A longtime LGBT-rights and anti-war activist spoke with several Chicagoans Nov. 9 at a talk entitled "David Mixner: 60 Years of Activism."
Mixner's was an especially prominent voice during the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" controversy, but he has been an advocate on a number of issues over the years, among them HIV/AIDS, Anita Bryant's anti-LGBT crusade of the '70s and the Vietnam war, among many others. His talk took place at the Human Citizen Workspace, 4101 N. Broadway, in Buena Park; Mixner was interviewed by journalist Steve Kmetko.
"I'm like an old hooker who's worked the block for 60 years, and I know all the johns and their secrets," joked Mixner.
He spoke about being jailed alongside both Nelson Mandela and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on various occasions, and said he was guided by principles of liberation theologypredicated on the idea that people should live to serve othersthat took root in his Catholic religion.
Mixner was especially critical of how various LGBT activists deploy the idea of "coming out," noting that every person has to do it on their own schedule and that he indeed did not do so until he was 30.
"I came out, and every Democrat that I gave money money to sent it back to me," he recalled.
Mixner also discussed at length the AIDS crisis of the '80s, during which he lost not only a partner of 12 years but more than 300 friends. He spoke of his amazement at their commitment to overcoming the numerous socio-political obstacles placed before the LGBT community during that era: "I knew guys who were going to jail two weeks before they died."
Mixner has ramped back his activism for health reasons and is concentrating on writing now. He, unsurprisingly, had no love for the current White House, but confidently added that if the progress he has witnessed is any indication, all is not lost for the United States.
"I'm here to tell you not to give up hope," he said.