Audio Interview, Dan Meyers, May 21, 2012
- (side conversation)
- EVELYN BAILEY: Well, I've been wanting to do this for years.
- And now that we have the records,
- and the documents, and the, kind of, organized.
- And we know EEC is online.
- And I can more easily do the research,
- but I want to go back to pre-1960.
- One of the things, Dan, is that your involvement very early on,
- I want remembered.
- And I want Jerry Algozer's involvement remembered--
- and the people who got together to bring it about.
- And it's important to have your own words, your own reflections
- on that, versus what I might say,
- or what the empty closet might say, or anyone else.
- So at that first event, which was at Village Gate,
- you did not expect the crowd that you got.
- DAN MEYERS: No, we certainly didn't.
- We selected hosts by--
- we invited people to be hosts.
- And then we let an open invitation for people
- to volunteer to be hosts.
- And you know, you send out these packages.
- And you have no idea whether folks are going
- to really use them or not.
- And you also, you know--
- we send them as many as they said they needed.
- But you had no idea whether they were
- going to use them all or not.
- And so our hope was that we'd have 100 or 150 people.
- That's what we were hoping.
- And we had arranged for desserts.
- We had fabulous desserts that were all donated.
- We had arranged for terrific entertainment.
- Jerry took care of all the entertainment.
- And we thought people would be coming
- for after dinner drinks, since they'd all had a nice dinner
- at somebody's home before.
- And that they'd be, sort of, coasting into the evening.
- People arrived a little later than we
- expected, because everybody was having a good time at dinner.
- People were, sort of, surprised to find other people at Village
- Gate, which was still--
- you know, it hadn't really transformed yet.
- And it wasn't really established.
- So it was the perfect kind of place for an offbeat party.
- Neil Parisella turned the barest bones room
- into this very interesting space by using every garbage
- bag available in Monroe County.
- We lined the walls in this industrial space
- with black garbage bags, and then uplit it from the floor.
- So I mean, you didn't know whether you were looking
- at satin, or the most bizarre wall covering you'd ever seen,
- or whatever.
- And there was a black and white floor in the middle
- that we painted.
- And we had the baby grand piano from the RPO
- sitting in the middle of the floor for entertainment.
- And people started drinking.
- And people started dancing.
- And people started having a really good time.
- And it was a flat-out, rip-roaring, great time.
- And everybody was so pleased to be there.
- And was so pleased to see more people, and to see people
- they hadn't seen, and to see people that they knew.
- And I think people were very empowered
- that they were able to come and do something about AIDS
- rather than hiding and burying their head,
- because it wasn't said out loud much.
- And it was scary.
- And this took the scare, and created some kind of power
- that meant we could do something about it.
- And then, you know, I don't remember how much we raised.
- But I know we had hoped to raise $10,000.
- And I think before we were done, it was somewhere-- thirty,
- forty-- even more than that by the time we were all done.
- People were enormously generous.
- I mean, this wasn't where people were, sort of, putting $10
- or $20 in the pot.
- I mean, there were many gifts of that size,
- but there were lots more of much bigger size,
- because people really wanted to do something.
- Everything was donated.
- We didn't pay for the paper for the invitations.
- We didn't pay any of the hosts for anything they did.
- We didn't pay for any of the entertainment.
- All the desserts were donated.
- So everything was-- and that was one of our guiding principles,
- is we weren't going to spend any money to raise the money.
- Gary Sweet and his team took care of the bar.
- They were terrific.
- But, you know, about an hour into it,
- they had to go back to the their bar and get more booze,
- because they were just absolutely hammered.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And was it just you and Jerry Algozer?
- DAN MEYERS: Well, we were the co-Chairs.
- But there was a committee of--
- I don't know-- ten to fourteen people.
- I probably have the lists of names.
- Everybody had a part of it that they did.
- We all started working Friday night
- to turn this big industrial room into something
- that looked like something.
- We were all, sort of, giddy-high,
- because, you know how you work really hard to get something
- done by a deadline.
- And you're not sure.
- And then it starts taking shape.
- And then it gets really interesting.
- And I remember my boyfriend at the time
- had to learn how to make box pleats
- to use this black plastic stuff to make
- box pleats on all the tables.
- I think he could still make box pleats in his sleep.
- Phyllis Contestable did one of the big song and dance numbers
- from Nunsense.
