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Angels in America

  • Study Guide

Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained

Your problem, Henry, is that you are hung up on words, on labels, that you believe they mean what they seem to mean. AIDS. Homosexual. Gay. Lesbian. You think these are names that tell you who someone sleeps with, but they don't tell you that. No. Like all labels they tell you one thing and one thing only: where does an individual so identified fit in the food chain, in the pecking order? Not ideology, or sexual taste, but something much simpler: clout. Not who I fuck or who fucks me, but who will pick up the phone when I call, who owes me favors. This is what a label refers to. Now to someone who does not understand this, homosexual is what I am because I have sex with men. But really this is wrong. Homosexuals are not men who sleep with other men. Homosexuals are men who in fifteen years of trying cannot get a pissant antidiscrimination bill through the City Council. Homosexuals are men who know nobody and who nobody knows. Who have zero clout. Does this sound like me, Henry?

Roy's tirade to his doctor Henry in Act One, Scene Nine of Millennium is a succinct example of his view of the world. Roy imagines that he has no connection to other homosexual men because he sits at the right hand of Nancy Reagan. In Roy's deluded world, values like love, honor and trust are irrelevant, and all human relationships can be tallied up by favors granted or seconds needed to return a phone call. This point of view contrasts unfavorably with the charity and generosity of Belize, who cares for Prior not because he thinks he will get something in return but because he is a friend. Roy's rant signals his moral unworthiness, the evil he is capable of. Ironically, as much as he believes himself to be distinct from the gay community, his opponents on the disbarment committee see him as just another "faggot." And while his clout secures him a private stash of AZT, it is ultimately worthless since it cannot protect him from disease and death.