Foundation. The JM Foundation. The McKenna Foundation. From 1985
to 2001 alone they contributed $650 million to this conservative message
campaign. They have helped to launch and gain financing for networks of
newspapers and magazines. They have seen to it that hundreds of the most
powerful think tanks have appeared, including the Heritage Foundation, the
Hoover Institute, the American Enterprise, Cato, Manhattan, Hudson
Institutes, and many more. There are now in place an ever growing number
of well-funded student organizations at many colleges. There are legal
advocacy foundations, such as the Center For Individual Rights and
Judicial Watch. There are Leadership Institutes and Action Institutes and
Institutes on Religion and Public Policy and Religion and Democracy. There
is a heavily visible media participation: Fox Television and Pat Robertson
and Oliver North and Radio America and the Washington Times and Ann
Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, to name but a very few, including the editorial
page of the Wall Street Journal.
For the preparation of this manifesto, Lewis Powell was rewarded by
Richard Nixon with a seat on the Supreme Court, where among other things
he voted against gays in Bowers v. Hardwick, and against Black people in
Bakke v. University of California.
It is vital for us to realize that this plan was written in 1971. The
people it was written for did not go off then to a disco, or to the Pines
or into therapy, or into drugs. They took this plan and they have executed
it religiously every day and night for the next thirty-five years
initially with some 400 million dollars and always from then until now
with unending hours of backbreaking, grinding, unglamorous work, of civic
engagements county by county across the entire expanse of America. They
took the richest and most liberal nation in the history of civilization
and turned it hard right into a classist, racist, homophobic imperial army
of pirates. 30% of America now self-identify as conservative or extremely
conservative. When Lewis Powell wrote his Manifesto that figure was less
And on the morning of November 3rd we wrung our hands and wondered why.
And we have a community that still cannot decide on what we want or what
to do. We are completely inept at organizing ourselves and have a
monstrously bad record of attempting unity.
The continuing existence of HIV is essential for the functioning of the
totalitarianism under which gay people now live. It works out like this:
HIV allows "them" to sell us as sick. And that kills off our usefulness,
both in our own minds, their thinking we are sick, and in the eyes of the
world, everyone thinking we are sick. All of this obliterates the
consciousness of those who should help us and don't. This liquidates and
incinerates our individuality and our spontaneity, our abilities to fight
back, to hold our oppressors to task. They want to keep HIV going as long
as they can! Why haven't we seen that? The signs have always been there!
But like everything else we couldn't believe them. No one could be as
cruel as that. They want to make us superfluous. Their media, their
newspapers, their networks will see to it that our good qualities are
It should therefore come as no surprise that when HIV came along they,
this cabal, facilitated its rapid deployment and continue to do so. Before
even making the feeblest attempt to commence any miniscule response or
inquiry into what their press was not reporting, which they most certainly
knew about themselves, they waited until masses of us had all been exposed
to the whatever it was. We on the other hand chose to not believe that the
whatver it was was a virus until this was incontestably proved. But they
knew what it was, or were willing to take the chance and hope that it was,
and they just sat back and waited. Their wildest dreams then started to
come true. The faggots were disappearing and they were doing it to
themselves! I can locate no work of any urgency, or indeed much work at
all on aids for most of the period between 1981-1984. Oh many claim it, as
many claim seeing cases many years earlier, which I also doubt, but I
cannot locate whatever these are claiming. In those four years almost
every gay man who had fucked in America had been exposed to the virus.
And when they did start doing anything it was with such feebleness that it
amounted to nothing for ten years. You can give me all kinds of reasons
why it took so long but my research has convinced me that the actual
scenario was completely intentional neglect. Oh perhaps not the doctors or
the scientists. But they had no money. And they were not going to get any
money. Or enough money. People upstairs were going to see to it that there
would be no money. Let even more people get infected first. Blacks,
junkies, prostitutes. Every color of skin but straight white. Every
religion but Christian. Excuse me, white Christian. Then we'll throw them
a few pennies to make it look like we're concerned.