- Nunsense was just opening, so this was brand new.
- And of course, Jerry was the Director of that.
- So you know, and she absolutely stole the show.
- And you know, it was fabulous.
- It was like a night on Broadway.
- It was really terrific.
- There was more entertainment.
- There were the drag queens.
- There were some musical, and then there
- was just pounding dance music, which was just great.
- EVELYN BAILEY: How did you think about the idea?
- Who originated the, kind of, thought that this is something
- that you needed to do?
- DAN MEYERS: We gathered a group of friends.
- And some of the friends brought friends.
- And we sat around a table in my office
- for three or four nights, probably a few weeks apart.
- And we just brainstormed all sorts of things
- that we could do.
- And then I charged the group to, sort of,
- figure out which one of these ideas
- could take as many parts of it as possible,
- so that we could have one big event rather than 800
- little ones.
- So some of the things fell off, like, you know,
- some kind of a bowl-athon, or something,
- because that just didn't work.
- So we added as many things into this event as we could have,
- like the entertainment, and so on.
- And then we came up with the idea.
- The Community Foundation had just
- started doing Evening Out At Home,
- where people were invited to people's homes.
- We didn't feel we needed to be quite that
- elegant or exclusive.
- But the same idea-- if we got people started at homes,
- they would probably come in groups as opposed
- to trying to recruit them one on one.
- And we'd also save the cost of providing a dinner.
- So it was as much about economy as it was, sort of,
- a built-in audience.
- And then the rest of it just, sort of, followed.
- What do you do?
- Well, you have dessert.
- You have entertainment.
- You have some drinks.
- You dance, you-- you know, whatever.
- And so, you know, we figured that this was the most
- cost-effective way to do it.
- As I said before, we were determined
- not to spend any money to raise the money.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Why did you do it?
- What prompted you?
- Or what was the catalyst that, in your minds,
- said we needed to raise money?
- And it was for victims of HIV.
- It was for, primarily, at that time, men, who--
- DAN MEYERS: Yeah.
- EVELYN BAILEY: --who had--
- DAN MEYERS: They were my friends.
- Bill Valenti asked Jerry and I if we would do something
- to help the clinic.
- And it was that simple.
- And we said, yes.
- And we wanted to make sure that anybody had access
- to good health care, because health care was so important.
- At that point, AIDS Rochester and the clinic
- were not aligned.
- They weren't enemies by any way, but there
- wasn't alignment there.
- And there had been a million small fundraisers
- for AIDS Rochester.
- There had been nothing for the clinic.
- And the clinic was still at Strong.
- It was part of the Infectious Disease Center.
- And Bill was worried that, you know,
- that there wouldn't be enough money for him to see patients
- if they didn't come with their own insurance
- or their own ability to pay.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Can you talk a little bit
- about the funding that wasn't there that--
- DAN MEYERS: There wasn't any.
- EVELYN BAILEY: --was there later?
- DAN MEYERS: Well, there wasn't any funding.
- I mean, you know, this was not talked about.
- So if it's invisible, it's really hard to attract funding.
- So were there little, tiny pockets of money
- that were available?
- Yeah, there were little tiny pockets of money.
- But this was not the kind of public--
- I mean, we'd had a President at that time
- that didn't say AIDS out loud.
- I mean, it-- if you don't say it, it doesn't exist.
- So I mean, what are we?
- Three or four years into the epidemic, probably two or three
- years into it in terms of Rochester's
- understanding that this was something more than one-off.
- Because in the beginning, as people got sick, it was,
- well there was something-- you know,
- they had something different, or whatever.
- It was getting to be really clear
- that people got really sick.
- And in the absence of having good health care, they died.
- And you know, we had all been to far too many funerals
- of far too many young men.
- And they were just like us, so this
- was as personal as it gets.
- You know, and I'd have to say, sitting around that table,
- I think all of us were wondering whether we were next.
- So this a very individual, personal response
- on everybody's part.
- People were doing this out of love,
- and I'd say out of fear, and out of some sense
- that somebody had to do something
- about this, because this had to be addressed.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And how long did you stay involved
- with HPA in a leadership role?
- Or in a--
- DAN MEYERS: Jerry and I chaired the first one.
- I chaired the second one.
- We asked one of the Jeffreys to chair the third one.
