He was always aware that most young gay men and women probably didnít know who he was. Yet
Larry Kramer had a worldwide reputation in two important spheres: as an author of
some of the most important gay fiction and plays ever written, and as the foremost
AIDS activist and campaigner of our time. He recently talked to OutUK's
Steve Bustin about his incredible work and remarkable life.
ago at the age of 84, less than a month short of his 85th birthday.
Kramer has been described as the father of modern gay activism, but is that an
epithet he welcomes?
ďMaybe AIDS activism, and I suspect I am, although I never think about it. I was
thrilled that Act-Up came back to life at a Barcelona
AIDS conference many years after I founded it in 1987. It was
a direct action protest organisation that chose government agencies and corporations
as targets to publicise a lack of treatment and funding for people with AIDS.
I was always interested to see that the publicity Act-Up got was really rather supportive
during this time as in the old days we were condemned out of hand.Ē
Kramer distinguishes between AIDS activism and gay activism, although he believes
they should be inextricably linked. ďThere was a gay activism before AIDS activism,
but activism certainly blossomed with AIDS, as lots of people came out of the closet
when AIDS started.Ē
ďIím still an activist, as if I see something I can do to stick my nose in, through
a phone call or a letter, I do it, but Iím not involved in an organisation. Iím
called a lot for advise or use of my name Ė you can never stop being an activist
if youíre serious about it. Iíve been so front and centre about it I no longer
have to go out and hit them over the head so much! Having said that, Iím sure
there are a great many young gay men in America who have no idea who I am!Ē
FUTURE OF AIDS ACTIVISM
Larry is worried about the future of gay and AIDS activism, with young gay men and women
looking like they are becoming increasingly apolitical and apathetic.
ďI donít see any new life bubbling up, and people are becoming complacent. If prominent
people are involved in AIDS charites in the UK how have we come this far? I thought weíd broken
down enough barriers to become an international
network, being responsibly visible, like the International Red Cross, something
like a United Nations without the back-biting.
Weíre as visible as we are; yet in
terms of power weíre still totally invisible. Thatís really shocking Ė we think
that visibility gives us power, but it doesnít; it has to be fought for for ever.Ē
Tragedy Of Today's Gays is available from Amazon.
In 2001, at the age of 66, Larry Kramer was in dire need of a liver transplant, but he was
turned down by Mount Sinai Hospital's organ transplant list. People living with HIV were routinely
considered inappropriate candidates for organ transplants because of complications from HIV and perceived short lifespans.
"Everything came to an abrupt stop when I got sick, and I
was given 6 months to live. It was a true miracle for me that a new drug (Adefivir)
appeared, which controls Hepatitis B. That gave me some breathing time, as shortly
after then, liver transplants became available for those co-infected with HIV and
Hepatitis B. I was the 22nd co-infected person to receive a liver. Iíve been so,
so lucky, as from the word go Iíve never got sick, since the late 70s when I
was infected. So many are dead, so why Iím alive I have no idea.Ē
Ill-health did not, however, curtailed his literary work. ďIím working on a new
novel, which is a history of America combined with a history of American homosexuality
and a history of AIDS. I know itís very ambitious, and I was terrified I wouldnít
finish it. However now Iím so well, Iím back at work and I think itíll take another
couple of years. Itís called The American People and itís 2500 pages already!
Itíll have everything I have to say in it. Iíve never worked on such a big
canvas before, and itís a huge challenge!Ē
The book was published as a novel by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2015.
Kramer and his partner, architectural designer David Webster, were together from 1991
until Kramer's death. Webster's ending of his relationship with Kramer in the 1970s had
inspired Kramer to write Faggots. When asked about their reunion decades later, Webster
replied: "He'd grown up, I'd grown up."
Larry Kramer books currently available from Amazon