Larry Kramer's Case Against "Queer"

Longtime activist and writer Larry Kramer schools the crowd as he accepted an award from Yale's Gay and Lesbian Association.

BY Charles Kaiser

April 28 2009 11:00 PM ET

Larry Kramer went to
Yale University last week to be honored by its Gay and Lesbian
Association during its very first alumni reunion. The brooding
author-playwright-AIDS activist used the occasion to
deliver a broadside against Yale

, queer theory -- as well as the word "queer" -- and
all the American historians who have buried evidence that
Kramer believes makes Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Alexander
Hamilton, and Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark) great gay
Americans.

Like me, Kramer rejects
the notion that no one ever thought of himself as gay in
previous centuries the same way we did in the 20th. "I
began to explore all this stuff, and I began to see that people

did

have sex in the old days," Kramer told Advocate.com.
"It's ridiculous -- there's all this business now
about passionate friendship, that all the colonial guys wrote
in all this very flowery message, and that was sort of standard
procedure and it didn't mean anything gay. I'm about to
review book a book by Richard Godbeer, a professor at the
University of Miami, called
TheOverflowing of Friendship: Love Between Men and the Creation
of the American Republic.

It's 400 pages of letters that people wrote to each other, and
I just don't buy for one second that they're
straight."

"I needed no queer
theories, no gender studies, to figure all this out,"
Kramer said in his speech at Yale.

Part of Kramer's
objection to queer theory is that he thinks it crowds out more
important gay history, preventing it from getting the attention
it deserves at the university level. In his speech he noted
there were 22 courses offered in "the Pink Book of LGBT
studies" and only one of them, George Chauncey's course
titled U.S. Lesbian and Gay History,
"

is a gay history course." The rest of them range from
Cross-Cultural Narratives of Desire to Beauty, Fashion, and
Self-Styling.

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