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David Mixner is retiring

After 60 years of service, the activist wants some time for himself

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David Mixner, gay news, Washington Blade

David Mixner (‘You Make Me Sick’ photo courtesy of David Mixner)

After 60 years of activism, the Tyler Clementi Foundation’s 2019 Individual Upstander Award presented on Wednesday may be the last honor David Mixner accepts in person. His new play, “You Make Me Sick,” scheduled to premier on Dec. 9 in New York, will be his public swan song. And then he’s going to retire, write, travel and “have some David time,” Mixner tells the Los Angeles Blade.

“I am going to retire in some way due to a combination of reasons,” Mixner says. “My first action was in June 1959 when I did volunteer work every weekend for John Kennedy. And I’ve been of service for 60 years as of this past June, which is a long time.”

Health is also a major factor. “I’ve had 11 surgeries and eight stays where I was critical in intensive care — some of them pretty brutal — and that’s taken a toll on me and my ability and my energy. And I have some other illnesses that I’m struggling with” he says. “But my voice will still be there and my writing, even though it takes a little longer and it’s a little more difficult to focus.”

Surprise: Baby boomers are aging. “I wake up, I feel 21, laying in bed,” he says. “I move a leg and suddenly I feel 40. I put the legs on the floor, I feel 69. I stand up and I feel 73.”

But Mixner’s not resentful about slowing down. “You know, that’s not a bad thing. I mean, if you look at what’s happening in America, I think there is this spectacular generation following us,” he says. “There are the kids at Parkland and the transgender youth who are bearing the brunt of our society’s oppression — but fighting with such nobility! And autistic 16-year-old Greta Thunberg leading the fight against climate change. I see nothing but hope.”

Mixner does have a problem with the current use of the word “queer,” though — a term he still considers a slur.

“It’s almost impossible to keep up with what people want to be called. And I respect all of it and I understand all of it,” he says. “But my first reaction [at hearing “gay” shunned and “queer” accepted] — my God, we almost walked out of the Democratic Convention in 1992 en masse if Bill Clinton wouldn’t say ‘gay’ in his acceptance speech!”

But then, Mixner laughs. “This is just a sign of our success. We wanted the right to be who we were and we’d been so successful at it, people are fighting for themselves exactly how they want to be viewed.”

Still, “I will always hate the word ‘queer’ because it was a derogatory term all my life. If people want to embrace it and remove the power from it, more power to them. I’m just not one of them. And I have the same right as everyone else does: I can define myself the way I want to define myself. And it can still be a work in process, even if 73.”

Though he’s not in good health, Mixner says “I’m happy as can be. I’m very spiritual.”

He has written a book with Brad Goldfarb called “From Fear to Dreams” that he hopes to get published next year. “I also am going to take some David time,” including time with friends, trips to Morocco, Iceland to see the Northern Lights on New Year’s Eve, and one last Safari in South Africa.

Looking over his long life of activism, he feels his time spent in 2006 with his two cats Sheba and Uganda in his remote bright yellow house at Turkey Hollow in Sullivan County, N.Y., was crucial.

“It was the most important thing I ever did,” Mixner says. “Nature healed me of the trauma of HIV/AIDS, which I hadn’t dealt with in reality. I was able to make the transition from a major fundraiser, which everyone kept insisting that I be, to a writer through the blog.”

But trauma is hard to shake. “I kept a roll of my friends who died and it ran to 308 people,” says Mixner. “I lost the most valuable people in my life. I gave 90 eulogies over those years for young men under 40 because I was a good speaker. So, you can’t come out of that where you literally go from someone’s funeral to visiting someone else in the hospital and not be scarred.”

Then the recognition of age hit him. Mixner is fortunate to have lots of young friends who genuinely care about and for him — but their interests diverged. “I no longer wanted to go to the bars,” he says. “I’d much rather have a dinner party with my friends, as people do when they get older. And then I realized I had no friends to do that with. I would guess that 85 per cent of people my age that I knew I could share a history with died in the epidemic.”

No, “you don’t ever heal,” Mixner says. “What you do is find a place for the grief so it doesn’t interfere with the rest of your life — whether it’s meditation or spiritual or conversations like this every once in awhile. And writing. All my plays have been done since I’ve been in intensive care.

“So I refused to live in the past,” says retiring activist icon David Mixner. “I refuse to be a victim. The best way to heal is to be into the future, to make things better for other people.”

