That Larry Kramer lived to 84 was a miracle. But it was not a privilege. It was a victory hard-won through the sheer voltage and focus of his beautiful, ungainly will–the same will that saved millions of “othered” bodies through his dedication to activating the passive, the phony, the pious-all the institutions that didn’t give a fig about a virus mostly killing off queers, POCs, addicts, and prostitutes.
I always say when a public figure dies, we are re-acquainted with his legacy, so the timing of the AIDS activist and writer’s departure is not a coincidence. And it’s not just because we are once again grappling with institutional indifference to a widespread lethal virus. It is because Kramer showed us that we have to enact our righteous fury if we are to ensure the justice and protections that every human body deserves.
For all through Trump’s reign, we have been wrangling with the bloody legacy of the colonizers we still exalt. This dangerous dehumanization always has been the law of this land (literally and figuratively) but our evil reality TV oligarch has newly empowered it—much as Hitler liberated a long-simmering national anti-semitism just as German gentiles were feeling disenfranchised post-WWI. Due to new technology, some Americans are waking to what everyone else lacked the luxury to ignore: that freedoms, including the right to live, are only a given for those whom our fucked-up Founding Fathers deemed human.
As a white woman–queer, yes, but privileged in so many other ways– it is not enough for me to say I am devastated by the lethal entitlement endorsed and institutionalized in my country. It is not enough for me to just write something here, which is why I’ve largely kept mum. It’s not even enough for my heart to break, though it really, really has. Larry Kramer’s legacy must be honored.
He taught us it was not enough to prettily and politely express our objection to institutionalized murder. He taught us to love each other enough to rise against the machine of greed, willful ignorance, selfishness, hate, and violence. He taught us we must act as if every human body endangered by institutionalized oppression is our own. And he taught us that the goal is for every body to live long enough to tell their story.
We still have much work to do but you have earned your rest, Cousin Larry. Thank you for your messy, heart-forward resistance.