The cabals Bill Moyers talked about have called all the shots in
facilitating and accelerating the plague of aids. If scientists discovered
something useful, it has rarely been available. I spoke earlier about the
refusal of this president to allow already approved generic drugs out to a
desperate Africa and elsewhere. Of that huge Congressional approval of
many billions for HIV around the world that Bush brags about, something
less that 2% has left Washington almost four years after its approval.
Does this sound like a President and a government and a country that wants
I guess I have suspected behavior like this all along. But I never knew it
in quite the way that I have now come to see it thanks to Bill Moyers:
intentionality is the only word to describe the genocidal treatment the
world is drowning in. Much of the world, most assuredly including us, has
been intentionally hung out to die. So far some 70 million of us. That is
some manifesto Lewis Powell birthed. And all we have to do is keep fucking
each other without condoms and the rest of their "moral issues" will be
Do you seriously think they care about the continuing rise again of HIV
infections? They are grateful for them. Do you think they care about a
sudden plague of crystal? They thank us for our cooperation. And we
thought for one brief second of time that we might even be allowed to
marry the ones we love.
And while all this happened, even if we had enough suspicions to act, what
did we do? We completely shrank from our duty of opposition. Those are
Christopher Isherwood's words: "the duty of opposition." But he was
flagellating himself with these words. He fears that should he have to
live face to face with a war in his backyard that he "would shrink from
the duty of opposition."
Marriage? Forget it. Non-discrimination laws? Forget them. Those that have
been enacted will be rescinded or amended into toothlessness. Adoption?
Equal rights? Forget everything. We are going to be erased into
nothingness. They hate us so much and now they are in complete and utter
power, the most dangerous situation in the world for the unwanteds to live
under. And I no longer think it matters who is President. Clinton turned
out to be as rotten for us as George Bush, either one.
Ok, keep putting your life in jeopardy. 110 of their drug companies
certainly want you to do so. Keep dancing your asses off at circuit
parties all over the world as you go down to the sea in ships that are
made to intentionally capsize and take you down with them. Ok, keep being
bored and crying for your poor selves. You ain't seen nothin' yet. With
our complete cooperation they have already murdered several generations of
us so far. They won't have to murder so many more of us to get their wish.
Like Russia, we will disappear. That is what they want to do. Disappear
us. And now they are able to officially do it. George Bush has his
mandate. Can't you see all this! People high up there in their secret
powwows don't want us here. Word has come down from on high: get rid of
the faggots once and for all. You think the law will protect us? Think
again. Wait until you see the new Supreme Court.
You are here as a gay person because of certain events and certain people
who lived and suffered and died before you. You must learn about them and
not continually deny their existence and importance in our history, the
history of gay people in America. You must learn about them! They have
made your life possible! What kind of person doesn't want to learn about
themselves? I don't know why but you don't want to. Most of our fellow
gays don't read books about us. Or come to plays about us. What do you
want to do? I don't know. And for all I can tell in talking to many of
you, you don't know either. And this is very frightening. A large
uncongealed mass of potentially superior beings doesn't know what to do
with themselves or bother to learn their history. So they dance. So they
drug. So they go on to the internet to find more sex. These are useful
lives being wasted. Why is that? Why is there no useful creativity going
on? Why is there no mental agility visible, no audible questioning
discussions ... almost anything of importance? Don't you long for some
involvement in the humanity that you belong to, for your place in the
scheme of things? You don't know how to make entrance on these playing
fields, is that it? I don't know what is wrong with us. I wish you could
tell me. What do you do with yourselves all week long, seven days and
nights a week, that amounts to anything really important? I can't see many
of you as doing anything important, to give your lives meaning. Oh I can
see lots of frocks on the runway but I can't see bodies inside of them,
bodies with brains and concerned with anything but pretty and orgasms.
