Monday, November 08, 2004

I knew about the speech/address, and wanted to go before the election last week - knowing that the 11 anti-"gay marriage" measures would surely have been approved, and there should be a decent sized crowd based on that alone. Of course, the election night results were even worse than many of us had anticipated, and this made me think the turn-out for this event would be even bigger. One friend of mine declined my invitation to come along, saying "I don't need to be yelled at by Larry Kramer - yet again." I completely understood, and didn't push it. I didn't anticipate necessarily enjoying his speech, as much my own need to be where other gay people would be. Just before going, I joked to a pal - "I can't remember the last time I was in a room of gay men where we weren't either all drunk or naked."

I am not going to give you a report on Kramer's speech. I'm not a terribly good reporter; and, to be quite frank, it wasn't a very good speech. 15 minutes after his standing ovation (which I happily joined in), sitting quietly in my seat, staring at the stage, i thought this is so sad - look at how many people showed up! (they had to turn people away, I learned later) this is not the guy to be talking to us now - but we have NO ONE!

Earlier, as we came into the hall, I realized I hadn't been to this place in over 10 years - back when ACT UP had it's meetings here. By late 1994, when I had stopped participating in ACT UP, the group had moved back to the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. But still, the flood of memories from this room flooded into my head, and the images of missing faces, as well. I started to say something to my friend (ex-boyfriend) sitting next to me, and I could feel the emotion begin to come thru my eyes, and I fled. Just getting up and moving kept the tears at bay, but I went out into the hallway to get some air, some space, and collect myself. Out there, except for it being nearly empty, it looked the same as it did 10-12 years ago. There were these huge tables, empty now, but back then, there would be these 3 or 4 huge tables full of handouts - background information, reports, alerts for "actions" - just tons of paperwork that you would stand in line for and take up a good 15-20 minutes collecting before the meeting started inside. It would be very social - lots of kissing and hugging, and yes, a good amount of flirting and cruising. Staring now at the empty tables, I snapped back to "reality" as a man walked by, a familiar yet aged face, and he smiled as he saw my eyes come back from the empty tables. So I headed back into the room, took my seat and waited.

Only two things from that long talk stick with me - and only one was from Mr. Kramer himself. It's easy to dismiss so much of what he says, not because he is wrong, but because once he goes overboard, with broad generalities of how things have never been worse, how horrible "they" are and how selfish we all are - it's natural and easy to defend ourselves by poking little holes into his arguments. But one sentiment - and let me be clear, this is not so much what he said as it is what I heard - clearly oversimplified, inaccurate, and even "wrong" in so many ways, but still -

about fifteen years ago, several thousand gay men got together and fought for the lives of other gay men. with hard work and determination, after several years, they secured better drugs, and quicker approval of these drugs. and the plague, the massive amounts of AIDS deaths, came to an end. And then we stopped fighting for our community, and got back to fucking.

Later, during the even-more-painful comments/questions part of the evening, Andy Humm spoke. (gosh, why isn't THIS guy in politics?!!?) The gist of what he had to say was that if Kramer doesn't see the need for a new ACT UP like gay group, shouldn't we be demanding more of the Gay groups we already have? Shouldn't we be demanding that they be more accountable, more democratic, in terms of community input, participation, and decision-making? And shouldn't we be more involved in these groups? Not write-a-check involved, but actively participating, more grass-roots oriented?

Kramer grabbed me on the gut level - why aren't we doing anything??! - and Humm grabbed me on the 'pragamtic' level - how do we make our institutions work for us? I don't know what is next for "US", nor for me, which is really all I can actually affect. But as the world moves on, the discussion over whether the gays ruined it for the Democrats continues, and we discuss how the Democrats ruined it for us, we need to get to work soon.

The tragedy of today's gays - ok, so that wasn't really today's topic. It was the title of Kramer's speech, and quite frankly, after months of psychoanalyzing closet case politicans and Gay Republicans, hating the democratic party for not standing up for us, then giving in and being pragmatic and endorsing them, I'm tired of the useless fighting and name-calling and more interested in effectiveness. Being right isn't good enough any longer. Yes, GAYS IN THE MILITARY, GAY MARRIAGE, employment non-discrimination, adoption etc etc etc. But HOW do we get there? or even closer to there?