Faggots is about someone burned out by the above and questioning whether our authentic selves could find long-term fufillment, and I can’t say that I don’t see his side of things. The casual sex itself isn’t a problem; it’s the managing and policing of sex in the “fast lane,” the relegation of this to our “free time.” Sexuality begins to look like work—a grind, even. We can’t truly think of ourselves as sexually free this way, and for Larry, this meant the kind of emotionally intimate partnership he couldn’t obtain. That’s not an uncommon feeling as someone who’s had enough drug fueled sex for a lifetime. I think Silvia Federici, in “Why Sexuality Is Work” speaks to this other side of sexual liberation which remains incomplete:
Sexuality is the release we are given from the discipline of the work process. It is the necessary complement to the routine, regimentation of the work-week. It is a license to “go mad,” to “let go,” so that we can return more refreshed on Monday to our jobs.
The world of anonymous and wild gay sex, which I love so dearly, still doesn’t prevent sex from being subject to what is done to our labor, chopped up into individual pieces, commodified in terms of leisure time vs. productive time, and alienating us from our truest desires.
A further completion of sexual liberation is difficult to describe in the present, but we know it will come with the transformation of our relations of labor and care, away from the “Sexuality as Work” Federici describes. I do know the first step looks like a conquest of political power. So long as the queers do not control our sexual health, clinics, bathhouses, sex clubs, etc., the entire legacy of queer liberation and sexual liberation will remain incomplete. We do not often see these as sites of rebellion or struggle, but the fact is, they are not under the control of a great deal of us, they define and shape particular moments in our lives, and we have very little say in how they are run and operated.
Gay Men’s Health Crisis was there when AIDS was still called “Gay Related Immune Deficiency.” Gay Men’s Health Crisis showed how emergent new forms of collective care reproduce workers in new horizons of struggle. The first, most immediate task, which took years to become sustainable and self-sufficient, was to take up the health care for those who were routinely refused, left to die, possibly housed in hospitals but untouchable by staff. Survival necessitated this. It also necessitated political militancy, which Larry couldn’t find in the GMHC.
He would come to double-down on the views he put forward in Faggots in an alarming and provocative essay, “1,112 and Counting.” This was received a bit differently, given its urgent tone and no-punches-held method. It couldn’t be denied that AIDS was something to be taken seriously, and that we would need a movement if we were to survive AIDS. Larry suffered from a bit of foot-in-mouth syndrome. I think if I were around then, and especially as my younger self, I’d probably hate him. However, people listened to Larry, and I don’t know if that would be possible if he were anyone but himself. We desperately needed people to listen then.
Larry came out of years of being burned out by the very important work of Gay Men’s Health Crisis. He felt held back by the need to have a Board of Directors and the lack of political freedom that being an NGO imposed. Larry wanted to take down everyone in his way. Larry was willing to go further and push for the most militant tactics possible, even if some might call it a bluff. Larry was a real motherfucker when it came to being an activist. He knew how to grapple with power. Remember what I said about Larry not being very politically sophisticated? It sort of didn’t matter. Larry was the face of desperation that was in the air, his way of doing things was somewhat indicative of this. He was a part of the reality to be dealt with. He didn’t sugarcoat anything and didn’t give a fuck what you thought, to the dismay of many. He yelled, he cursed, he didn’t mind bad publicity, he called elected officials “incompetent bureaucrats.”