The Tragedy of Today’s Gays – Review

We went to the Reference Library to buy some cheap ass books at their book store. Ten cents a book, for select books. But the book store didn’t open for another half an hour, so we looked up into that beautiful building, and decided to hit the gay and lesbian section.


Metro Toronto Reference Library by Moriyama and Teshima Architects
Metro Toronto Reference Library by Moriyama and Teshima Architects


The directory said it was on the 2nd floor, and so we headed up. I asked a bored looking librarian where the gay and lesbian section was, and he kindly (and rather excitedly) lead me to the section, all the while explaining that if I wanted medical books about gays and lesbians, I’d have to go to medical. And if I wanted biographies of gays and lesbians, I’d have to go to biographies. This area, he explained, was social sciences.

I thanked him, and started browsing. There are hundreds of thousands of titles in this library, and the “gay and lesbian” section I was shown to was about 200 books at most. They were tucked in between political analyses of porn and child molestation (really). It reminded me of my favourite Indigo bookstore, which is a massive 2 stories and has many thousands of titles. But there is 1.5 shelves (not book cases, just shelves) of gay and lesbian books. Or the Strand in New York, with a tiny gay and lesbian section because, I was told, it’s all mixed in with everything else. I guess that makes sense, but then you can’t just go browse the lesbian books. You have to know what you’re looking for.


Looking through books at Strand in New York City
Looking through books at Strand in New York City



Mostly I was taking photos of book titles for the LesbianFunWorld bibliography collection, but then one caught my eye. The Tragedy of Today’s Gays, by Larry Kramer.

I read quickly. First, just standing by the stacks. Then I got tired and leaned against a half-wall. Eventually we made our way to a table and chairs and I read. And read. And read.

I started off being kind of bemused by Larry’s pronouncements. “The new Supreme Court, due any moment now, will erase us from the slate of everything possible in no time at all. Gay marriage? Forget it. Gay anything good, forget it. Civic rights for gays? Equal protection for gays? Adoption rights? The only thing we are going to get from now on is years of increasing and escalating hate.”

Strong and angry words, and I thought, Ha! Was he wrong! We have gay marriage, and they sort of have it in the US. And we have rights and…


cover of book The Tragedy of Today's Gays
cover of book The Tragedy of Today’s Gays


And then I kept reading. I wasn’t bemused for long, but intrigued. Does he really suggest that we are responsible for our own AIDS epidemic? Yes, that’s exactly what he says. He calls it murder, willful murder, for gay men to have sex without a condom. He says he’s a murderer, having possibly killed dozens of young men by having unprotected sex with them.

We were the first free gay generation, and we were murdered because of our freedom… I wish we could understand and take some responsibility for the fact that for some thirty years those fucking without condoms have been murdering each other with great facility and that down deep inside of us we knew what we were doing…

Stronger words and stronger ideas follow. He attacks those who disdain the history of the gay and lesbian communities because without an understanding of the past, you won’t see the “monstrous acts” the future has in store for you at the hands of the few right, white Christians who run everything. He says we are disappearing before our own eyes.

As much as I love being gay and I love gay people, I’m not proud of us right now. It’s slowly disappeared, this pride. It’s becoming injured. I almost could say we’ve disappeared… They are killing us. They are eradicating us from this earth. Little by little by little we are disappearing. I do not see us, and I am beginning to see us less and less.

As I read that, I was torn between doubting him and being afraid to believe him. And then I thought to myself, if I take just this one experience today, where I went looking for gay and lesbian books and they are all but disappeared, cast down among the child molesters, injured in that fall, I could say we’re disappearing. They are eradicating us from the bookstores and libraries. Little by little by little we are disappearing. We are becoming harder and harder to find until eventually we are blended in completely and hidden in plain sight.

Which, if you know your lesbian herstory, is exactly where we started.

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