In Memoriam

Larry Kramer (Jun 25, 1935 – May 27, 2020)
Phyllis Lyon (Nov 10, 2914 – Apr 9, 2020)

” In Memoriam” Cover Photo: Donald Kinney

Larry Kramer

Jun 25, 1935 – May 27, 2020

Larry Kramer with his dog Molly in 1989.Robert Giard, via Estate of Robert Giard; The New York Public Library

Larry Kramer, Prophet and Pussycat

By Jesse Green

On the same sweltering Dallas day that later found him screaming at a crowd of gay revelers, I saw Larry Kramer offer water to a horse.

That was at the start of the city’s 2009 Pride parade, in which Mr. Kramer, the honorary grand marshal, was drawn along the route in a flower-bedecked open carriage, looking like a blissed-out maharajah. “But won’t the horse be thirsty?” he worried. “Let’s see if he’ll drink something.”

The horse was confused, and so was I. Mr. Kramer, who died on Wednesday at 84, was far better known as an apostle of anger than a pussycat. In his many careers — activist, journalist, playwright, novelist, curmudgeon — he had served as a kind of reverse lightning rod, drawing out homophobia from American society to light up the sky with danger.

But to really understand plays like “The Normal Heart” and “The Destiny of Me,” and novels like “Faggots” and “The American People,” you needed to know, or sense between the lines of their barely redacted ire, his other side. This was a man who, lonely and self-hating, tried to commit suicide as an undergraduate at Yale; who, obsessed but patient, waited decades to snag the man he loved; who, after alienating many of his friends and allies, cried and cajoled until most of them once again succumbed to his sweetness. To be on his A-list you had first to be in his doghouse.

Larry Kramer, tireless author, playwright and LGBT activist, dies at 84

By Lily Janiak

Larry Kramer, the playwright and activist who helped change the public perception of gays, particularly those suffering from HIV/AIDS, led a life defined by, spurred by, survival. When he died, on Wednesday of pneumonia in Manhattan, he left behind a body of work that still scorches the eye and ear, still pulses with life and urgency.

He was 84. He is survived by his husband, David Webster.

While so many of his people died around him, of complications from HIV/AIDS, Kramer lived on for decades. (Kramer learned he was HIV positive in 1988 and had a liver transplant in 2001.) For this playwright, author, producer and activist, to live was necessarily to fight, to raise hell, to brook no compromise.

Phyllis Lyon

Nov 10, 1924 – Apr 9, 2020

Photo by Irene Young/Special to San Francisco Bay Time

Lesbian Pioneer Phyllis Lyon (1924-2020)

Betty’s List

San Francisco Bay Times founding contributor, lesbian activist, and civil rights icon Phyllis Lyon died peacefully at her home at age 95 of natural causes (November 10, 1924–April 9, 2020). As columnist Kate Kendell wrote: “Few individuals contributed more to issues impacting LGBTQ, women’s, civil rights, and the rights of elder Americans than Phyllis Lyon and her partner of 58 years Del Martin. Phyllis and Del were the first same-sex couple to marry in California on June 16, 2008. Weeks later, on August 27, 2008, Del Martin died in San Francisco, with Phyllis at her side. Del was 87.”

She added, “In addition to her family, a community of millions mourns the loss of this fierce ‘Lyon’ who made the freedom of women and LGBTQ people her life’s work. (Please scroll down to continue reading.)

No Secret Anymore:
The Times of Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon (2003)

A film by JEB (Joan E. Biren)

No Secret Anymore shows Del and Phyllis creating coalitions that took on the prevailing belief that lesbians were illegal, immoral and sick. Phyllis and Del did the groundbreaking work on lesbian mothers, sex education, family violence, and more. Always working both from within and outside the institutions they sought to change, Del and Phyllis were able to advance the rights of women, lesbians, gay, bisexual, and transgender (lgbt) people. Today these unapologetic and unstoppable activists are educating both the lgbt and aging movements on the needs of old lesbians.

About JEB (Joan E. Biren)

JEB (Joan E. Biren), an internationally recognized documentary artist, began chronicling the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in 1971. She is the author of two groundbreaking books of photography Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians  (1979) and Making A Way: Lesbians Out Front (1987). JEB’s videos, including For Love and For Life: The 1987 March on Washington For Lesbian and Gay Rights  and  A Simple Matter of Justice: The 1993 March on Washington,  are distributed by Frameline. JEB’s work, Being Seen Makes A Movement Possible, is currently installed on the façade of the Leslie-Lohman Museum in NYC.