Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Night Larry Kramer Dissed Me

How do I begin to explain my first National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention? Imagine going to work conferences for over a decade and always feeling like the odd man out (probably not a hard thing for many of you to imagine) -- and then suddenly going to one where everything feels right. Normally one of these events is a nonstop exercise in social anxiety for me, filled with dread and hiding in the bathroom to avoid uncomfortable small talk. This time I couldn't hardly wait to see what would happen next. A huge part of the pleasure goes to the wonderful company I kept, namely my blogger pals Gregory Hernandez of the L.A. Daily News and Johnny Diaz of the Boston Globe, below, plus Jeff Guaracino of Greater Philadelphia, Tourism the always-fun Sebastian White and his hilarious pal Javi Morgado of "Today" fame.

At the Meet & Greet we got to meet the handsome Ryan W., below, a college student in San Diego who recently posed in the Save the Boom calendar.
After a day of conferencing we hit Hillcrest and had dinner at Mo's (formerly Hamburger Mary's), where the waiter was hot -- and we ran into Eric Alva, the first American wounded in the war in Iraq and a fellow gay American.
Greg and I got a photo with Logo News anchor Itay Hod.
Los Tres Blogeros, below.

With L.A. Times sportswriter Christine Daniels, above, who for 23 years was known at Mike Penner. Daniels writes about her transition to her true identity on the blog Woman in Progress. It was a pleasure to meet her! On the final day things started out great with a wonder Authors' Cafe in which a dozen gay writers read brief passages from their new books. Johnny wooed the crowd with a bit of his new "Boston Boys Club," Michael Luongo fascinated us with tales of gay life in Afghanistan and comedian Bob Smith had the crowd in hysterics with a bit of his new novel, "Selfish & Perverse." (There were many other good ones but I'm drawing a blank right this second.) Everything was going so well until legendary AIDS activist and playwright Larry Kramer threw a bucket of cold water on the event -- wait, with San Diego's unreasonably unseasonably hot temperature and no air conditioning, that might have felt good ... well, you know what I mean. Sadly, it was hard to disagree with just about anything the onetime ACT UP curmudgeon had to say, really. Gays have no political power. Gays have no rights. Gays are a passive population. (The NLGJA was tacky not to give him a plane ticket to come speak at the event!) As Kramer said: Activism has to be a daily thing. It's got to be a part of your life. You cannot stop. The right wing doesn't stop. Their hate fuels them. Why doesn't our anger fuel us?... Anger, I think, is one of the greatest emotions there is. Very useful." How right he is, yet I can't help but think many of us choose not to let it fuel us as to not allow it to eat us up inside. But with another election year heading our way it really does make you wonder how much longer the gay population -- as he thinks we should call ourselves -- will allow itself to go on being treated like third-class citizens. It was hard-hitting discussions like this one that made me sure I'd be back at next year's NLGJA convention in Washington.


Anonymous said...

Larry Kramer is such a bitter Manhattan creature. (That event looks like it was cool, otherwise!)

Unknown said...

Hey Kenneth ... Glad you had fun in San Diego -- the time really flew didn't it?!

One comment on Larry Kramer, though. (Disclaimer: I'm speaking just as an NLGJA member, not as national treasurer.) I wasn't involved in the decision not to reimburse him for his expenses, but my thoughts are these:

NLGJA really has to keep costs down (people already complain that $290 is too much for a convention) and if we invite someone to speak and they don't want to pay their expenses, they can always decline.

If someone really does want to participate (either simply attending or being on a panel, etc.) and can't afford it, we have a Convention Assistance Fund that can help pay registration, airfare and hotel bills. But as someone who donated to that fund, I'd rather see the money go to, for example, a woman whose only income is disability benefits and who otherwise couldn't attend the convention.

Larry Kramer can afford the flight. And if he doesn't want to come, the group just needs to find another speaker who perhaps is local or who is willing to pay their own way.

-david steinberg

Anonymous said...

About Larry Kramer ... while I applaud a lot of what he did in the 1980s for gay rights/activisim as well as AIDS, I think he has not evolved with time.

Too negative.

As I read somewhere else, I got a motto that people can learn from:

"One should get better with life experiences, not bitter."

Anonymous said...

There is a huge difference between anger and bitterness.

Anger can never eat you up inside. Bitterness always does.

Ask Maya Angelou.

Mark S. King said...

Imagine my dismay when I discovered my (witty) blog post title had already been done (almost) by... you! Ah, well. I hope you'll check it out, anyway.

BTW, small world. I was unable to attend the NLGJA conference you write about here because I was sick -- so I couldn't be there to accept "Best Written Opinion Piece of the Year." Or meet Mr. Kramer!

Here's the link to my blog posting -- I think you'll get a kick out of it.