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If We Don’t Fight Back, We Die: Larry Kramer’s Full Speech at the 2019 Queer Liberation March

Web ExclusiveMay 28, 2020
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Upon the death of trailblazing AIDS activist Larry Kramer, we feature one of his last major speeches, when 4 million people took to the streets of New York City in 2019 for the largest LGBTQ Pride celebration in history to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising that sparked the modern-day LGBTQ movement. There were two marches: Revelers marched down Fifth Avenue cheered on by millions for the WorldPride parade; and in Sheridan Square, at the site where gay and trans people clashed with police in 1969, tens of thousands gathered for the anti-corporate Queer Liberation March. Democracy Now! was there when Larry Kramer addressed the crowd from the stage, in his wheelchair. “I’m approaching my end. But I still have a few years of fight in me to scream out,” Kramer says. “To scream out the fact that almost everyone gay I’ve known has been affected by this plague of AIDS.” Click here for our interview with ACT UP members and Tony Kushner remembering trailblazing AIDS activist Larry Kramer.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

CROWD: Fight AIDS! ACT UP! Fight back! Fight AIDS! ACT UP! Fight back! Fight AIDS! ACT UP! Fight back! Fight AIDS!

LARRY KRAMER: There are 45,000 of us here today, I am told. Can you hear me?

CROWD: Yes!

LARRY KRAMER: What does Pride mean to you? I’ll tell you what it means to me. I love being gay. I love my people. I think, in many ways, we’re better than other people. I think we’re smarter and more talented and more aware of each other. And I do, I do, I totally do. I am very proud to be gay.

I’m approaching my end, but I still have a few years of fight left in me to scream out.

SUPPORTER: Yeah! Yes! We love you!

LARRY KRAMER: To scream out the fact that almost everyone gay I’ve known has been affected by this plague of AIDS. As it has since its beginning, this has continued to be my motivation for everything I’ve done. It’s been a fight I’ve been proud of fighting.

I almost died three times. I started a couple of organizations to fight with me against the plague. In the end, we failed. I certainly feel that I failed.

CROWD: No!

LARRY KRAMER: There is no cure for this plague. Too many of us are still getting infected. We have become too complacent with PrEP. Research for the cure is still in the Stone Age. The few treatments we have are woefully expensive and come with troublesome side effects. And their manufacturer is holding us up to ransom. Yes, we have lost the fight against AIDS.

It is hard to stand up to the huge portion of the population of American people that hates us. I don’t mean dislike; I mean hate. When we started dying, we told the American people what was happening to us, but the American people didn’t do anything. I hope it’s finally dawning on you that maybe those American people didn’t and don’t want to do anything about this. I hope you might have noticed. I can’t tell.

Laws and regulations that sort of protected us are now being repealed or rewritten. Their media, their newspapers, their networks of the rich and religious, their very president and vice president will see to it that we are useless.

CROWD: Boo! Boo! Fuck Trump! ACT UP! ACT UP! Fuck Trump! ACT UP! Fuck Trump! Fight back! Fight AIDS!

LARRY KRAMER: Their wildest dreams are coming true: The faggots are disappearing, and they are doing it to themselves.

We have everything required to save our world except the will to do it. It should have been simple — fight for our rights, take care of ourselves and each other, be proud of ourselves, be proud we are gay. This should be what every gay person is fighting for, seven days each and every week.

Most people — most gay people I see appear to have too much time on their hands. Hell, if you have time to get hooked on drugs and do your endless rounds of sex seeking, cyber surfing, until dawn, you do have too much time on your hands. We are better than that. I repeat: We are better than that.

If we do not fight back against our enemies we will continue to be murdered. But we have a population that is inept at organizing ourselves. And we have a monstrously bad record of attempting unity. We are not very good at fighting back.

All this is very sad and frightening. A large uncongealed mass of potentially excellent people doesn’t know what to do with themselves or even bother to learn the history that got us here. So they dance. So they drug. So they go on the apps to find more sex. These are useful lives being wasted.

Do you think our enemies care about the rise of HIV infections? They’re grateful for them. They thank us for our cooperation and our silence and our invisibility. And while all this happened, what did we do? We shrank from our duty of opposition. Yes, our duty of opposition. In other words, fight back! We need to fight back all together as one. I would love to hear you and see you express the importance of this. If you love being gay as much as I do, fight back.

SUPPORTER: Fight back! Fight AIDS!

LARRY KRAMER: Now word has come down from on high: Get rid of the faggots once and for all. You think the law — you think the law and this president and Supreme Court will protect us?

CROWD: No! No way!

LARRY KRAMER: Think again. Tell me: What do you do with yourselves all week long, seven days and nights a week, that amounts to anything really important for us as a people? What do you do to make your world, our world, our history, a better place, a world that needs every bit of help it can get? Our world, not their world. Because I do not see enough of us fighting this fight, performing our duty.

I love being gay. I love my people. I think, in many ways, we’re better than other people. I really do. I think we’re smarter and more talented and more aware of each other. And I do, I do, I totally do. But I am finding that I am not so proud of being gay today as I was yesterday. As much as I love being gay and I love gay people, I’m not proud of us right now. I desperately want to feel full of pride again.

SUPPORTER: You’re my hero!

LARRY KRAMER: Please, please give me something to be proud of again. Please, all of you, do your duty of opposition in these dark and dangerous days. Thank you.

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“How to Survive a Plague”: As ACT UP Turns 25, New Film Chronicles History of AIDS Activism in U.S.

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