Thomas Mosmiller was born September 19th, 1947, in Baltimore, the youngest child in a traditional Irish-German Catholic immigrant family. Tom attended an all-boys Catholic high school, earned his bachelor’s degree from Mount Saint Mary's College in Emmitsburg, MD, and entered a Jesuit seminary in Warnersville, Pennsylvania. But in the summer of 1970, Tom attended a community organizing training institute in Chicago that changed the trajectory of his life. For the first time, he realized he could fight for change and social justice outside the world of organized religion. He was on his way.

A few years later, Tom fell in love with a woman. She introduced Tom to feminism, helping him to realize how much he himself had been confined and oppressed by traditional attitudes about masculinity and maleness. Tom’s interest in men’s feminism led him to the Bay Area in 1976, where he got involved with the Berkeley Men’s Center, San Francisco gay politics, and a nationwide anti-sexist men’s movement working to redefine the meaning of masculinity. Within the men’s feminist movement, Tom came out and found acceptance as a bisexual man – whereas within the traditional gay community, his experiences ranged mostly from ridicule to rejection.

Tom subsequently helped found what became the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, and met sociologist Michael Kimmel. Together, they published the groundbreaking volume Against the Tide: Pro-Feminist Men in the United States, 1776-1990.

Around this time, AIDS began San Francisco. Tom took a job with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, coordinating one of the country’s first anonymous HIV antibody testing programs. From there, Tom moved over to San Francisco General Hospital, where he established an HIV counseling and testing program and secured funds for treating HIV+ substance abuse patients. In the late ‘90s, Tom turned his attention to issues of housing and homelessness in the minority HIV community. He served as coordinator for Alameda County’s Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS, and as a contract manager in Alameda County’s Office of AIDS Administration.

Tom doesn’t seem to have aged much since his seminary days. He’s soft spoken, with eyes that sparkle a bit as he talks. One might call him a quiet pioneer: a person who has endured pain, witnessed suffering, fought his fair share of battles, and is now enjoying a time of reflection and peace.
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] ... get a chair and make sure that I still approve.
Natalie Tsui: It's just a little bit. It's still there. It's better. It doesn't overlap with the flowers now. Before, it was blocking. Then, one thing is this brown carpet, if you rock around or stomp, or move around ...
Mason Funk: I'm going to have to also be careful about squeaking.
Tom Mosmiller: Well, another chair might be less squeaky.
Mason Funk: Yeah, we just positioned that chair to within a millimeter of its life. I think I'm going be okay, as long as I don't do this. Then I just have to also not move too much cause the carpet
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] can make the camera rock around. My gosh. Okay. We're speeding?
Natalie Tsui: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Tell me, please, your name and spell it out? First and last, please.
Tom Mosmiller: Sure. My name is Thomas Mosmiller. That's Thomas, T-H-O-M-A-S, Mosmiller, M-O-S-M-I-L-L-E-R.
Mason Funk: How would you like to be identified? For example, imagine you're speaking, you're identified on screen underneath your chin. Would you like for Thomas or Tom?
Tom Mosmiller: [00:01:00] I think Tom.
Mason Funk: Okay. Tell us please your birthdate? Hold on one second.
Natalie Tsui: It's right in the foreground, I feel like you wouldn't like it either. Okay.
Mason Funk: Tell us please your birthdate and your place of birth?
Tom Mosmiller: I was born September 19th, 1947, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Mason Funk: So you alluded in your questionnaire, to some
Mason Funk: [00:01:30] kind of complicated issues in your family. Addiction, you described, I think destructive sexual patterns or something like that. So tell us about that, to the extent that you kind of want to go into that, to describe kind of the family you grew up in.
Tom Mosmiller: Sure. I was born into a second-generation immigrant family. My mother was Irish and my father was German and Dad was an alcoholic.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:02:00] So that was the major trauma of growing up and I'm the youngest of four children. So I think for my upbringing, his disease had progressed and was worse than with my older siblings, some of whom are 12, 13 years older than me. I joke that when my folks married in Baltimore in the 1930's, it was probably like an interracial wedding because
Tom Mosmiller: [00:02:30] there was no love lost between the Germans and the Irish. So they were crossing a line by wedding. Then in the family upbringing, my father was a large man, probably about 6'3', 250 pounds. And he was what is called a binge drunk, or a binge drinker. He could be totally sober for three months, eight months, a year, and then once he had a drink,
Tom Mosmiller: [00:03:00] he'd be gone for a month or two or three. When he was inebriated, his nickname for himself only then was the Duke, as in John Wayne. So he came off with this really heavy, macho, machismo, might makes right, kind of vibe.My mother was, for most of my upbringing, a suffering housewife. Until
Tom Mosmiller: [00:03:30] during my high school years, things finally got so bad that she did find employment outside the home and then eventually separated from him during my college years. So the dysfunctionality was more about sex roles than about sexuality among those two. I think at an early age they gave me extreme examples.
