LGBTQ community mourns passing of Larry Kramer

Larry Kramer
Larry Kramer photo by David Shankbone

Larry Kramer was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and HIV activist

The LGBTQ community is mourning the passing of pioneer HIV activist Larry Kramer. Kramer, 84, died of pneumonia in New York, according to close friend and literary executor William Schwalbe.

Kramer captured the nation’s attention in the early 1980s with an essay called “1,112 and Counting,” shifting focus to the spread of AIDS, then a barely understood disease. At a time when society shunned those infected with the deadly virus, it helped bring about change in the understanding of what kind of crisis AIDS was.

“If this article doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men have no future on this earth,” Kramer wrote. “Unless we fight for our lives, we shall die.”

Kramer was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for the 1969 film Women in Love, was one of the first activists in the fight against AIDS, and co-founded the Gay Man’s Health Crisis, a leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy. Later, he helped found ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). ACT Up planned demonstrations, die-ins, and political funerals, while speaking out against government officials and religious leaders to speed up AIDS research.

HIV positive himself, Kramer wrote the play The Normal Heart, a semi-autobiographical play that focused on the AIDS crisis in New York. It was made into an HBO movie in 2014 starring Mark Ruffalo and out actor Matt Bomer.

Larry Kramer
Larry Kramer photo by David Shankbone

Kramer was known for his harsh rhetoric, calling out political figures he felt weren’t doing enough to defeat the AIDS crisis. One of his targets was former New York mayor Ed Koch, who he blamed in 1,112 and Counting for being apathetic toward those stricken with AIDS. Another target was Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom Kramer called a murderer in an open letter to the San Francisco Examiner in 1988. They later became friends, with Fauci crediting Kramer and other ACT UP activists for helping to speed up the process in which drugs are tested by the federal government.

“Larry made a huge contribution to our world as an activist but also as a writer,” friend and literary executor William Schwalbe said of his friend of 57 years. “I believe that his plays and novels, from The Normal Heart to The American People will more than stand the test of time.”

Larry Kramer 1935-2020, #ThankYouLarry