Hamlet, to set things right in Denmark, kills the king. Whatever he has going on in his life with respect to his mother and her second husband, and to the woman with whom he has fallen in love, he has to act against the king, and that is regicide. The audience to that act shout “Treason! Treason!” Since Shakespeare wrote the play in 1601, regicide has become the political act of our time. The English did it in the seventeenth century, the French (and Americans) did it in the eighteenth century, everybody did it several times in the nineteenth century. Albert Camus wrote about it in The Rebel in 1951.
Today we call it revolution. President of Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak knows about it, President Muammar el-Qaddafi knows about it, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali knows about it. As each successive dictator in the Middle East has become the object of angry citizens, they learn about it. And what they learn is that the individual citizen feels a hurt, and he connects that with all the other hurts he has felt—and all the hurts his friends have felt—and all these private hurts become a very public hurt which mounts all the way up to the foot of the throne, or, in the more recent cases, all the way to the seat of the presidency.
Not every hurt has a political resolution, but my hunger, joined with yours, becomes a public problem, and, as Laertes says, the king, the king’s to blame. And he is, too. The Stonewall Riots are our moment of regicide. It is the moment we rebelled, and all these private hurts became very public hurts, and instead of taking the blame on ourselves, as we had done before, we said, the king, the king’s to blame. And then we deposed the king. Gay men have been speaking truth to power ever since, and we have refused to let them tell us what to think about ourselves.