No doubt I have had my issues with Larry Kramer, but you'd have to have a cold, cold, queer little heart not to be affected by his acceptance speech at the Tonys last Sunday when he won the award for best revival of a play for The Normal Heart: "To gay people everywhere, whom I love so dearly, The Normal Heart is our history. I could not have written it had not so many needlessly died. Learn from it and carry on the fight. Let them know that we are a very special people, an exceptional people, and that our day will come."
Larry Kramer has been wrong about many things, but he was right at a moment that counted more than we can imagine now. Many of us owe our very lives to the awareness he fostered, the movement he started, the fear he instilled. Not only would he not have been able to write his play if an epidemic had not wiped out thousands of his, our, brothers, but I doubt that homosexuals would be able to get married in several states and counting. AIDS and our community's response to it pushed the gay rights movement into warp speed.
To be honest, I'm kind of blown away to think that there even is a national debate about gay marriage (which, by the way, the gays are winning!) for me to rebel against. Seriously, what the fuck? For most of my life the idea of homosexual marriage was just an interesting hypothetical question. Now, equality (albeit in a very limited sense) is now a fact in a significant portion of the United States.
It is heartbreaking but hard to deny that we have AIDS to thank for that. The raw terror and devastating sorrow brought about by this disease, and our community's unwillingness to be left to die, generated this surge of outrage which has brought us to this moment when homosexual people - maybe not everywhere in the United States but in plenty of places, many of them surprising - enjoy a freedom from harassment and persecution, a freedom to move in the world more honestly and with less fear, a change in the physical circumstances of our lives that has come about so quickly it makes my head spin.
We can argue about priorities, we can debate the value of particular items on the gay agenda (and you know I will) but we can't contest the fact that the rights of homosexual people are being discussed seriously now in every sphere in a way that was not imaginable in 1985 when The Normal Heart premiered and ACT UP was just getting its feet wet.
Like many of us, I'm nauseated by President Obama's nuanced, hyper-political stance on same-sex marriage. But I can't believe I've lived long enough to see the president of the United States take a nuanced position on same-sex marriage. Nuanced. Maybe I'm just feeling relaxed and generous on this beautiful Sunday morning, but seriously. Nuanced? The president of the United States is timid about coming out too strongly against the rights of homosexuals. Okay, yes, it's not enough. But it is significant. Maybe things do get better.
Yes, for now it's mostly better for handsome, middle-class white men and, yes, that's a problem, but the Tony Awards, of all things, and Larry Kramer's moving benediction reminded me that despite my qualms with any particular faction of GLBT activism these days, movement is made up of moments, and this moment is one to celebrate.