David Mixner on 50 Years of Activism

I've mentioned several times that longtime activist David Mixner is going to be honored this Monday in New York with the Point Foundation's 'Legend' award for his 50 years of activism.

Mixner In a new interview with The Advocate, Mixner talks about those 50 years. Here's a bit of it, on effective activism:

"…one of the things we have to get over as a community is wanting to be liked. Or proving to others that we’re just like them. These ads where we have, 'This is my straight daughter, this is my lesbian daughter. We’re just like you, and they’re just like each other.' First of all, nobody’s gonna buy it, not in a million years. We can try to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge before we tell them a homosexual is just like them. But second of all, we’re not. In some ways we bring remarkable gifts to this table of society. How can I be like them when I’ve lost 300 friends to AIDS? When my best friend, Freddie Davis, killed himself at 16? When I know people who had forced lobotomies in the ’50s? When people were rounded up in parks and had their names printed in newspapers and their careers destroyed? When police raided the bars and lined people up outside? How can we be like them? Our experience is so different from them. But what we did in all of that, we triumphed because we had a different, unique journey. When our friends got sick with AIDS we created new health care systems; we created dental clinics for everybody. And we can show society we know how to do this. If they will embrace us and our gifts and talents because we’re not like them. They need us."

Check the rest out here.


  1. castaway says

    Wow. Well said Mr. Mixner. You really have lived this modern-day tragedy. And yes, we have gifts and talents they can’t imagine. We have a point of view that is priceless in society, from the outside inwards. We are artistic, musical, poetic, caring and most of all, compassionate –particularly of our fellow underdogs in this life. We transcend race, religion politics, and geography. If we aren’t of the best leaders to consider to overall good for the whole community, I don’t know who would be. Congratulations on your well-deserved recognition and award!

  2. James says

    Reminding the world how badly they ‘need you’ has always been a sure fire way to get their respect and admiration.

    I’ll take the Brooklyn Bridge plan thanks.

  3. JT says

    Homos were only that creative back in the Francis Bacon days. Or DaVinci’s time. Alan Turing was our last blast. Now gays are just average joes or evil bitches.

  4. The World of Color says

    “When I know people who had forced lobotomies in the ’50s? When people were rounded up in parks and had their names printed in newspapers and their careers destroyed? When police raided the bars and lined people up outside?”

    ..cause African Americans and Latinos and Asian and just about every person of color never had to deal with such “indignities”..

    stick a sock in it fatso.

  5. GregV says

    I greatly respect all the courageous work David Mixner has done throughout his life for the civil rights of black Americans and gay people, for HIV awareness and to promote peace, etc.

    But I also think those who say things like “my gay and straight daughters are so much alike” are often making a reasonable point in this day and age. Those daughters may be a half-century younger than Mixner and the experiences he’s talking about may be foreign and almost unimaginable to them.

    Mixner was a young adult before Stonewall, before two men could even dance without getting arrested. He was was middle-aged during the height of the AIDS crisis.

    I have friends his age who tell me stories that could make my hair curl. But I’ve never lost a friend to AIDS or had to bail an innocent friend out of jail or felt the need to go to a secretive location in a park for sex.

    My brother lives around the corner from me with his female partner, in a gay-friendly city, and my parents would probably say our day to day lives look pretty similar.

    I do think that being gay allows me the gist of some unique and sometimes enlightening perspectives, but in many ways I’m a lot like my brother and I’d say that’s because of progress… progress that’s happened in part thanks to people like David Mixner.

  6. TANK says

    why is it that the race warriors on towleroad are usually black? Why is that? I don’t deny that I’ve read some racist things by clueless white idiots, but…unprovoked crazy like the world of color’s isn’t all that unique here or at other gay blogs.

  7. Chris says

    Clearly David Mixner has seen a lot and done a lot to help the gay communities through the decades. He’s been key in helping us get to where we are today.

    But the perspective he brings is completely different from that of my generation (I’m 27). I really don’t feel like I’m that different from straight people or that being gay is what defines me. Sure, coming out is something that straight people have never experienced– we’re not identical. But we have a lot more in common with straight people than not.

  8. Steve says

    David Mixner represents a much older, different generation of gay guys, generally ones for whom “gay” is their entire identity. The whole “I’ve watched friends die from Aids” is pretty much the norm for this generation.

    Like some others have said, the young generation of gays don’t have that type of baggage and have much more in common with straights than older gays.

  9. JT says

    To be totally fair though, a lot of gays like Mixner being open back then probably did help to expose the public to the whole thing, starting off the trickle-down effect that makes things easier for us younger gays, as the exposure has made it not such a “strange thing” anymore, especially to the younger population in general.

  10. dave02657 says

    As we all know, we can always expect some of the bitter queens that have a truly unfortunate propensity to post on this board will eventually show up on any thread where the topic is an individual of note or a topic even nominally controversial.

    This has been proven to be even more so when that subject is David Mixner.

    So, before I opened this thread, I made a bet with myself as to the number of posts before one of these nasty, old (a state of mind, not chronology) queens offered its bon mot denigrating this heroic, savvy, gracious, and intelligent man with the much expected vile and hurtful reference David’s weight as well.