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Federal Government

State Department to issue passports with ‘X’ gender marker

Special LGBTQ rights envoy celebrates ‘significant step’

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(Public domain photo)

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Wednesday is expected to issue the first U.S. passport with an “X” gender marker.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad, on Tuesday told the Los Angeles Blade and the Associated Press during a conference call the State Department will initially issue a gender-neutral passport to one person.

Stern said the State Department will begin “offering the ‘X’ gender marker option to routine passport applicants” in early 2022. A State Department official said the delay is necessary because the U.S. Office of Management and Budget needs to approve “the required form updates.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June announced the State Department will allow passport applicants to “self-select their gender as ‘M’ or ‘F'”

People who identify as intersex, non-binary or gender non-conforming can choose a gender-neutral gender marker for their passports and Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a document that confirms an American who was born overseas is a U.S. citizen. The new policy that Blinken announced in June no longer requires “medical certification if an applicant’s self-selected gender does not match the gender on their other citizenship or identity documents.”

“Offering a third gender marker is a significant step towards ensuring that our administrative systems account for the diversity of gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics,” said Stern during the conference call. “Because people do not always fit within a male or a female designation, it doesn’t benefit anyone to have inconsistencies between people and systems.”

Stern added passports with an “X” gender marker will “reflect the true gender of the passport holder and make people safer, hopefully by reducing the likelihood of dehumanizing harassment and mistreatment that so often happens at border crossings when a person’s legal documentation does not correspond with their gender expression.”

“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,” said Stern.

The State Department’s announcement comes a day after it publicly acknowledged Intersex Awareness Day, which commemorates the world’s first-ever intersex rights protect that took place in Boston in 1996.

Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with an “X” gender marker. The State Department official with whom the Blade spoke on Tuesday declined to say whether Zzyym is the first person who will receive a gender-neutral passport in the U.S.

“The department does not generally comment on individual passport applications due to privacy considerations,” said the official.

Lambda Legal, which represents Zzyym, in a press release said their client on Wednesday received a passport with an “X” gender marker.

“I almost burst into tears when I opened the envelope, pulled out my new passport, and saw the ‘X’ stamped boldly under ‘sex,’” said Zzyym in the press release. “I’m also ecstatic that other intersex and non-binary U.S. citizens will soon be able to apply for passports with the correct gender marker. It took six years, but to have an accurate passport, one that doesn’t force me to identify as male or female but recognizes I am neither, is liberating.”

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad. (Photo courtesy of OutRight Action International)

President Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

The White House in June named Stern, who had previously been the executive director of OutRight Action International, a global LGBTQ advocacy group, to her position. Stern said the issuance of passports with “X” gender markers demonstrates the Biden administration’s commitment to LGBTQ rights.

“I am proud that the United States seeks to protect and promote the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons globally and this is an excellent example of leading by example,” said Stern.

Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina are among the handful of other countries that issue gender-neutral passports.

The State Department official said their colleagues have “been coordinating with Canada and New Zealand on best practices as we work towards this goal, based on their experiences.” They said the State Department has also “coordinated with several LGBTQI+ organizations, both directly and through the White House Domestic Policy Council, throughout this process.”

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Federal Government

State Department publicly acknowledges Intersex Awareness Day

Special LGBTQ rights envoy moderated activist roundtable

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State Department (public domain photo)

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Tuesday acknowledged the annual Intersex Awareness Day.

“We proudly recognize the voices and human rights of intersex people around the world,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement. “The Department of State is committed to promoting and protecting the rights, dignity, and equality of all individuals, including intersex persons.”

Price in his statement said U.S. foreign policy seeks to “pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics, while acknowledging the intersections with disability, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or other status.” Price also acknowledged intersex people “are subject to violence, discrimination, and abuse on the basis of their sex characteristics” and “many intersex persons, including children, experience invasive, unnecessary, and sometimes irreversible medical procedures.” 

“The department supports the empowerment of movements and organizations advancing the human rights of intersex persons and the inclusion of intersex persons in the development of policies that impact their enjoyment of human rights,” he said.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad, on Tuesday moderated a virtual panel with intersex activists from around the world.

Intersex Awareness Day commemorates the world’s first-ever intersex protest that took place in Boston on Oct. 26, 1996.

Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with their sex listed as “X.” The State Department in June announced it would begin to issue gender-neutral passports and documents for American citizens who were born overseas.

The U.S. and more than 50 other countries earlier this month signed a statement that urges the U.N. Human Rights Council to protect the rights of intersex people.

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Ohio

Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled

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Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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