- I don't remember whether it was Jeffrey Cost or Jeffrey
- That was sort of--
- and then it was Craig Neno.
- So that's probably the five years--
- the first five years of HPA.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And is Craig Neno the brother of Ian--
- DAN MEYERS: Yes.
- EVELYN BAILEY: --Neno?
- DAN MEYERS: Right.
- EVELYN BAILEY: By the time you--
- by the time four or five years had passed--
- let me put this--
- was ACT UP active at that time?
- DAN MEYERS: There was a very small ACT UP
- group in Rochester, very small.
- And it was not focused on fundraising.
- EVELYN BAILEY: No.
- DAN MEYERS: It was focused on acting up,
- which was exactly what they did.
- I would say more of those folks transitioned into the AIDS
- Action Committee, which began to do
- some other kinds of high-profile events
- that were not necessarily fundraisers, like Bill bringing
- the quilt here, or the National AIDS variety show, whose name I
- can't remember.
- And then the two groups merged.
- And that's at about 1989, '90, so that's about four
- or five years into this.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And by that time, had
- AIDS become recognized as a--
- DAN MEYERS: Well, I'd say there was more recognition.
- Community Health Network was getting started by 1990.
- And so you had a separate clinic practice
- devoted to this specialty.
- EVELYN BAILEY: In federal money, was--
- DAN MEYERS: And there was federal money
- to help support that.
- And there was, you know, insurance money.
- And there was research money.
- And there was stuff beginning to flow, because--
- I mean, thank god, the medical community
- realized that this wasn't anything more than an epidemic.
- You know, this wasn't a moral conversation
- about whatever you think.
- These were sick bodies that needed to be taken care of.
- And it was spreading like wildfire.
- EVELYN BAILEY: When you, kind of, backed away,
- what did you turn your attention to?
- Were you Executive Director at Al Sigl during all of this?
- Or were you--
- DAN MEYERS: Well, I started--
- I was working for the Rochester Philharmonic
- when we started this.
- I went to Al Sigl in 1987.
- So, you know, I was--
- but I've always had a pretty healthy volunteer life.
- So I had a lot of volunteer things going on before this,
- after this, during this.
- And I continue to, so you know, it
- isn't like I stopped volunteering.
- EVELYN BAILEY: No
- DAN MEYERS: And you know, this isn't necessarily--
- you don't want to do event-based fundraising over and over
- It gets pretty stale.
- And if HPA made a mistake, it was
- trying to have the same party for too long.
- I mean, nobody wants to go to the same party over and over
- EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
- DAN MEYERS: You know, and so it would sputter.
- And then it sort of faded.
- And then it got revived a little bit.
- And it would sputter, and fade, and revive.
- I mean, it-- you know, it needs a new idea.
- An event like this needs a new idea every so many years.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
- DAN MEYERS: And it had a hard time, sort of,
- coming up with that, and reinventing itself.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Are you originally from Rochester?
- DAN MEYERS: Mm-hm.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Born and raised here?
- DAN MEYERS: Born and raised, yes.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And where did you go to high school?
- Or were you--
- DAN MEYERS: I went away--
- EVELYN BAILEY: In the--
- DAN MEYERS: --to a Catholic boys'
- school that was half a prep school and half
- a minor seminary.
- So you know, I had a great education,
- because I was almost privately tutored by Franciscans,
- who were terrific teachers.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And were you aware of your own sexuality
- by high school?
- DAN MEYERS: What does anybody know in high school?
- You know, I mean, you got a whole bunch
- of stuff coming at you.
- By the time I was a freshman in college,
- it was pretty clear to me that I was looking at the world
- EVELYN BAILEY: And was college here?
- Or was college--
- DAN MEYERS: I was in Washington.
- I was part of the Order that I went to school
- with at that point.
- And it was very clear to me I didn't
- belong there, because I needed to be out and about, as we say,
- So I left.
- I came back.
- I graduated from Fischer.
- And I graduated from Fischer in 1971.
- Apropos of the poster, that's exactly when Rochester
- was beginning to become aware of gay and lesbian rights,
- issues, expression.
- And so, you know, I almost mirror that, sort of,
- whole progression.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And--
- DAN MEYERS: And for the first twelve or fourteen years
- of that, there was no limit.