Mason Funk: You being the youngest, and having siblings who were
Mason Funk: [00:04:00] substantially older than you, how did that color and affect your experience of your dad's alcoholism?
Tom Mosmiller: It made me mostly feel like an only child.
Mason Funk: Sorry, one second. Try to include my question in your answer. So instead of saying it, try and say something like the fact that I was the youngest, the fact that I was a lot younger than my siblings and then carry on.
Tom Mosmiller: Sure. I'm six years younger than my next sibling,
Tom Mosmiller: [00:04:30] my sister who's deceased, and 12 or 13 years younger than my two brothers who are still alive. When I started first grade, my brothers were off to college. So they were very absent from my upbringing. My sister, there was a little bit of the stereotypical dynamic of older sister, younger brother, fighting like cats and dogs. But then she left home I think when she was about 18 to get married.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:05:00] I would've been, say 12 then.It seemed often like I was the only child in that situation. I think my experience was a lot more difficult than theirs.
Mason Funk: Did it make your life worse? In the sense, as you said your dad's disease had progressed that much further, your mom was probably that much closer to the point
Mason Funk: [00:05:30] where she was just completely tired of him. In other words, I just wonder as the youngest, were you just kind of left to fend for yourself more because you just were like, there's this other kid we still have to raise. I don't know, I'm just ...
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. No, they didn't leave me on my own so much. I mean, they were nurturing in their own way, although they were not very directly expressive or sharing emotions.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:06:00] But my mother's family was very important. That was the Irish side of the family. We didn't have much contact with my father's side of the family. Maybe he had burned bridges with them, although they lived in the same inner-city neighborhood in Baltimore. But I had Irish uncles and aunts who were very supportive and really helped me get through those teenage years
Tom Mosmiller: [00:06:30] in different ways. So, that made a big difference.
Mason Funk: You also mentioned that I guess at an early age, you experienced what you refer to as race and class awareness or oppression. So what was that about?
Tom Mosmiller: Well, I was growing up in an inner-city neighborhood in Baltimore. It was an old Irish-German neighborhood. But in the 1950s and 1960s when I was a kid, African-Americans I'll say they
Tom Mosmiller: [00:07:00] were being moved into the neighborhood, rather than even moving in. What was the old practice called? Not redlining. (Its blockbusting) It's the real estate scam practice, where agents come through a neighborhood and say people of another race are coming to drive down the property values, to get the current owners to sell low. Then these real estate people turn around and try and rent high or sell high to the marginal people moving in.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:07:30] So there was a lot of white flight from our neighborhood. Most of my grade school buddies, their families moved out of the neighborhood during the 50s, early 60s.So that was a lot about racial issues. It was also interesting to me that my family, although I think they had some stereotypical and commonplace attitudes for the time, at least in terms of language, they were not offensive.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:08:00] I must've noticed that at an early age. Then when I became of high school age, they sent me to one of the better private high schools on the other side of the town. When my older brothers had gone there, there had been maybe five or 10 guys from the neighborhood. It was, of course, an all-boys school, a Catholic all-boys school.So, 12 or 13 years earlier, there was a cohort of friends for my brothers to go with.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:08:30] But by the time I was going, there weren't any other guys in the neighborhood going there. Our family's economic situation, we couldn't afford to move out of the neighborhood because of my fathers precarious work pattern and the drinking issues. So it was hard fitting into the high school scene because it was probably upper middle class and way far away. Just taught me at an early age about the economic differences.
Mason Funk: [00:09:00] You felt compared to those other kids, how?
Tom Mosmiller: Well, I felt inferior. I mean, I didn't have the clothes to keep up, I didn't get a car when I was 16. I didn't have the spare capital to be running around. Wasn't invited to those parties. Couldn't have gone if I had been. They were the other side of town, and I didn't have wheels. So, I definitely felt like I was from the other side of the tracks.