What do you do to make your world, our world, a better place? A world that
needs every bit of help it can get, our world, not their world. You don't
seem able to connect with anyone beyond the basest ways.
"Why can't we look at our bodies and see not just a sexual definition? Why
can't we see in the body all that the body represents? Sexuality, yes. But
also mortality, humanness, humaneness, innocence, purity, health,
sickness, strength, consideration, responsibility, divinity. When did we
rob our bodies of all the complexity they possess? Why do we refuse to see
all that we are capable of? All the other things that make us full
beings." That very beautiful paragraph was written by my friend, Jordan
Roth, who is one day going to be a very fine writer if he just keeps at
Do you know you are taking the same crystal meth as Hitler? The stuff that
was being used well into 1997, the government outlawed one of the
ingredients and so the orignal process was resurrected, the one as used by
the Nazis. It was first synthesized by the Germans in the early part of
the 20th century. Hitler was a crystal addict. The new version is much
more potent than the stuff you were taking before 1997, which is the main
reason why it is so hard to break an addiction. Dr. Howard Grossman told
me this bit of history. Maybe I shouldn't have told you about the Hitler
part. To the more twisted among you it may be a turn-on.
I love being gay. I love gay people. I think we're better than other
people. I really do. I think we're smarter and more talented and more
aware and I do, I do, I totally do. I really do think all of these things.
And I try very hard to remember all this.
But I am finding that I am not so proud of being gay anymore. It's come
over me slowly. As much as I love being gay and I love gay people I'm not
proud of us right now. It's disappeared. I almost could say we've
disappeared. But since you are here I can't quite say that. But that's how
I do not see us, don't you see? I do not see us! They are killing us. They
are eradicating us from this earth. Little by little by little we are
disappearing. I do not see us and I am beginning to see us less and less.
I have recently come to believe that gay men and women are tragic people.
We are so wonderful but we are also so fucked up. So blind. So ignorant in
ways to look after ourselves. So uninterested in the Outside World that is
subsuming us when we thought we were making them pretty and giving them
songs to sing. So without agendas to utilize our wonderful-ness. We know
who the enemy is and we just stand here letting them shoot us over and
over again. WE STAND HERE AND LET THEM DO IT! All of the brains and
abilities we have among us are useless. The smartest among us, our famous
ones, our rich ones, seem to allow this most of all. The ones who should
help us and speak up for us refuse that responsibility. We have enough
rich gay men and lesbians to finance a takeover of the world but their
brains and their money and their skills are not available to to help us.
To lead us. To inspire us. To finance us. To be like Lewis Powell's Nine
Families. That, too is tragic. To have so much money and to not to use it
for brothers and sisters, for family, for our continuation here on earth.
Why is that? Rockefeller tithed himself from his very first dollar, to go
to his church for his salvation. Please, can we get word to every rich gay
person to show up to help save us. We need our Nine Families desperately.
Public service: how many religions demand this of their members? How much
public service in behalf of your brothers and sisters, your family, have
you performed recently? Don't tell me you don't know what to do. If you
can find another ass to fuck, and you seem endlessly inventive at
accomplishing this, then you should be able to locate a more useful and
For a few brief years we had some noble moments, of togetherness and anger
and progress. Not many of us, mind you. If you are still alive, you know
who you were and where you were during those worst years of our mass
murder. You know what you did and what you didn't. And I know too. I know
that most of you, should you still be alive, didn't do a goddamned thing.
In fact, you were ashamed of us, many of you were. I remember that as well
as I remember those who died. "Friends" crossing the street to avoid me
because I was advising cooling it. I was actually told to not come back to
Fire Island Pines. Lots of people come up to me now on the street and say,
thank you for what you did for us. I do not consider that a compliment. My
response quite often's been a curt Fuck You, why aren't you doing it too!
I don't do anything that anyone else couldn't do. I just do it, and some
10 or 15,000 other people did it too then. And the rest of you sat on your
asses. And, those of you who are still alive, know who you were and how
little you did.
