Taking the microphone following publisher Michael Phelps‘ celebration of the 40-year old magazine’s “new” design, Kramer – whose ACT-UP helped pave the way for the AIDS movement – implored Phelps and his staffers to do more than toying with new fonts.
Dallas Voice‘s David Webb reports:
As the nation’s largest gay publication – one that had once lived up to the nature of its name – The Advocate owed more to the nation’s LGBT population, [Kramer] said.
The publisher and his editor had little to say, except that the magazine had evolved over its 40 years.
Kramer’s reformist mission continued two days later during a prescheduled speech. The 72-year old insists today’s gay activists aren’t as effective as they could be:
The activist – who once roared but now almost whispers into the microphone – accused LGBT people of being “passive” and “apathetic” today. Freedom cannot be won without a fight, he warned.
“If you want the freedom, [then] you have to find a way,” Kramer said. “Just don’t be so passive. We are capable of so much more.”
He lashed out at society in general and the education system for failing to teach the history of gay and lesbian people to students. Kramer called on people to get angry and resume “in their face” activism like he and others employed in the 1980s when gay men were dying daily from AIDS.
He complained that he is concerned his partner will not inherit enough from his estate to be secure when he dies because of unfair laws that penalize gay couples and reward straight ones. He lashed out at gay rights leaders, claiming their tactics are not doing enough to bring about equality for LGBT people.
One attendee, another 80’s era activist, William Waybourn agrees with Kramer, but only to a certain extent.
Waybourn says that while Kramer’s got a point, he’s fallen victim to convenient, partially blind exaggeration.
I understand his frustration. It’s the same for all of us in that age range. You have a greater sense that the clock is ticking.
Things are never as bad or as good as Larry Kramer makes them out to be. He’s right, and he’s wrong. I think we’ve made a lot of progress. Is it enough? I don’t think so. I think there is a lot more that could be done.
Is it going to happen in our lifetimes? I don’t think so because there’s just not the fervor that existed that was not only driven by the passion for equality but also because AIDS was upon us. It created a different dynamic back then.
Waybourn concedes that many of today’s activists lack a “driving force”.
While Kramer and Waybourn may have a point, perhaps activists avenues have simply taken a technological turn. Rather than rallying troops on the streets, activist bloggers and political operatives are using the Internet to spread their message. And, as we saw with Michael Rogers and Larry Craig, they’re having tremendous results.