Mason Funk: [00:09:30] Yeah. For someone who became quite progressive and at a leading edge of, for example, pro-feminist and so on. I'm wondering if you have an incline as to when you began to develop a sort of a consciousness. The seeds of your awareness as I guess you'd call it activism or progressivism, or interest in other people's
Mason Funk: [00:10:00] stations [inaudible] were like. Where did those seeds sort of come from, and how did they take root? Do you know?
Tom Mosmiller: Well, in grades school and again, it was a religious grades school, Sisters of Charity, largely an Irish Catholic neighborhood. We did have things back in the 50s, civic education and civic instruction, which I think maybe gave me some kind of basic knowledge level
Tom Mosmiller: [00:10:30] about how societies are supposed to work or how the nuns were teaching and how they should work. Then puberty came along and puberty in the seventh grade or something like that. That was a really dynamic time in my life when I became sexually active and realized I was attracted to both boys and girls.Of course the heterosexual expression or pursuit of sexuality was fine. But the pursuit of
Tom Mosmiller: [00:11:00] homosexual activity, I knew, well in Catholicism, all sexual activity would be wrong and sinful. But homosexuality would be even worse than heterosexual. So, I think the realization that the homosexual stuff needed to be kept secret, needed to be closeted. That was probably the very beginning of realizing that
Tom Mosmiller: [00:11:30] there are other people's lifestyles that aren't accepted or aren't respected. And that was a bind for me because I was feeling like I was part of those other people. So the internal conflicts.
Mason Funk: Yeah. So what had you heard by that point about queers or faggots or homosexuals? Had you heard anything? Did you have any inclining?
Tom Mosmiller: [00:12:00] I had only heard traditional stuff.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, start off just like around the time I came into puberty I became aware of my sexuality.
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. I would say, by the end of grade school, seventh and eighth grade, I was hearing all the stereotypical and offensive kind of schoolyard references and descriptions to homosexuals and gay people. Those words were never used.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:12:30] The words would've been faggot and sissy and queer and stuff like that. I wasn't very athletic as a kid so of course I ... Then the gender stuff comes up. I probably thought that I threw like a girl, threw a ball like a girl. Wasn't big on contact sports, or football or anything like that.But there might have been articles in the newspapers or in Life Magazine about
Tom Mosmiller: [00:13:00] homosexuals or homosexuality. My father worked for the Washington Post as a Pressman so I did grow up in a newspaper reading household. Still have always followed current events in the newspaper. So I'm sure there were references in stories about either AIDS or medical treatments or all the old things that we know about, that kept a lid on queer stuff.
Mason Funk: [00:13:30] Now, this is something we've heard about from two interviewees this week. That one person living in California and then my mother-in-law in Ohio. Both knew and had heard that if you wore green on Thursdays does that meant you were queer. Did you ever hear that?
Tom Mosmiller: I didn't hear anything like wearing green on Thursday.
Mason Funk: You're wearing green on at the table.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:14:00] Yeah, it's a green table. But I'm sure when I was a kid, Liberace was on TV. I can't imagine that there was any discussion or acceptance that he was okay the way he was. It might have even been tolerated or used in sets of point of don't be like that guy or something like that. I can't remember any specific childhood. There were things as a kid of
Tom Mosmiller: [00:14:30] just how you walk and how you stand. How you use your hands or don't use your hands and voice and reflection. Because I mentioned I wasn't a jock kind of guy.My two older brothers went through high school and college on basketball scholarships. So of course, I don't know how to dribble and I decided at an early age to look for another route to succeed. So I became the academic, the bookworm, reading at the library. But I was aware
Tom Mosmiller: [00:15:00] that was skating on thin ice because engaging too much on non-manly activities.
Mason Funk: It must have been unusual I'm thinking for someone at the age of say 12 or 13 to kind of have conscious awareness of being attracted to boys and girls.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that.
Tom Mosmiller: Well, I remember spin the bottle games that were heterosexual and playing those in grade school
Tom Mosmiller: [00:15:30] friends house or backyard because her mother was at work and didn't get home until five. So that was the beginning of heterosexual flirtation. Then I remember two or three-grade school boys who were friends who I got into sexual activity with. I don't quite remember how those started. There wouldn't have been any kind of acceptable game like spin the bottle
Tom Mosmiller: [00:16:00] to do with another boy but I guess Gene and I figured out somehow that we wanted to be doing something.
Mason Funk: So you really were kind of consciously aware like, I like it, I like playing spin the bottle with girls and I also like messing with my boyfriend?
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. Then that continued throughout my adolescence.