- And there was no lid, because it was
- going to go on forever, just as gloriously free
- and with no implications at all.
- And then the curtain was drawn.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
- When you were at Fischer, and came back to Rochester,
- how would you connect with other LGBT men and women?
- DAN MEYERS: I didn't really connect.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Were there resources available?
- DAN MEYERS: In college there was just, sort of, an underground.
- You know, after college, it was really the bars.
- I mean, that's where there--
- that's where you found social life.
- Even after you went to a meeting at the U of R,
- or a community meeting, everybody went to the bar,
- because that was the clubhouse.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Do you recall who was Mayor of Rochester
- in those early, '70 years?
- DAN MEYERS: Well it would have been Steve May.
- And Frank Lamb would have been, sort of, that era.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And Barry?
- DAN MEYERS: No, Peter Barry was in the '50s, early '60s.
- EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
- Was Steve May--
- I mean, I have heard people say that Steve--
- but how is it known that Peter Barry was a gay mayor here
- in Rochester?
- DAN MEYERS: Well, first--
- EVELYN BAILEY: There have--
- DAN MEYERS: --of all
- EVELYN BAILEY: --not--
- DAN MEYERS: --he was very discreet.
- This is a man who was very well educated, very well-bred.
- His family was prominent.
- His family was wealthy.
- He had all the advantages.
- And he knew how to be extraordinarily discreet.
- And he was.
- And so his public presence was impeccable.
- And his politics were of the moment.
- And you know, he was a good mayor.
- And his administration was clean as a whistle, and so on.
- And he had a place down in the Bristol Hills.
- And the lid went off.
- And anybody could be anybody.
- But it was a very close circle of folks
- who all had the same vested interest in making sure
- that the circle stayed closed, and that this didn't get to be
- conversation beyond the group.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Do you know--
- DAN MEYERS: But this is the '50s and '60s.
- I mean, we're talking a very--
- you know, I mean, we're talking McCarthy going on out there.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Right
- DAN MEYERS: I mean, this was not a good time to be a pacesetter.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And other than--
- there probably were other prominent people
- who were of the same mind, in terms of their public presence
- was unimpeachable.
- And yet their quote unquote "dual life" or "secret life"
- was one of home parties, or individual groups--
- DAN MEYERS: Right.
- EVELYN BAILEY: --that got together.
- DAN MEYERS: Which is the way Rochester lives today,
- and which is the way it's always lived.
- I mean, you know, you had a fair amount of privacy
- in your personal life if you conducted it privately.
- You know, would we say that's a good way to live today?
- We'd probably say no.
- Is it fair to put today's light on how things were?
- Probably not.
- You know, I mean, I think he lived
- a productive, contributing, wholesome life
- by the standards of his time.
- And he was a good man.
- I mean, he was politically involved,
- and was a good leader, and a kind of person
- that brought people together.
- He was philanthropically inclined.
- You know, I mean, this was a good man.
- EVELYN BAILEY: And in the course of that period of time,
- how did Rochester--
- was there talk in Rochester about gay lesbian rights
- or issues?
- I know sodomy laws were uppermost in many people's
- minds in the early '70s, because that's
- when Bob Osborn and the U of R group went to Albany
- and testified at the hearings.
- But other than that, were--
- was their concern?
- Was there a sense of harassment, a sense of not
- being welcomed as a homosexual?
- DAN MEYERS: I think you'd need somebody with--
- somebody who is a little older than I to get
- some sense of that perspective.
- Because by the time I come along, you sort of--
- it sort of all moved along as our awareness was coming along.
- You know, there was a reason that there was a movement,
- sort of, coming.
- It just all sort of opened up.
- And you know, certainly Stonewall starts
- that in a very public way.
- And it-- so you know, I heard stories about people going
- to Martha's or Ma Martin's, and somebody watching the door
- for the cops--
- both the front and the back--
- and Martha getting a phone call that the cops
- were on their way, and everybody sort of breaking
- ranks, and standing around, and talking about the game,
- and all that sort of thing.
- And, you know, I think that that was a way of life.
- Was that the way of life by the time I start going out?
- No, you know, it wasn't.
- Is that to say that there weren't police lurking around?
- Yeah, there were police lurking around.
- But it was probably a fairer, more open environment.
- And it became increasingly so.
