Larry Kramer was the first and, arguably, the most outspoken voice in the fight against acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). His plays and essays were written to educate gay men as well as government, media, and education officials about improved medical research, health care, and prevention of AIDS. The son of George L. and Rea (Wishengrad) Kramer, he was born in Connecticut but moved to Washington, D.C. in 1941. He hated his father, who abused him both physically and emotionally for being a “sissy.” Kramer felt isolated during his formative years, not only because of his Jewish heritage but also because he had begun to express his homosexuality, although with fear and guilt. The process of accepting his homosexuality began in 1953, his freshman year at Yale University, when he had an affair with one of his professors. He sought psychiatric help, which soon led him to the realization that he could not change his sexual orientation.
After graduating with a B.A. in English literature in 1957, Kramer served in the United States Army and later secured a position with Columbia Pictures as an assistant story editor. He was sent to London, where he worked on several major feature films, including Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Kramer launched his own writing career by writing the screenplay for D. H. Lawrence’s 1921 novel Women in Love, a commercial success in 1969 that was both lauded and criticized for its emphasis on the homosexual aspects of the book. Although this experience gave Kramer the motivation to deal with gay themes, he was unable to interest film producers in his scripts. In 1975 he turned to the theater, but his Sissies’ Scrapbook failed to attract an audience, and his other scripts went unproduced.
The 1970’s New York City gay community was in the midst of its sexual revolution, but Kramer deplored that lifestyle. He responded to it with his novel Faggots, a satiric exposé of the Fire Island gay scene with its one-night stands, drug use, sadomasochism, and desperation. Faggots...
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