Yes for one brief moment in time we got angry. Correction, a few of us got
angry. Of all our many many millions of gay people in this country, about
10,000 of us or so got angry enough to accomplish something. We got drugs.
We got aids care. We got enough so we could continue fucking again. That
in the end is what it amounted to. As soon as we got the drugs, you went
right back to what got us into such trouble in the first place. WHAT IS
WRONG WITH US? The cabal can't believe their good fortune.
How many gay people in America in those years of Aids? Ten million? Twenty
million? Thirty million? How many of us are there now? We don't even know
how many of us there are! Or how many we lost! And every time some
statistical number is released by some faceless organization or government
office, I always wonder: how the fuck do they know how many of us there
are when we don't even know how many of us there are? And none of our
so-called gay organizations ever bothers to find out. It would be nice to
know, helpful to know. Don't you think?
You know, it isn't meant to be easy, life. I don't know why it isn't meant
to be easy, but it just isn't, so we might as well get used to it and try
to find things that give us a certain sense of pride. We must create
ourselves as something we can live with. It takes energy, yes. Why are we
so crippled intellectually? Oh, we study sexuality and gender stuff until
it comes out of every university's asshole but we don't study history, who
we were and where we came from and our roots, the wellsprings of our
historical existence. We do not honor our dead as we do not honor
ourselves. We continue without surcease to be and remain, endlessly, day
after day, helpless victims. "In my country when they raise the bus fares,
we burn the buses," a Brazilian journalist said to me as she watched a
sparsely attended Act Up demonstration.
There is never one single hour that a disenfranchised minority does not
have to fight to breathe and stay alive. The hate out there will never
lessen. It only grows and grows, this hate. Most of you refuse to face
this. I hate you for your doing that. I really do. I have no more patience
for this kind of weakness. I know this is uncharitable of me. I don't
care. I am too tired of fighting with so few troops. You are now dancing
your own dance of death, you know. And I hate you for this, too. Grow up,
I beg you. Oh, grow up.
Time goes by so fast. We are allotted so precious little of it on this
earth. How sad that you use it so stupidly. Every minute that goes by is
gone forever. You who have been given a new lease on life, the very gift
of life itself, piss it away. It is so incomprehensible to me who has come
so close to death a couple times. I find your inactivity and ingratitude
and lack of imagination on how to act in emergencies incongruous,
incomprehensible, insulting. And unacceptable. I could never understand
during all those years of Aids why every single person facing death would
not fight to save his own life. And I cannot understand now how, life
having been given back to us again, again you treat your life with such
Yes, all that I have spoken of tonight is the stuff of tragedy.
I wish we could truly look upon each other as brothers and sisters. It
sounds corny I am told when I keep using terms like this. How can we be
related I am asked dismissively. You do not know or want to know that we
have been on this earth as long as anyone else and that we have as many
available heroes and heroines as anyone else. Your family has been here a
very long time and has an ancient and distinguished lineage. You must
learn that Abraham Lincoln was gay and George Washington and Meriwether
Lewis and so many others we are only just beginning to uncover. But they
will not let gay history be taught in schools and universities. And we
seem unable to teach ourselves. My own college, Yale, with $1 million of
my own brother's money to do just this, will not teach what I call gay
history, unencumbered with the prissy incomprehensible gobbledygook of
gender studies and queer theory. Abraham Lincoln did not talk that
We richly deserve the government we have received. We do not even know who
we are. And our enemies participate in their convictions every day of
their lives. We only show up when we want to, which is not very often. But
then perhaps you do not love being gay. Or think we are better than other
people, and smarter and more talented and more tuned into what is
happening, and are better friends.
I leave the hardest topic we must face till last.