- So you know, if people chose to do things publicly in parks
- or wherever, those continued to be situations
- that you could certainly expect to be made accountable.
- If you were minding your own business
- in a gay party, in a gay bar, in a whatever,
- you were pretty much left alone.
- That was probably a terrific credit
- to the city administration, to the police department,
- and so on.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Did you ever personally experience
- any form of harassment, whether it be from the police,
- or from other people who were not
- accepting of your sexuality?
- DAN MEYERS: I don't think I experienced that blatantly.
- I think I've probably experienced it subtly.
- But I don't--
- I think I was pretty lucky.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Were you ever afraid, Dan, to be
- DAN MEYERS: Well, I think you--
- EVELYN BAILEY: --who you were?
- DAN MEYERS: --always looked over your-- yeah,
- I think you looked over your shoulder
- every time you went into a bar, or every time you went anywhere
- that, you know, there was a gay gathering.
- I think you were always very aware.
- Now, the good news is, when you got inside,
- or you got with folks that were friends, you were home.
- You know, so that more than compensated
- for whatever the tension might have
- been as you were, sort of, thinking about should I do this
- or not.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Did you, in your own life and experience,
- ever want to deny who you were?
- DAN MEYERS: Oh, I think I did that a lot.
- You know, I think you deny yourself
- by not proclaiming who you are.
- So did I say I wasn't gay?
- But did I just remain silent?
- And you know, that's denial.
- And you know, I think the longer you do that,
- the longer you, sort of, put off embracing who you are,
- and so on.
- So I mean, I think my coming out period was probably
- ten or twelve years.
- And it probably should have been ten or twelve days, you know.
- Because what was clear to me ten or twelve years later was
- it didn't matter.
- You know, the people who cared knew.
- I didn't have to tell them.
- And the people who knew either cared or didn't care.
- And it didn't really matter, you know.
- So you know, I think it's like a lot of things in life.
- You spend a whole lot more time getting there than you need to.
- But that's probably how we all, sort of, grow up and mature.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
- DAN MEYERS: You know, my hope is that whatever
- has happened over the last couple of generations
- make it easier for young men and women today
- to not waste those years.
- Because to me, the youth work that the Alliance is doing is
- to try to save those kids-- that,
- sort of, unproductive gray area of the middle between,
- sort of, leaving adolescence and being--
- and figuring out who you are, and then living it right away,
- not going through this incubation period,
- or this period of suspension.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Talk to me a little bit
- about the pride that you felt being a gay man who
- was successful, a gay man who was not only accepted but is
- today and has been well-respected,
- well-thought-of, looked upon as a community leader
- with a tremendous amount of experience
- but also with a tremendous heart.
- DAN MEYERS: Well, I'm a white man.
- White men have a pretty easy path.
- You know, so I'm a gay white man.
- But white man has more power than gay in terms of, you know,
- getting the door open, and moving along.
- So I recognize that that's a, you know,
- that was a terrific given to me.
- I didn't do anything to get that.
- It's just the way I came into this world.
- You know, that I think we would all
- say that the dimension that we have as gay men and women are--
- add something to us that you know you can either use,
- or you can use fully, or you can let it lay fallow.
- And you know, I think in lots of ways
- I was able to use it pretty fully,
- because I think the connectivity and the sensitivity that we've
- got is, sort of, innately--
- and understanding of that even if you've
- been given a fair amount, you haven't been given everything.
- I mean, you know, we come from a group that
- is marginalized, and so on.
- So if you understand that, and you keep moving along,
- you understand that that marginal perspective
- is something that gives you the openness and the sensitivity
- to a whole lot of other things besides just your own.
- So you know, for me, this has been
- a pretty easy, straight line.
- For me professionally, the minute
- that sort of happened for me, that I realized what
- was going on, is one of our board members at Al Sigl
- was on the board of another community organization that
- was in the middle of a search for an Executive Director.
- They were down to two finalists, one of whom was a gay man.
- And this board member said, when someone said,
- well, he must be a gay man.
- And this board member said, well,
- if he's half as good as Dan Meyers, we ought to hire him,
- because we're going to be a whole lot further faster
- than we would be with this other candidate.
- And I thought, well, I guess we don't have to, you know,
- worry about this much anymore, you know?