Mason Funk: It started out as a fresh start, once you began to experiment with both boys and girls, just tell me about how that continued?
Tom Mosmiller: [00:16:30] Well if I was in the seventh or eighth grade when puberty came on and I started initiating, physical or quasi-sexual pursuits with people of each gender. Then that continued through my adolescence as both pursuits because more serious. So the great quest to get laid and to lose my heterosexual virginity and I guess the continued quest to enjoy having sexual activity with guys.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:17:00] Those opportunities were pretty limited. I did have two or three male close friends who we used among other things, enjoy having sex with each other.
Mason Funk: Okay, excellent. So this is kind of a first-forward but
Mason Funk: [00:17:30] one of the things that you mentioned as kind of a pivotal experience in your life was the summer of 1970 in Chicago.
Tom Mosmiller: Yes.
Mason Funk: Doing what you referred to as the Alinsky Style, a workshop of some sort.
Mason Funk: I wonder if you could introduce us to-
Tom Mosmiller: Sure.
Mason Funk: Kind of give us a sense of the age you were at this time and the fact that you end up in Chicago and it was kind of a pivotal experience for you.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:18:00] Yeah. I went to a small Catholic college in Maryland and then I started off with studying in business administration. But halfway through, I switched into a philosophy major. I graduated from college in 1969. So this was a period when the Vietnam war and the mobilization against the war, the resistance to that war were tearing the country apart. The Democratic Convention was in Chicago in 1968 with the whole world watching. At the end of college,
Tom Mosmiller: [00:18:30] I was in a very moral kind of a mode of living. There were also some Catholic priests, the Berrigan brothers, running around the East Coast, pouring blood on draft records and hiding from the authorities.So I thought that after college, I thought to go into the seminary, a Catholic seminary
Tom Mosmiller: [00:19:00] and I did go into a Jesuit seminary. The first two years of the Jesuit seminary is a novitiate training period. By then most of the guys going in were college grads rather than high school grads. So during the summer period, didn't need to go to college classes and I had heard about through the Jesuit Baltimore that there was a community organizing training institute
Tom Mosmiller: [00:19:30] going to take place in Chicago for 10 weeks for Jesuits from all over the country. I convinced the authorities that this would be a good use of my time in a way of furthering a social justice kind of mission.So I got permission to go and it was great. There were about 50 guys, I was quite young, I was just out of college, I was 22-23 years old.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:20:00] There might have been a few guys younger than me, there were definitely guys in their 50s and 60s at that time. We all lived together in an old convent on the inner West Side and worked at five or six community organizations around Chicago. I worked on the West Side, the Organization for a Better Austin. It was working 50 hours a week and learning at staff meetings and then discussions
Tom Mosmiller: [00:20:30] back at the home base about these principles of having realizable goals and going after power, accumulating power with community groups. How to be an organizer rather than a leader.I had been a student leader during my college years but this was a new way of promoting social change. Where it wasn't my agenda but
Tom Mosmiller: [00:21:00] trying to empower marginalized communities, especially tenants against slum landlords. To acquire power and assume their rights. Eventually, I realized this gave me an alternative vision for how to struggle and fight for social change. Not to do it within the religious community. So within about a year of that summer experience, I left the Jesuits and I went back to Baltimore, my hometown and I was very lucky. There was one
Tom Mosmiller: [00:21:30] community organization like this starting up in the city. Got in on the ground floor. It had been one of the leaders of it was Barbara Mikulski who is now retiring from the US Senate as the dean of the Senate female members. But at that time, Barbara was running as an independent councilwoman to break the Democratic machine stronghold. The major plan was to stop a freeway from going through old urban ethnic neighborhoods.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:22:00] So I had the time of my life as a young guy getting involved in those community struggles. I worked there for about four or five years. So that treasure with experience turned my life around, yeah.
Mason Funk: What do you think you learned? Community organizing, for example, you've mentioned empowering people who traditionally didn't have power in voices
Mason Funk: [00:22:30] and who weren't accustomed to using their voices, against for example, landlords? Looking back today, what do you think are some of the key tenets as a community organizer that you ingested and became part of you, that someone sort of starting out today might not have yet internalized? In terms of
Mason Funk: [00:23:00] ... What am I going for?
