Larry Kramer and Social Change
Larry Kramer and the Struggle against HIV/AIDS
The problem of HIV / AIDS emerged in the late twentieth century. For more than thirty years since the onset of this disease, the mankind has been struggling with it, but the problem is still not solved. HIV / AIDS is not only a problem of one country but a global problem in today's world. It is associated with demographic, economic, and social challenges and remains one of the major problems of the world community. HIV affects not only the individual's health but also the state and the society as a whole. To find a cure for this disease in future, all the people should be interested uniting their efforts (Brier 123). Using the example of Larry Kramer, a well-known American gay writer, activist, and a fighter for the rights of HIV-infected LGBT people, this paper aims at analyzing how social change happens in society.
Larry Kramer was born in 1935 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Kramer has become famous because of his works about the life of gays and the struggle for the rights of people living with HIV. Larry Kramer is the most contradictory figure in the US gay culture in the last thirty years (Long 236). He enraged the American gays with his novel "Faggots" in which he harshly criticized the promiscuity in the gay media. He was one of the founders of Gay Men's Health Crisis and ACT UP, the first and most influential activist groups to fight AIDS (Jefferson 37). Being homosexual himself, Larry Kramer showed a great interest in the social problems of HIV-infected gays. At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, he has become the most vivid and passionate voice among the activists because this problem was very close to him. At the same time, he has amassed countless enemies; however, no matter what spiteful critics said, this man was first who drew public attention to the AIDS problem.
Kramer was a radical activist. He was the first who realized the consequences of the epidemic and raised the alarm in his essays published in The New York Native, a gay paper. In his famous essay "1,112 and Counting", he wrote that if this article did not annoy or enrage the society, if it did not impel it to act, the gays could be deprived of the future on Earth (Blaney 13). Larry Kramer said that the continued existence of gays depended only on how much the society could help them. In 1982, he created the project Gay Men's Health Crisis / GMHC (Jefferson 37). In 1985, Kramer wrote the play "The Normal Heart", which became one of his first and most successful literary works the appearance of which was caused by the spread of AIDS. The biggest part of this play is an autobiography about a group of gay men at the onset of the AIDS epidemic. The play is very sincere and emotional; it touches the soul and reflects the despair and horror of real people during a growing epidemic. Today, it has turned into a history lesson for those who were not the witnesses of the first wave of the epidemic. Larry Kramer believes that this lesson is vital to them. This play is a manifestation of Kramer’s own personal tragedy and the tragedy of the whole society. He wrote it as a story of love in the memory of the man whom he loved and who died. He wanted people to see the scene of two men, who love each other. His aim was also to make the society understand that love, suffering, and death of gay men are not different from other people's experiences. Morever, after Kramer’s play, people shouted that AIDS is the worst thing in the world.
Kramer went on openly calling the society to show responsibility commensurate with the scale of AIDS. In 1987, Kramer took an active part in the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power / ACT UP (Jefferson 38). From the very beginning, the initiative group focused on the dissemination of preventive medicine, and the first action was a mass demonstration of March 24, 1987 on Wall Street in New York (Jefferson 38). Two hundred and fifty people blocked traffic for several hours. It must be mentioned that they have achieved considerable results from society. Demonstration itself and the subsequent arrests, unlike the majority of similar cases involving gay actions against AIDS, have received a wide coverage in the media. In subsequent months, the organization ACT UP has opened dozens of branches across the country.
In 1988, Larry Kramer found out that he was HIV-positive. As a result, in 1992, he wrote a well-known play "The Destiny of Me," which was the continuation of "The Normal Heart" (Long 243). Kramer wanted to write a personal story of the way of adoption of his homosexuality, on the one hand, and about the difficult and unique social problem of his generation, on the other one. The voice of Larry Kramer's was the loudest among other activists, protesting against a system that has doomed so many people to the untimely death, against the society. Sharp, with a clear position, and irreplaceable, Kramer is the most prominent gay in America today. The organizations which he helped to create, GMHC and ACT UP, continue their activities and are the most important institutions in the modern American gay struggle for survival (Brier 161). Thus, Larry Kramer's radical voice in his books and films,as well as the actions taken by ACT UP organization, such as provoking marches and demonstrations, had a great effect not only on the daily lives of many gays but also on the US culture and government policy. As a result, these people have been heard; they have managed to draw attention to the media and have achieved more serious actions in the fight against HIV / AIDS from the government.
To sum up, HIV / AIDS problem, especially among gays, is a serious social challenge, which affects both the human rights and social activity of an individual and the economy of the country. Therefore, it requires close co-operation of international and national institutions in this field. Thanks to the active efforts of the activists like Larry Kramer and the organizations like GMHC and ACT UP, now HIV has become less deadly than several years ago. However, the society still needs to focus on reducing the scale of this disease.