Vibing with Cat White
Celebrating Pride and Passion
June is LGBTQIA+ Pride month. An opportunity for those in the community to celebrate who they are, freely and joyfully, just as cisgender heterosexuals (cishets) do 100% of the time. It’s also a time to remember and honor those who’ve fought and sacrificed for the protection and visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community.
There are so many activists, well known and personal, that I could mention. I urge everyone to do some research because there are many fascinating, courageous people who fought, and continue to fight, for LGBTQIA+ rights, and we should know who they are and what they’ve done. All American history is important.
I wanted to shout-out to an iconic activist whom I describe frequently, as my spirit animal, Larry Kramer. He was a playwright, author, film producer and outspoken, unapologetic gay rights activist warrior who helped found the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power).
Larry Kramer, playwright, author and iconic gay activist.
Coming of age just as the HIV/AIDS epidemic was beginning, it was a confusing and frightening time. Particularly, because no one knew what was killing (mostly) gay men in the early 1980s and, while human beings were dying in droves, America’s government and, as a result, its general public wasn’t paying much attention to the “gay plague.” The sentiment of the country’s leaders at the time seemed to be that, whatever was killing homosexual men was unimportant as long as it was only killing that group of Americans.
Tired of watching his friends die horrible, painful deaths while being, largely, ignored by medical professionals, scientists, public health experts and legislators that had the power to fund research, medicine, cures and medical assistance for those afflicted with HIV and AIDS; Kramer raged, verbally attacked the powerful and sparked dramatic protests that would not be ignored. His anger fueled his action and changed the attention the disease received.
I loved that Kramer was unapologetic about expressing his anger, even though he offended the mighty, and lost many friends. In addition to holding the powerful accountable, he also chastised the gay community for the continued reckless behavior of some who resisted changing, or taking responsibility, for their behaviors’ contribution to spreading HIV. (By the way, it should be noted that the 1970s and early 80s was an experiment in sexual freedom for straights/heterosexuals, as well. Look up history on Plato’s Retreat, Studio 54 and the 1960s and 70s sexual freedom. Sex was free and freaky all the way around.)
There are so many video clips of Kramer railing against the apathy with which America’s government and general public reacted to the innumerable AIDS deaths, as long as those losses were of gay men and poor people. Who knows how long the American government would have ignored the disease without Kramer’s aggressive, strategic haranguing?
However, one needs only to scroll the ACT UP memorial Board for Larry Kramer, who died in 2020 at the age of 84, to gauge his impact on the LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS community. Even Dr. Fauci, whom Kramer criticized and insulted frequently in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, spoke fondly of the passionate activist when he died.
Kramer’s passion saved lives, including his own.
I’ve always been a vocal person, raised by strong women – my mom, grandma, and aunts, in particular; as well as the extensive village of our community – who ensured I understood the importance and validity of my voice. As a member of the BIPOC female community, whose perspective has frequently been silenced and disregarded throughout history, that knowledge and encouragement was incredibly important and helped shape my journey to the person I’ve become – someone who stands up for, and tries to amplify the voices of, the powerless and easily manipulated. Nothing changes if we don't speak up against injustice when we see it.
That’s why I admired Larry Kramer so much. His anger at the blatant disregard of human life fueled his passion to speak truth to power and demand that something be done.
The trick is to not be swallowed up by the anger and frustration, to not hold it in but channel it into action.
It’s important for me to stand up and speak out about issues I find important. I was raised to believe that I live in a country whose citizens are expected to participate in its governance and, currently, there are way too many Americans who are ill-equipped to uphold their responsibilities. Critical thinking and education are also important, as is honest, and sometimes blunt, communication.
I appreciate diversity of thought but appreciation doesn’t mean agreement or acceptance. Sharing our concerns, whether they be about our government, country, world issues, etc., offers us the opportunity to find compromise. It’s also our responsibility as American citizens, and it really is the least we can do.
As we close out a month that recognizes the relevance of self love and acceptance, as well as Black Americans finally realizing freedom from slavery in America, and enter a month that is supposed to celebrate American independence and freedom, I suggest we take inspiration from Larry Kramer and channel our anger and passion, into action.
The fight for equal rights and justice is never over.
Southern Tier Life kicked off a local poetry series in April. In July, we’re inviting poets and writers of all ages to submit contributions about their vision and/or thoughts on America to post on the website throughout the month. If you’re interested in contributing, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.