Tom Mosmiller: I can jump in.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Tom Mosmiller: You're making me think of what lessons did I learn in that early period of my life from my community organizing work that either have stayed with me or that I think are perhaps a value for other young folk nowadays.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:23:30] One of them I mentioned a moment ago was having realizable goals. I know nowadays in our national politics compromises is not a popular term. It seems like the society gets so divided with absolutists on different ends demanding perfection. I think this was something that really made a big impact
Tom Mosmiller: [00:24:00] on me for those early years and it stayed with me all the time about. Sure, I've got my ideals and I've got my utopian goals but in terms of how to make things change or how to get things to change, realizing that they need to change at a human pace. It's evolution or it's creeping reforms or small steps. That it's better to take
Tom Mosmiller: [00:24:30] small steps and succeed than to not be taking any steps waiting for the grand revolution. That kind of thing.Another would be coalitions. Maybe from because of my growing up experience when I was working for the community organization in Baltimore, I worked a lot in changing neighborhoods. That African-Americans were moving in and either Polish people,
Tom Mosmiller: [00:25:00] Bohemian people were fleeing. Both of these groups were getting screwed by real estate interest. So building coalitions among people. It's still is meaningful to me that I organize block clubs where a black person has never been inside a white person's house or a white person has never been inside a black person's house. There were cookies and sodas served for the meeting.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:25:30] So these were meaningful and moving experiences of how when people get to know each other they can realize what they have in common. The difference between horizontal hostility and vertical hostility. Instead of fighting each other to make common ground against the slum landlord or against the folks who want to put the freeway through the old Polish neighborhood. So collaboration and
Tom Mosmiller: [00:26:00] immediate or realizable goals, those would be good examples.
Mason Funk: I know we're jumping forward a lot but like I feel right now for example ... 48 years ago and to this day within the Republican Party you have the people who are very, very ideological and then you have sort of more pragmatists. In the Democratic party same deal, same way.
Mason Funk: [00:26:30] So the people who are very aggressive and trying to pull their parties to a more extreme stance, they feel like they're purists, they're not willing to compromise. No compromise. What do you say to people like that who feel like they are carrying the true spirit of a revolutionary spirit and you're saying no compromise, change occurs slowly?
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. I would try to be affirming because so often I find I'm in almost total agreement with the end goals.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:27:00] It's just difference of opinions of how we get there. Sure, shortcuts are attractive and justice calls for as much speed as possible. I can appreciate how it's hard to wait and it's hard to wait when you're being wronged and you're being short-changed.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:27:30] For our community, for the LGBT community, why people don't want to wait for their rights. I sympathize and I understand that and I'm in full agreement about fighting for them and pursuing them. But realizing that if you don't do the change humanly then I think you run the risk of
Tom Mosmiller: [00:28:00] .it's a short- sighted victory and then you open yourself to the backlash. I think there's a lot of that going on now I just saw an ad the other day, Ken Burns is coming up with his monumental work on the Vietnam War. It's going to be on PBS this fall. Just the commercial had me thinking, I think the country and the society in some ways is still having a backlash from losing that war. The whole Republican rigidity of family values
Tom Mosmiller: [00:28:30] is like still a reaction to the liberation of the '60s. It's a dialectic that keeps going on and on.
Mason Funk: Do you think that because of that, maybe because there's a tendency to make great leaps forward and then suffer the backlash, is that maybe the way progress occurs? Is that maybe just the way progress occurs? Is it cyclical as opposed to kind of a steady uphill?
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah, it's usually not a line, it's-
Mason Funk: Do me a favor when you say it, what do you mean?
Tom Mosmiller: [00:29:00] Yeah, so I think the way we move forward, and this would be to borrow the feminist tenet of the personal is political. Both on the social level in the way we move forward and I know in my own personal life the way I've made changes is usually not a straight line from point A to point B. It's the spiral of going forward, making mistake, falling off the wagon, backsliding, picking myself up, moving forward again.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:29:30] So I think change and positive social change is more that kind of a cyclical process.
Mason Funk: Okay, that's all good stuff. Now let's kind of go back to a little more of the sense of your story.
Mason Funk: Now, a few years after that summer in Chicago, you wrote that you encountered feminism for the first time or maybe not the first time but in a big way in Baltimore in 1973. So this is going to be a new
Mason Funk: [00:30:00] concept considerably for some of our viewers eventually. The idea of male feminists. So tell us about that summer, about that encounter.
Tom Mosmiller: Well, I was back in Baltimore, I was working as a community organizer-
Mason Funk: Give me a sense of how old you were and what year was this.
