On the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth, read what LGBT rights activist and playwright Larry Kramer had to say about Reagan shortly after his death in 2004.
COMMENTARY: The following piece was originally published in The Advocate issue dated July 6th, 2004.
Our murderer is dead. The man who murdered more gay people than anyone in the entire history of the world, is dead. More people than Hitler even. In all the tributes to his passing, as I write this two days after his death, not one that I have seen has mentioned this. The hateful New York Times (“all the news that’s fit to print”) of course said nothing about this. We still are not fit to write about with total honesty in their pages. Not really. Just as we were not fit for Ronald Reagan to talk about us. What kind of president is that?
I have been writing a long work of history which I call The American People. I chose this title because in every speech he ever made, Reagan went on and on about “the American People.” We of course were never a part of his American People. And we knew it. Year after year of his hateful and endless reign we knew we were not a part of the American People he was President of. He would never talk about us, of course, or do anything for us except murder us. There were no social services for us. There was no research into our health. Even as we were dying like flies. How could he not have seen us dying? The answer is he did see us dying and he chose to do nothing. There was no representation in his government of us. There was never anything for us but his ignoble dismissal of us. All of Washington, indeed the world, knew that Reagan hated us. How could they not? Most of them did, too. And when Daddy doesn’t love you, who is there who will stand up to Daddy? This is a trick that Hitler used and which I believe the young Reagan learned from him. He never had to say much out loud himself about his hatreds; but everyone knew what they were. Gays were as hated under Reagan as Jews were under Hitler. It is a trick that both George Bushes have carbon-copied. We have not been included among their American people either.
I could never understand why Reagan’s hatred of us was so intense and manifest and never-ending. Some of Nancy Reagan’s best friends were gay, the self-loathing Jerry Zipkin, at one time her principle “walker,” chief among them. It is said he taught her how to dress. In my play, Just Say No, I dramatized my own theory of why she and her husband kept gays off their agenda as if we were the plague, which of course, as in some hideous self-fulfilling prophecy, we became. Ron Reagan, Jr. That is why. It was no secret in an ever-widening circle that Ron Reagan, Jr. was suspected of being gay. In his freshman year at Yale (I believe this was his only year there; perhaps there were two), I have been told he had numerous gay experiences. I am well known at Yale. Indeed, I have established the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale to document the evil acts that American “history” has performed on us.
And just as damning of the son’s reputation, of course, because it could not be hidden, was that Ron Reagan, Jr. was a ballet dancer. This did not look good and was obviously exceedingly embarrassing to a father who rode so many horses. So off with the tutu and on with a wedding ring. Junior was married off and sent to far-off places in positions of low visibility. I have gay friends in Hollywood, equally closeted, who knew him and know him and protect him. To know him is to be sworn to some sort of pact of secrecy. What a hideous life Ron, Jr. must have led all these years. To be denied a life and to have been so utterly gutless about fighting back. (Well, we know all about that.) While his own mother was gallivanting around with some of the biggest fairies in the world. What hateful parents to have had in the prime of your life, “the great communicator” of a father out there communicating how much he hated you and his wife out there going along with this. I suspect by now Ron Reagan, Jr. actually believes he is straight. By now he may very well be. He may well have been all along. He just looked so suspicious, and of course it was this perceived suspicion that, one way or the other, is what caused his father to murder so many of us. Why does history not recognize this monstrous and never-ending history of hatred and the inestimable number of deaths it continues to cause?
People magazine called me for a quote Reagan’s death. “I wish he had died before he was elected” is what I told them. I wonder what they will run.
It is remarkable that two of the so-called “greatest presidents” have also allowed the greatest perpetrations and perpetuations of mass murder. Franklin D. Roosevelt was shamefully inept in dealing with “the Jewish question,” (see my play The Normal Heart), most ironically since so many Jews were his most loyal supporters, the Jerry Zipkins of their day. No one really writes about this. Roosevelt is one of history’s great gods. Just as no one really writes about Reagan and “the gay question.” These two major murderers so far have gotten away with helping to cause the two major holocausts of modern history. Just as Jews are asked to never forget their Holocaust, I implore all gay people never to forget our holocaust and who caused it and why. Ronald Reagan did not even say the word “AIDS” out loud for the first seven years of his reign. Because of this, some 70 million people, so far, have become infected with HIV/AIDS. I wonder what it feels like to be the son and the wife of a man responsible for over 70 million people so far becoming infected with a virus that has killed over half of us so far. I wonder what it felt like while he was alive to ponder this. For surely he must have thought about it. How could he not? He has been called the consummate actor who came to believe all his lines. Does this not make his legacy even more grotesque? It should.
Hitler knew what he was doing. How could Ronald Reagan not have known what he was doing?
But of course, no one is writing about this. Reagan too is one of history's gods.
So far he has gotten away with murder.