Dear Mr. Larry Kramer,
I am, if not a straight woman exactly—it’s never felt a totally accurate description given my feeling, much more prominent when I was younger than now at 39, that I am in some important, core regard androgynous, more like a femme boy who desires men than a straight woman—then someone who has lived a straight life outwardly, with all its attendant privileges. But perhaps because of my early feelings of affinity with gay men, I first encountered mention of you and your work at fourteen years old, when I checked Randy Shilts’s now-classic And the Band Played On out of the public library.
At the time, I was a short-haired anorexic androgyne living in rural, conservative Texas, and when I was bullied on the bus a few years before it’d been in the language of the most ugly and virulent homophobia of that time and place. And so, although I did not personally know any out gay men or lesbians at that time, I felt that whoever these “faggots” and “dykes” were to which I was so mercilessly compared, I must have something in common with them. And so too, on the bus, when a classmate—not quite a friend, but not a bully either—casually referred to someone as a “faggot,” I politely inquired: Who are these “faggots” of which you speak? Another girl who was a friend, an outcast like me, had already sort of schooled me; she was more worldly than I was since her mom let her read Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz. A “fag” is a guy who does guys, she’d explained. And a “queer” is a guy who does both. Continue reading