Tom Mosmiller: All right. This would've been in the early, first half of the 1970s. Say 1973, 1974. I was about
Tom Mosmiller: [00:30:30] 25 years old, 26 years old. For the first time in my life, I went into some therapy counseling and that was around my sexuality. Throughout most of my teenage years, my great angst was trying to figure out was I gay or was I straight and I was very confused about that. My sense was that it was one or the other, it had to be one or the other and I couldn't
Tom Mosmiller: [00:31:00] figure it out. When I went to the seminary, I kind of put all those issues on hold and that was a nice side advantage of pursuing the seminary life for a while.But when I came out of the seminary, I was back in the game. I met a woman and I fell in love with her and she was a strong feminist. So I was dealing with my own sexuality, I was dealing with all of these social justice issues through the community organizing work.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:31:30] I had heard of feminism, maybe read little about it but didn't know too much about it. No courses in women studies in my schooling. But it was through this intense intimate personal relationship that my consciousness began to be raised about women's issues, the women's question. A lot of that was around sex roles
Tom Mosmiller: [00:32:00] and I was aware as a man, how confining and problematic the traditional masculine sex role had been in my life and was at that time.So that led me to start trying to look for literature about the male side of feminism. There were three or four books out at the time that I found and I read. One of them talked about
Tom Mosmiller: [00:32:30] a mens center in Berkeley that was dealing with these issues. That was the main reason why I relocated from Baltimore to the San Francisco Bay Area in I think 1976. I had a friend who lived out here who'd always been saying what a great place it was, come visit, come move. But the relationship with Kathleen ended about three or four years and it really ended around my homosexual side.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:33:00] I thought that if men were that important to me, I wanted to pursue more just that side of my life.Came out here, got very involved in the Berkeley Mens Center. I tried to get involved in San Francisco gay politics, I was about 28 years old, almost 30. There was a group called BAGL Bay Area Gay Liberation, great strong Marxists, leftist group.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:33:30] But as soon as I mentioned in that group that I was Bi; I was persona non grata. So that was very painful at that time and made me realize that it would be hard to do political work as an out Bisexual person in the radical gay community. So maybe that tilted me more towards this new movement of the Men's Movement. Where the Bi stuff was
Tom Mosmiller: [00:34:00] much more acceptable.One of the attractions of the Men's Movement was that there were heterosexual men involved and there were Gay guys involved and there were Bi guys involved. So it was a more comfortable environment. It was dealing not just with social change but also with personal change. Looking at those traditional attitudes and definitions about what it means to be a man kind of challenging a lot of them.
Mason Funk: [00:34:30] That's great stuff. There's a line in there that I want to kind of go back in cover around and mark around.
Tom Mosmiller: We could.
Mason Funk: Let's just pause for one second because I'm copying a file next door and I think it might be done. I also want ...
Natalie Tsui: All right, it's rolling.
Mason Funk: Okay. So before we forget, let's talk about the book that you helped create, Against The Tide.
Tom Mosmiller: Yes. I developed this book project in the early 80s. I was involved I guess five or 10 years
Tom Mosmiller: [00:35:00] before that ... Wait a minute. I think it must've been in the early 80s when I was getting involved-
Mason Funk: We're going to hold for a second, there's a plane.
Mason Funk: That give you a sense to kind of get your list together.
Tom Mosmiller: Take two.
Natalie Tsui: Would you mind just scooting one inch of your chair right.
Tom Mosmiller: To my right.
Natalie Tsui: That's great, thank you.
Tom Mosmiller: Sure. That's easy.