How do we fight as a united front when they don't approve of our
"behavior" and when our behavior is inseparable from our beings? How do we
fight as a united front when some of us won't or are unable to change
certain behaviors that many of us have difficulty in supporting and
defending ourselves? We've been so concerned about showing the world a
united front. We feel the need to say that everything gay people do is
good and it simply isn't so. We must have an honest discussion amongst
ourselves about what's good and what isn't. This is of course the problem
that has finally brought us down because we have refused to deal with it,
and perhaps is one reason today's youngsters have difficulty in
acknowledging our past. It is the unfaced devil in our closet, if you
will, that we have refused to deal with and which, now, now that they have
achieved their position of imperial power, will be used to hang us once
and for all. To be crude about it, how do we market and sell our wishes
and our needs as they have been able to package and sell their wants and
needs so successfully for thirty-five years? How do we frame this issue?
How do we claim the God that they have subsumed into their own ownership?
It is inhuman to think that the only way we can get through to some safe
other side is by policing each other and in so doing destroy whatever hope
we have of getting along? If they have been able to convince this country
that the Republicans are the party of the people, surely so many sons and
daughters can be smart enough to find a way to sell our parents permission
I do not know how to answer any of this. And I don't think anyone among us
does either. To talk out loud about what our bodies have done and continue
to do is asking for trouble from others of us. How do we admit our past,
own it, and evolve from it and move on? For we must do this.
I know some of you will immediately jump up to act. I caution rushing off
to form anything quite so fast until we decide how we want to deal with
what I have raised tonight. I know many of you are prepared to tough it
out and say to them, "fuck you, I am what I am." And point out quite
rightly that they have simply pushed us too far and, no matter what we
have done and continue to do we simply cannot allow them to treat us this
way any longer. We are human beings as much as they are, and their God is
the same as our God and He simply cannot be allowed to be as punishing as
they are requiring Him to be."
But this is perhaps too honest and reasonable to say to those who are not
either. Reasoning like this has not worked for us in the past. But I sense
that ignoring this question of responsibility for much that has murdered
us will only please them more.
These are the problems we must confront as we go forward. If you are going
to fight in a united way, which I am convinced is now the only way that
can save us, we must find a platform that all of us can support without
divisiveness and shame and guilt and all the other hateful weapons they
will club us with.
And if we do want to go out and fight again in a united way we must ask
ourselves: are we able to replicate the kind of devotion and commitment
and backbreaking thankless work and tactics that continues to bring them
year after year into such positions of unlimited power. Thirty-five years
of that? For thirty-five years the cabal I have spoken of has worked every
single day and night to bring them their success. Quite frankly they
deserve their victory and we deserve our loss.
I would like to quote this from a Baptist minister, Tom Ehrich, in Durham.
By chance, I found it on a Christian website at 3:00 this afternoon. "It
would be helpful if we started in silence and just listened to each
other's voices. Whether we can muster such maturity amid toxic political
attitudes remains to be seen. If we are to have a meaningful national
discussion of moral issues, we will need to start with the sexual issues,
not because they are the most important but because they are the fire
engulfing the tower. Let's get it all on the table...
"And let's do so openly and boldly, without the code language that we
often use in moral debates, without our usual cherry-picking of
Scriptures, without our usual blistering indignation, without the bullying
that elevates one's viewpoint into divine certainty."
So we are being invited to this table whether we want to or not. We must
I love being gay. I love gay people. I think we're better than other
people. I really do. I think we're smarter and more talented and better
friends. I do, I do, I totally do. I really do think all of these things.
And I passionately and desperately want all my brothers and sisters to
stay alive and well and on this earth as long as they want theirs to.
Can we all help each other to reach this goal?
(Note: I would like to acknowledge the help of my friend Rodger McFarlane,
my lover David Webster, and my editor, Will Schwalbe in preparing this
speech. I am grateful to Rodger and the Gill Foundation for educating me
about Lewis Powell and the Powell Manifesto, about which I had been
previously ignorant. Thanks too to Bill Moyers for his extraordinary
speech which is quoted here without permission. LK)
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