    I called it by post five.

    Thank you, “World of Color” for causing me to lose that bet with myself. Your post was number six.

    (Perhaps Towleroad is just getting soft, ya’ think?)

  11. Sargon Bighorn says

    Frankly I think Mixner makes a great point. I don’t want nor need any one’s acceptance.

    “People of color” (I think White is a color too), have NEVER faced the same exact indignities Gay people face. Cut the crap about the poor “people of color” that’s not true any more. Period Full stop.

    For folks like Chris at 27 you are just like Str8 people except you can be fired at work if you choose to live like str8 people do telling co-workers about your family life. (So better not talk about that). And you can’t be married to the person of your choice and have the Federal Government recognize it like str8 people can. And should you want to enlist in the armed service and serve your country that way, well when they find out you’re Gay they’ll throw you out. So yeah I guess for all intents and purposes you are just like str8 people, except for a few things. Being Gay is not what defines you, being Gay is what OTHERS are using to define you. It’s a whole different equation now.

    I find it amazing that Civil Rights pioneers like Mixner are said to have “baggage”. I guess that must be the same baggage other Civil Rights Pioneers have. Martin Luther really had a lot of “baggage”.

  12. Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com says

    @ Chris, Steve, et al:

    1. David was NOT saying we don’t have a common humanity with nonggays; he’s simply saying that our perspectives are different because of what we’ve been through; just as those of a person of color are different from those white, a woman’s from men, etc.

    2. But, Jessica H. Christ, you keep talking about your “feelings” as if that’s what it’s all about. Solipsism much? Self-delusion much?

    You can “feel” like straight people all ya want, or, as you say, different than David does. But, just like David and we other “old” gays, YOU can be fired simply for being gay in most states. You can get married in only six states and have NO federal benefits of marriage that straights do automatically. And, like David, YOU and your partner cannot jointly adopt in most states.

    Like David, YOU can’t meet your Prince Charming in another country where marriage is legal, bring him to America, and have him automatically become an American citizen as the slimiest straight guy with a felony record could.

    Like David, YOU cannot serve openly in the military.

    41 years after Stonewall YOU don’t have many rights but the ones YOU do have are ENTIRELY because of the David Mixners of the world.

    And those straights you feel more like? It’s highly unlikely their parents will ever disown them, kick them out of the house, simply for being straight. It’s highly unlikely they will ever be physically attacked simply for being straight. It’s highly unlikely any of them are terrified of going to school tomorrow because they fear being shoved into their locker or knocked down and pissed on in the PE dressing room simply because they’re straight.

    It’s highly unlikely any 15-year old girl will walk up to a 14-yr. old straight boy who gave her a valentine she didn’t want and blow his brains out with a handgun. It’s highly unlikely we’ll ever hear of two 11-year old boys in the same month hanging themselves because they were constantly teased for being straight.

    It’s highly unlikely that anyone as willfully stupid and shamelessly ungrateful as you will ever get it.

  13. JT says

    Michael : There’s a lot of truth in what you’re saying, but it’s not like heterosexual individuals don’t deal with some of those awful things too. Look at the recent South Hadley High School in Massachusetts case. The admirable mother of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was just speaking on the similarities of that case and the bullying (leading to suicide) case of her own son. There are so many areas besides sexuality we can relate to each other with. But, again, I understand your points.

  14. says

    Wow……some of you have written the most smug posts I have ever read on Towleroad. I support everything Mr. Mixer has said.

    “Being gay is not what defines me ” !
    “Gays don’t have that kind of baggage” !

    What abominable smug insular ignorance. Don’t you know about the glass ceilings which discriminate against us ? Have you experienced the quiet, behind the scenes bigotry which says ‘let’s keep the queer out’ ? Have you experienced any of the discrimination cases which have come before the Equality Commission on Discrimination in the Work Place because of sexual orientation ? I have ! But at least in Ireland we have an Equality Act which legislates against such bigotry at work and we use it against such bigots.

    “His perspective is different to my generation…..”.
    Sweet Jesus !……..when they come for the gypsies….when they come for the UnAmerican Activities guys…….when they come for the blacks or the jews….when they come for the queers….. I would not want to rely on the smug self congratulatory “I’m alright fuck everyone else” dudes on these posts.
    And JT writes that the last gays with talent seem to be Michaelangelo or DaVinci……
    Have you ever opened a book at all JT ? Have you ever heard of the great gay artists of the 20th century ? The poets the writers ?
    Or to simplify it for you : have you read on You Tube any of the stories of young teens who have been beaten up and those that have been thrown out of their homes for being gay ? Or those who have committed suicide ? You think those stories apocryphal ?
    I am incandescent with rage at the shitheads who are so self satisfied with the illusion that they now “fit in” to “normal” “straight” society…….well, whoppie kaiaaa; what a complacent bunch of dopes……next they will be telling me that we have more than enough rights already and shouldn’t be looking for equality !
    Incandescent I tell you !

  15. says

    And another thing ……..until this year yo discriminated against people with HIV visiting USA, so that the AIDS International Conferences could’nt be held in the USA for the last decade…..next one is 2012…in USA at last……

    So that is the acceptance that you are satisfied with ?
    What a bunch of tight assed wankers, isn’t it great to fit in to your brother’s straight world.