Tom Mosmiller: So in the early 80s, I was living in San Francisco Bay area and getting more and more involved in this nationwide anti-sexist men's movement. There were annual National Conferences on Men and Masculinity taking place around the country. Out of those conferences,
Tom Mosmiller: [00:36:00] some of us decided to form a national organization, which the initial name was the National Organization for Changing Men. Later we changed it to National Organization for Men Against Sexism. As a subsidiary of the organization, we developed a nationwide men's movement journal, a magazine that came out quarterly. The original name for that was
Tom Mosmiller: [00:36:30] M, Gentle Men for Gentle Justice. We changed that name a couple of years later to Changing Men.I was involved in the collective, the national collective that put out this magazine and I and two colleagues wrote an article titled, Are We the First? A Call for a Feminist Men's History. Because, here we were feeling like we were great trailblazers
Tom Mosmiller: [00:37:00] in trying to figure out how to be pro-feminist men and how to be redefining what masculinity meant, and not having any role models that we were aware of to follow in the footsteps of. So this brief article about are we the first, kind of implied that it was unlikely that we were. That probably there were
Tom Mosmiller: [00:37:30] some predecessors and we might have been the article quoted a few people or a few guys from ancient Greece or medieval Europe. That was the genesis of the idea.So eventually through the movement, I became good friends with a sociologist in the State University of New York by the name of Michael Kimmel. Who was an experienced writer
Tom Mosmiller: [00:38:00] and I was the experienced organizer. So Michael and I formed what I considered to be a town-gown collaboration and decided to do a book proposal about pro-feminist men in the United States. That was the genesis for Against The Tide. It's a documentary history about men in the US from roughly 1776
Tom Mosmiller: [00:38:30] up to 1990 when the book came out. We thought it was going to be a very short book. The joke was that it would be a great challenge to find material and it would probably be a very small book and we thought we would get it done in two years. So we were wrong, there was many more men than we had ever dreamt taking progressive stands on the woman's issue and the woman's question.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:39:00] The two-year project became I think it took us eight years. Instead of a small book, it became a very heavy book. I think it's about 400 pages or so.But it was a labor of love and we did have a book contract with Beacon Press and they were very supportive and helpful and I was happy to have be involved in the project. We never expected it would be a
Tom Mosmiller: [00:39:30] big seller or money-maker. Its greatest use is probably in college courses on women studies or men's studies. Either as not so much as a textbook but as a reference book and classes like that. So I think it has contributed to getting the word out and helping to open a new field.
Natalie Tsui: Pause.
Mason Funk: Pause one second.
Natalie Tsui: There's like a curly, noisy plane.
Tom Mosmiller: I heard it too.
Mason Funk: [00:40:00] So maybe we'll just back to what you were saying it's never been a huge seller, it's mostly used for X, Y, and Z but has contributed to-
Tom Mosmiller: Right.
Mason Funk: Just when we get to this point [inaudible]. I'll never take off from Oakland Airport in the same way again. I'll say, sorry.
Mason Funk: So start up maybe by-
Tom Mosmiller: Mentioning it, yeah.
Mason Funk: Mention the title again, so Against the Tide, you said the title, didn't you? Yeah, you did.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:40:30] I did, yeah. So I knew that when we were working Against the Tide and when the book came out in the early 90s that it wouldn't be a big seller. We didn't expect it to be a money-maker but we were hoping and I think this is been true. That it has been a contribution to the field. That it's kind of opened up a new area of study. In a way, it's comparable to a gay history or a gay/lesbian history. I was looking at Jonathan Katzs book the other day
Tom Mosmiller: [00:41:00] and so it's made an ... Or Howard Zinn's People's History. It's brought an invisible group out into the forefront.A small thing yet, one of the great discoveries that I learned of while working on the book was that there was a Men's League for Woman Suffrage active in this country back in the 19-teens. They might have had 30 or 40 chapters
Tom Mosmiller: [00:41:30] all over the country. Never heard about this in school. These were bankers and dentist and business makers. They marched down Broadway in New York as part of suffrage march. They got jeered and cat-called with guys on the sidewalk, calling them Nancy men. Probably gay derogatory, queer epithets and all of that. I just got a notice recently
Tom Mosmiller: [00:42:00] that a woman back east is coming up with a book on the Men's League for Woman Suffrage in the autumn and I look forward to reading that. Because of my interest in organizing and politics, it's just the kind of book that I wish I had another life to have done. But it's a good example of the hidden histories that are coming out. That they've always been people trying to progressive.Now, a lot of these guys, they weren't progressive in perhaps other parts in their lives and they were men of their times.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:42:30] But at least they made some steps in the direction of supporting gender justice.
Mason Funk: That's awesome, that's really cool. It reminds me of they would be called allies.
Tom Mosmiller: Totally.
Mason Funk: Even today we have allies and we need in terms of intersectionality there were early intersectionalists.
Tom Mosmiller: In the 1970s there was MAN for the ERA group,
Tom Mosmiller: [00:43:00] men trying to support the Equal Rights Amendment and getting it passed. We didn't succeed but total allies to the women's movement.
Mason Funk: Yeah, cool. So tell me about your first memories of when this disease called AIDS began to appear before it was even called AIDS? What was your first awareness of this disease appearing, this new disease?