- So that's not so much about me as it is just,
- sort of, where this community is, and where--
- and I'm talking twenty years ago--
- where this community has been, and where the, sort of,
- rank-and-file volunteer leadership of this community
- is, which is one of those magical things
- about this community we live in.
- There is a huge amount of receptivity
- to taking people at face value.
- EVELYN BAILEY: I want to go back a little bit.
- Can you talk to me a little bit about Tony Green?
- DAN MEYERS: What a charming, reckless, masterful, and good,
- good man, you know?
- I mean, he was just--
- he would just-- this is the guy who
- would burst through the paper ring that was on fire,
- and everything would just start.
- You know, that's just how he was.
- And that was true every night at the bar.
- And that was true any time you ran into him.
- And it was certainly true if you ever went to his house
- for anything.
- And it was that way if he ever showed up at your house,
- you know.
- The whistles blew.
- And things just started.
- He was just remarkable.
- And he was one of the people who was
- able to catalyze, I would say, the professional part
- of the community, with the rank-and-file working
- part of the community, with the people that had a lot to do,
- and with the people who had not much to do,
- with the people who were on top of things,
- and the people who were marginalized.
- And that was his beauty, is he knew everybody.
- He treated everybody the same.
- And you know, he was so happy-go-lucky about it
- all that you didn't, sort of, even think twice
- about getting on the bandwagon and following along with him.
- And then, you know, when he got sick,
- and he became so outspoken, you know,
- he just was shameless in sorta getting other people
- to follow along.
- So,you know, in lots of ways, I think he,
- and that sort of first circle of people who were publicly living
- with HIV and publicly talking about it and advocating,
- really, were the conscience for the community.
- I'd put John Washburn in that same category.
- You know, there were three or four voices
- who were just very, very strong and unequivocal
- about how important we--
- this work was, and how we had to take care of each other.
- And and the each other kept growing as more and more people
- were affected by HIV and AIDS.
- So this wasn't exclusive--
- this wasn't an exclusive gay man's club.
- You know, it started out with gay men,
- because it was gay men.
- But as others started seeing this
- as part of their life and their sector, the circle just grew.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Mm-hm.
- Over the course of the past--
- DAN MEYERS: And we still don't have housing.
- And Tony Green would be--
- Tony Green would just sit right on all of us in the fact
- that this community has not developed housing for people
- with HIV and AIDS, because that was his dream.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
- Well, it has not--
- housing has not been there for many people in the community,
- whether HIV positive or not.
- DAN MEYERS: Right, but you know, other communities have models,
- where, you know, they went right into housing pretty early.
- And then they went into enriched housing--
- Buffalo, for instance.
- We lost some time trying to get all the organizations to play
- nice together.
- And we lost some ability to catalyze some more things,
- you know.
- And I think, you know, now the test
- is going to be can the new combined organization expand
- services at a time when nobody is expanding anything.
- That's going to be a real big challenge.
- EVELYN BAILEY: So one of the things
- you would identify as still--
- work that still needs to be done?
- DAN MEYERS: Absolutely, we're lucky to have a clinic.
- We're lucky to have some community outreach services.
- We're lucky to have what we have, but it's not enough.
- And you know, the day program is a nice start.
- We need to have more.
- And we need to have more.
- And we need to have more.
- And we need to have more, and more
- that's specific for people with HIV and AIDS
- until such time is there are those opportunities
- for everybody that people with HIV can just, sort of,
- meld into.
- The fact of the matter is we don't
- have enough continuum of care health services
- and health-related services in this community.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Let me move to not so much health,
- but public policy, and political successes.
- Over the course of the past forty years,
- much has changed in Rochester in terms of domestic partnership.
- And now, of course, New York has--
- DAN MEYERS: Marriage.
- EVELYN BAILEY: --marriage equality.
- What did you feel most proud of in the past forty years,
- being a gay man, being a member of the Rochester community,
- being a member of the gay community?
- Or was there anything?
- DAN MEYERS: (pause) I have a little different take
- on marriage, because by the time it happened,
- I thought it was sort of an interesting postscript.
- Not that it wasn't a huge victory-- it was huge.
- It was life-changing.
- And I was delighted, because one of the things my partner
- and I wanted to do was get married at home,
- not go travel around, and then try to figure out
- whether that marriage was going to be recognized or not.
- So it was sort of huge in that way.
- But I have to say, I didn't really
- need the state to tell me that my relationship was
- sacred or sanctioned.
