Gay politico David Mixner talks about Clinton, Congress and controversy

By Jeff Walsh, Oasis Editor

David Mixner and President Clinton were born three days apart. Both dreamed of serving their country, but there was one difference between the two men. Mixner is gay, Clinton (quite obviously) is not.

In his brutally-honest and fascinating book "Stranger Among Friends," Mixner chronicles his life in politics. He was responsible for organizing the largest march to protest the Vietnam War, and has been active through the time he was a high-ranking openly gay advisor to then-Governor Clinton in the 1992 campaign.

Closeted through much of his political life, Mixner chronicles what pain and loss that caused him. He also temporarily lost access to the Clinton White House when he was arrested in protest against Clinton's retreat on protecting gays from openly serving in the military. He has also been involved in the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. and the 1993 March on Washington. He has also endorsed the Millennium March on Washington scheduled for April 2000.

Mixner is humble about his history and everything he's been involved in, chocking it up to age.

"I'm just old I'm 52, when you get my age you'll be involved in a lot, too," he said.

Mixner, in a recent phone interview with Oasis, said he was nervous about the reaction to the book when it first came out.

"I was very honest in the book about my past and my history, ranging from drugs and alcoholism to my feelings on sexual liberation to a nervous breakdown to the whole works," he said. "And not only did I talk about what I perceived to be my successes in life, but my failures, so I felt very vulnerable having people read it. But I made a commitment myself to being very honest. After it came out, I felt really great, because there were a lot of people who had gone through similar journeys that by reading my book were able to relate and feel not quite as alone. So, I felt good about it. I got a lot of positive feedback."

One thing that is still a misconception to many is that Mixner is still cut off from the White House, which isn't true.

"I lost access for a while, but I never have any regrets. One thing I've learned over 35 years in politics, if you stay true to your principles and values and you live them for yourself, they always take you into the right place," he said. "If you start living expectations of what other people think you should be, then you get into trouble."

Mixner said he still talks with the Clintons and even heard back from them about his book.

"They valued that I stuck to my substantive differences with them, and didn't launch any personal attacks on them. They also appreciated and valued that I protected the confidentiality and privacy of good friends over the years," he said. "There were things I probably could have talked about that really had no business being in my book because it was given to me in confidence by friends. I just had breakfast with Al Gore last week, and everyone seems friendly."

Mixner said this isn't an unusual thing, and that as the old saying goes -- politics makes for strange bedfellows.

"One of the things I think is important that people understand that you can have disagreements, and in those disagreements you can still have powerful alliances... labor disagrees with the president on NAFTA, but is still a strong ally," Mixner said. "Blacks might disagree with the Haitian policy and get arrested in front of the White House. And gays and lesbians can disagree with the president, especially when it comes to issues of their freedom, and still be allies. We should never, ever negotiate away our freedom for the political convenience of anybody, including friends and allies."

Mixner said the recent attacks by Trent Lott and others in Congress is some of the most blatant anti-gay dialogue presumably justified by religion that he's seen in his career.

"I've been involved for 35 years and never have I saw religion used the way I've seen in the last couple weeks on the Senate floor. It's really been unheard of, using New Testament scripture as a way to justify one's ideology. It hasn't happened in the past," he said. "And I think it's escalating gay-bashing, taking place on the floor of the Congress of the United States and unprecedented levels. It should be a concern to us all."

Of course, there is always a plus side when the Republicans start catering to the right, they turn off all of their moderate party members to satisfy what is perceived as a smaller, yet annoyingly vocal minority.

"They made a serious miscalculation in the 1992 Republican convention and their gay bashing. I think they're making a serious miscalculation again," Mixner said. "I don't think people want Biblical scripture as a way of making policy. I think everyone believes they have a right to their religious beliefs, but to impose them on other people goes right to the heart of separation of church and state."

Of course, there is also a healthy dose of separation within the queer community itself. For example, the Millennium March proposed by HRC and the Metropolitan Community Church has come under attack by many of the more grassroots activists in the community. [For the record, Oasis has officially endorsed this march.] The critics contend the 1993 march on Washington was constructed on a more grassroots level, and the new march was constructed by two large groups within the community, without seeking enough input from others. Mixner has also endorsed the march.

"I think we all have to see how it turns out and see what it's going to be like, but I have great faith in Troy Perry and Elizabeth Birch that they will put something together that will have purpose, meaning and value," he said. "I think those two have a real understanding, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they are putting together."

Mixner said the dialogue about the march is healthy, although there wasn't as much controversy in 1993.

"Whenever people are struggling for their freedom, people really have very strong-held opinions about it. And that's good, I want people to have dialogue. We shouldn't be afraid of that and I'm not," he said. "What needs to happen are things like the march, getting involved in campaigns and registering to vote. All those things are critically important."

Mixner also thinks it's important for youth to get involved in the queer community, and to realize that their sexuality should in no way prevent them from achieving anything they desire.

"They should decide what's important to them, youth issues, sports issues, education issues, whether they want to run for office one day. That's really important. And once they decide what their area of interest is, they should really put a lot of interest into making it happen," he said. "If they want to get into politics, they should get involved with the Victory Fund or any number of issues."

Mixner also regrets how long he waited to come out about his own sexuality.

"I wish I could have. I really, really wish I would have come out sooner," he said. "My job is to make it sure that young people are able to come out sooner."

Mixner is writing another book, due out next Spring from Bantam called Courageous Journeys, which will profile six gays and lesbians of courage. He's currently in the process of writing it. One imagines the book will suffer in one area due to Mixner writing it -- he won't be included as one of the book's subjects.

But despite any setbacks, Mixner still believes (no, I'm not going to say 'in a place called Hope') that politics are essential and that people really need to be involved in the process.

"My motto is the old Andrew Jackson quote - 'One person with courage can make a majority.' I really believe that, and I think that any individual, young or old, has to make a decision is to be responsible for the world that they're living in. That is just key, just key."

Oasis editor Jeff Walsh would love to hear your feedback at jeff@oasismag.com