I love being gay. I love gay people. I think we’re better than other people. I really do. I think we’re smarter and more talented and more aware. I do, I do, I totally do. And I think we’re more tuned in to what’s happening, tuned in to the moment, tuned in to our emotions, and other people’s emotions, and we’re better friends. I really do think all these things.1
In the aftermath of the 2004 election, when George W. Bush recaptured the presidency and marriage amendments swept the nation, Larry Kramer’s clarion call began with words of validation that many needed to hear. I certainly needed to hear it. Shocked that a despicable man successfully exploited fear and loathing of gay people to seize another four years, I believed Kramer’s claim “that a huge portion of the population of the United States hates us.”2
That reality was cemented long before I was born.
Holocaust survivor Heinz Heger3 was sent to a concentration camp for the crime of homosexuality. Heger’s harsh treatment was mitigated by exchanging sexual favors for protection. He was rewarded with a supervisory position that provided other benefits. Other prisoners endured similar arrangements to receive better treatment. Status and wealth earned an SS agent and his male lover special privileges.
Kramer may think that gay people are “better than other people,” but Heger’s account demonstrates that even the “chosen” have used their position as leverage for preferential treatment.
Privileged Jews also took advantage of their status and wealth. Hannah Arendt noted that Jewish emigration “had become a flourishing business: for enormous amounts of money, Jews could buy their way out.”4
“[S]pecial care was taken not to deport Jews with connections and important acquaintances in the outside world.” In other words, the less “prominent” Jews were constantly sacrificed to those whose disappearance in the East would create unpleasant inquiries.5
[. . .]
In Germany today, the notion of “prominent” Jews has not yet been forgotten. While the veterans and other privileged groups are no longer mentioned, the fate of “famous” Jews is still deplored at the expense of all others. There are more than a few people, especially among the cultural elite, who still publicly regret the fact that Germany sent Einstein packing, without realizing that it was a much greater crime to kill little Hans Cohn from around the corner, even though he was no genius.6
Self-preservation may be chalked up to human nature, but the accounts by Heger and Arendt demonstrate that nobody’s perfect. Not even “chosen” ones.
1 Kramer, Larry. The Tragedy of Today’s Gays. New York: Penguin Group, 2005, 35-36.
2 Ibid., 37
3 Heger, Heinz. The Men with the Pink Triangle. New York: Alyson Books, 1994.
4 Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem. New York: Penguin Books, 2006, 25.
5 Ibid., 133.
6 Ibid., 134.