- I really believe that our relationship did that
- by itself, and that it didn't need that validation.
- Now I have a different perspective than others, who--
- I understand that.
- But it worked for me.
- And so the legal piece, and the rights piece I understand
- is hugely significant.
- But that, to me, wasn't important as my own validation
- of what the value of my relationship was and is.
- So it's a little different perspective.
- I remember arguing with some of the Empire State Pride agenda
- folks, that we didn't need marriage right now, that we had
- more urgent needs in terms of the life and death situations
- that many gay men and women were facing,
- and that we needed to worry about education and health
- care, and that the rest would, sort of--
- I don't think that was probably--
- I probably wasn't thinking as clearly
- as the folks who were more forward-looking in terms
- of where the movement for equality went.
- But I also wasn't in a situation where my partner and I could
- go anywhere and do anything.
- So I didn't feel the same as people who couldn't and didn't.
- And you know, that's just one of those advantages
- that, if you're lucky enough to have it,
- it sort of clouds your mind a little bit that way.
- So I don't in any way discount how important it is.
- And I celebrate the wonderful victory it is.
- I understand how shaky it is.
- All we have to do is look at California
- to know that it comes and goes, and so on.
- But all we have to do is count on the President's children,
- and the children all across America, who are already there.
- And if we go back and forth, and we hiccup a little,
- it's not permanent-- it's just going
- to need a little more time.
- EVELYN BAILEY: In this journey toward equality, what would you
- identify perhaps as the most--
- as some of the most significant steps along the way?
- You have always been aligned with the fringe.
- The work you do it Al Sigl--
- not that it diminishes the stature
- or the importance of any of the people you serve--
- but they are not--
- they are in need.
- They are--
- DAN MEYERS: Well, people with disabilities
- are not included in all of community life.
- And you know, everybody should be included in community life,
- because in order to form the kind of community that's
- going to be successful, we need everybody.
- And we need everybody's ability.
- And unfortunately, the people that our agencies
- serve at Al Sigl come labeled with a disability.
- And so you don't even get to the ability piece
- if you don't probe more than the top line.
- So you know, I understand that in some ways.
- I don't live with a disability.
- But I understand what not being included
- is, because there are parts of my life
- that are not fully included in the community life.
- And there certainly were times thirty and forty years ago
- when I wasn't welcomed or included.
- So you know, you sort of make do, and accommodate,
- and you move along.
- So the good news is, today, I don't
- think there are too many places where gay men and women can't
- And the LGBT work that is going on
- has got folks really pretty much at the main roads of community
- So does that work for everybody?
- Probably not.
- But is it work and for the majority?
- Yeah, I think it is.
- And should we be damn proud of that?
- You bet your life we should be damn proud of that,
- because that's a whole lot of little steps, one at a time,
- and a occasional big march.
- But it's mostly more little steps one at a time.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Do you--
- or can you-- the history of Rochester
- itself is one of innovation, creativity,
- philanthropy from way back when.
- What impact do you--
- or do you think there has been an impact
- in our current support, freedom, openness because of that?
- DAN MEYERS: I think those qualities
- that you mentioned are what make us socially conscious
- and socially progressive as--
- if you sort of looked at what's our hallmark,
- or what would you say our culture,
- our personality is as a community.
- Well, we're quietly socially progressive.
- We are more than averagely attuned to the consciousness
- of humanity and where we should be.
- And there is a certain shared understanding and commitment
- to that in this community.
- It's sort of our fiber.
- It's the fabric.
- So does that create a really good support
- for the rights and inclusion of men and women
- who live differently?
- Yeah, it does.
- And would you expect that this community
- would be more open and more receptive to change, probably
- ahead of the social curve?
- Yeah, you would.
- And in fact, it bears out.
- You know, and I would say the success of the Gay Alliance
- and all of the related organizational pieces of that,
- and you know, the fact that there's
- a communication mechanism that winds up being
- the oldest in the country--
- so were we first?
- Not always.
- But were we first more often than many other communities
- our size?
- Yeah, we were.
- And we were first in a way that didn't necessarily
- grab the headlines.
- It just quietly did the job.
- And so you don't even know you're first
- until somebody looks back and says,
- do you know that this happened here?
- And this happened first?