  16. says

    I disagree with Mixner in that I think it’s important to talk about our common humanity and sometimes a father saying his straight daughter is just like his lesbian daughter is effective. It was in VT when we held the marriage equality hearings. Straight allies make a difference. That said, I think too much of the gay rights fight is feeling-based when it should be more rational argument based. Rationality is on our side, and we don’t use it enough.

    As for those who claim that being gay doesn’t define you. Hello? Who you love does define you. Being straight defines straight people, but their straight privilege lets them take it for granted. Sexuality is a big deal. It molds your entire life. And when we don’t have full equality, that inequality is also a big deal. When we’re fully equal and can walk pretty much everywhere holding our lover’s hand maybe we can say that being gay is just like being straight. That doesn’t mean gayness is anyone’s only defining quality.

    Out activists like David Mixner, whatever one thinks of his political past or ideas, did pave the way for the younger generation. No “probably” about it. If young people don’t have baggage, it’s because the older gays dealt with that baggage so that you won’t have to.

  17. dave02657 says

    “Three cheers for the man who brought us ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!'”
    Posted by: 24play | Apr 15, 2010 10:34:41 AM

    Is it not really a bitch, 24play, when facts get in the way of irrational hatred? To wit:

    After Clinton was elected, Mixner helped with the transition team, though he publicly declared that he would not seek an appointment with the new administration. Although he spoke at an event at the inaugural ball, introduced by his old friend Ted Kennedy, Mixner soon thrust himself in the middle of the furor over the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy proposed by Clinton, which represented a total betrayal to Mixner and many in the gay community.

    When Mixner went on Nightline to complain about Clinton’s rapid shift away from allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, his calls to the White House stopped being returned and his consulting business began to tank, as he was no longer perceived as someone who had influence with the new administration. [11]

    Shortly thereafter, Mixner participated in a march in Washington for the Campaign for Military Service, which advocated lifting the bans on gays in the military. When Clinton announced the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on July 19, 1993, Mixner organized a march with CMS and was very publicly arrested outside the White House, for which he received a great deal of publicity because of his personal relationship with Clinton.


  18. Bryan says

    I feel like we need to state the obvious:

    – GLBT people are different. Our sexuality is beautifully and perfectly different as compared to the majority of humanity. We are in the minority.

    – We live *in* the world, not in some fanciful universe. To get a job, buy a home, find a doctor… yes, even to fall in love… we will encounter the majority.

    – In the U.S. (as in most countries in the world), we are sadly at the whim of the majority. Our lives can be voted on. Or preached about.

    – Generally, people are suspicious of what is different than them. It’s an intuitive reaction that has developed over thousands of years and has helped to keep us safe, alive. It is also a reaction that has led to undeniable ignorance and fear.

    – GLBT folks win hearts and minds — and votes — when we tap into what polls show is our strongest weapon: coming out. THE REASON: WE ARE LESS DIFFERENT THAN THE MAJORITY. When someone in the majority knows AND relates to a GLBT person, the debate about the morality or legality of being GLBT becomes personal. Suddenly, we are not an abstract concept. We are like them, even as we are different.

    So while David has an important philosophical point — that we ought to acknowledge and embrace that we are different, that our painful journey has shaped us in profound ways — he is quite wrong on rejecting the idea that we ought to consider what others think of us. It’s quite clear to me that we *do* need to be understood and ultimately embraced… regardless of whether or not you like fact that it’s necessary.

    On a final note, shunning the idea of “being liked” is counter to human evolution. Humanity survives and thrives on belonging, most especially to that which is the strongest. That doesn’t mean we all become robotic in our thinking or refuse to stand up for what is right, for justice. In fact, humanity would be in a poor state indeed if contrarians hadn’t risen their head and raised their voice to speak truth. Still, there is an undeniable and natural desire to belong and to be liked.

  19. Rowan says

    Oh JT you get the point Jack was making!

    Em Forster was gay as ever and his stuff was in the early 20th century…I really could go on…especially with some of the amazing black and lesbian writers of the early 20th C..

  20. Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com says

    Don’t blame poor 24Play. She’s just doing her job as Queen Fag ObamaRahmbot demonizing anyone who has ever dared criticize Our Lord & Savior Obama Christ.

    Her fake LV purse is full of lies, distortions, distractions, steaming piles of horseshit…and she’s always swinging it at somebody.

    In addition to the Point Foundation, Mixner has the respect and gratitude of every leader in the LGBT Rights Movement. And what will 24Play’s reward be for acting like the queer equivalent of a teabagger? Maybe Rahmbo has promised him 52 virgins….

  21. JT says

    LOL, okay Rowan. (Just that that Twist guy is such a pest). Yes, of course Forster’s up there, with a slew of others. I still think Capote puts every other gay writer (and most writers period) to shame. My point (admittedly exaggerated) was that- as far as straight people “needing” us- you can’t compare writers who’ve, arguably, enriched the world with someone like Francis Bacon (and others), a genius who actually changed the course of history.

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