- And you know, this project is really, sort of,
- making us more aware of all those places
- where we were either first, or we were right in line
- with the first wave of the movement,
- or when we caught the second wave.
- We made it bigger and better than had--
- what had gone on before.
- That's sort of Rochester's quiet way of doing things.
- EVELYN BAILEY: So looking at the next ten years, twenty years,
- what's the next frontier?
- DAN MEYERS: It would be wonderful
- if all this would just go away, wouldn't it?
- Because it's not needed.
- You know, that other than perhaps a little bit
- of transition coaching for people whenever it is they
- find themselves in this, that the rest of it
- is all just a pretty straight path.
- Now, I think that's optimistic.
- But I think it's not optimistic in thirty or forty years,
- because I think the movement--
- I mean, if you just look at what's
- happened in the last decade, and where
- people's understanding is, and where the majority
- of public opinion lays now.
- You know, this-- anybody who is waiting for the restoration
- of the old world, and the, you know,
- burning of us at the stake--
- they're on the wrong page.
- You know, because this train is moving.
- And it's moving fast.
- And we're never going to go back.
- And so, you know, for the young boy or the young girl who is
- born today that is looking at the world different,
- and feeling a little different about themselves--
- and I understand that they're probably going to be aware
- of that much earlier than you and I were--
- hopefully they'll never have to put any part of that aside.
- That it will just be a straight path for them.
- And it will be who they are.
- And that they're-- who they are will be all of their gifts,
- not just part of their gifts.
- EVELYN BAILEY: I-- going to turn this.
- What would you say to a 9th, 10th, 11th grader, who
- is in high school, who is doing the Facebook,
- doing the Twitter, doing the texting?
- DAN MEYERS: What was the national awareness
- campaign that came out after the gay murder talking
- about positive--
- EVELYN BAILEY: Anti-bullying?
- DAN MEYERS: Well, yeah, anti-bullying-- but it went--
- but there were some, just remarkably smart gay media
- leaders who took the-- took command of the message,
- and talked about a full gay life, and what's possible.
- To me, any time anybody at that age
- hears about somebody else living successfully,
- whether it was fifty years ago, or forty years ago,
- or thirty, or twenty, or ten, or five minutes ago, they
- aught to take heart from that.
- You know, I've been a gay man for--
- I've been a known--
- a knowingly gay man probably since I was out of high school.
- And am I proud of my life?
- Did I make some mistakes?
- Absolutely, I made some mistakes.
- But you know, they were my mistakes.
- And I took care of them.
- And I moved on.
- And I learned from them.
- And you know, at sixty-three, I'm very, very proud
- of the life I'm living, and the friends that I have,
- and the work that I do, and the community that I live in,
- and that the community that I'm a part of and contribute to.
- And my gayness isn't the only part of me,
- you know, in all of that.
- But it's an undeniable, important part of me.
- And so, you know, I would hope that any young person that
- is sort of wondering about this can wonder about it
- with the sense of excitement and wonder,
- not with the sense of guilt and a defeat.
- Because they're sitting at the sort of beginning
- of self-awareness.
- And all of this can open up for them in one piece
- as opposed to one little compartment over here.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Well, thank you.
- DAN MEYERS: You're very welcome.
- And you know what?
- I'm honored to be thinking about this,
- because as you go through every day's journey,
- you don't always take time to sort of think about this.
- EVELYN BAILEY: No, I think for us who are older, and have
- really thought and struggled with our own journeys,
- it's so much integrated into who we are
- and we take it for granted.
- We don't look necessarily at how we got to where we got to.
- DAN MEYERS: And you know, we could have been derailed.
- We had lots of friends that were derailed.
- And we had lots of friends who didn't end up in good places.
- And you know, there was way too much
- drug and alcohol, and unproductive sex,
- and all sorts of things.
- EVELYN BAILEY: Yes, I think the AIDS epidemic, when
- you begin to look at the Needle Exchange Program and things
- of that sort, you begin to realize
- that this disease is not just because people love each other.
- It's because people are so needy of whatever that fix can
- give them, that they forget.
- They don't think about the consequences.
- DAN MEYERS: Right.
- EVELYN BAILEY: But thank you.
- Thank you for your words.
- And thank you for being Dan.
- DAN MEYERS: Well, aren't you nice.
- Thank you.
- I'll try to find more of the history.