Tom Mosmiller: [00:43:30] Well, I was living here in the early 80s and I took a position directing a small non-profit called The Center for Men's Health Education. It's actually offices here in Oakland. It had a state grant and a federal grant to promote men's involvement in family planning. Pardon me. So it was at a focus on abortion,
Tom Mosmiller: [00:44:00] rights, on vasectomy counseling, men sexual health, men's reproductive health. Men acting responsibly in family planning. Okay.
Natalie Tsui: Sorry.
Mason Funk: That kind of a day.
Tom Mosmiller: Must that time of the afternoon.
Mason Funk: It must be. What is it, four? Yes, it's almost five O'clock.
Tom Mosmiller: So I'll go back a sentence or two?
Tom Mosmiller: So I was directing this small non-profit called The Center for Men's Education, which had some state and federal funding during the Reagan years.
Natalie Tsui: It's still there.
Mason Funk: It's weird. It's stopping then [inaudible] but now it's stopped again.
Tom Mosmiller: Part of the reason is Kaiser Hospital is only five blocks away.
Mason Funk: There it is again.
Tom Mosmiller: It sounds like-
Natalie Tsui: Yeah. Sometimes cars the way that we are, they drive behind a certain building, might block it [crosstalk]
Mason Funk: [00:45:00] I see.
Tom Mosmiller: Now, with my original Baltimore accent, we would call this an ambulance.
Mason Funk: Ambulance?
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. I'm a Baltimoron and we speak Baltimorese.
Mason Funk: Baltimoron.
Natalie Tsui: [00:45:30] There's a car alarm.
Mason Funk: Well, that car alarm, I can't deal with that. Let's go. The sirens are back up again.
Tom Mosmiller: In the early 1980s, I took a position to direct a small non-profit in Oakland by the name of The Center for Men's Health Education. We had some state and federal funding during those Reagan years to promote men's involvement in family planning. So there where
Tom Mosmiller: [00:46:00] some focus on abortion rights and focus on vasectomy, just dealing in general with men's sexual health. It's part of a larger men's health agenda. That's when I first began to hear about, I think the first term was GRID, Gay Related Disease. I'm not sure what the I stood for there.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:46:30] I was being homosexual active here in the Bay Area and I was politically involved. So I had my ear, I was attuned to following current issues.I remember hearing about the flyers going up in the windows in the Castro about symptoms, about fears
Tom Mosmiller: [00:47:00] and anxieties and eventually the reports came out about the CDC documentation of the cases, those first cases. This small non-profit lost its funding around 1985 because of Reagan cut-backs and I think the governor was a conservative Republican governor by the name of Deukmejian who I think went after the state family planning
Tom Mosmiller: [00:47:30] funds. So it was just fortuitous that as I winding that operation, a friend called me and told me about a job opening that they had heard of in the San Francisco Public Health Department in the Office of AIDS. The position was to be the Coordinator of an Anonymous Testing Program for HIV.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:48:00] I took a look at it and it seemed like something that I would have a lot of skills for and would be just down my alley because it was a community implementation and it was also totally on men's health. I knew it would bring all kinds of issues about male behavior and concepts of masculinity ...
Natalie Tsui: [00:48:30] Proceed, [inaudible]
Mason Funk: Sorry, okay just hold that thought.
Natalie Tsui: If it's a quiet plane don't stop but [inaudible]
Mason Funk: Right. So maybe back up to where you heard about this job.
Mason Funk: [00:49:00] Maybe state around like in the mid-1980s just as AIDS was really beginning to breakout or ...
Tom Mosmiller: Ready for me to go?
Tom Mosmiller: So it would be in the mid-1980s probably about 1985 that I was closing down this Center for Men's Health Education because of funding shortages that I heard about this position at the
Tom Mosmiller: [00:49:30] San Francisco Health Department Office of AIDS. This was just within a year or two of the AIDS cases being documented and being reported. Increasing hysteria in our community about what was going on. The position was to coordinate an anonymous testing program for the antibody to AIDS.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:50:00] It looked very exciting to me because it was a community implementation program and I loved working with communities and had done a lot of community organizing. It also, it had everything to do with men's health and I knew it would address issues or I believe it would address issues of our male behavior and definitions of masculinity. I had been focusing on those issues for the past decade too.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:50:30] So I was lucky enough to get the position and I think I was the fourth employee in the office in probably '85. I don't know, I've long lost track of how many people now work in that office. At one time, it was up to around 175 people. So the office grew incredibly over the years as the epidemic grew. It was a very exciting position.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:51:00] The testing program was quite controversial at the time. The major players were the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, doing community outreach and education. The UCSF, that's University of California at San Francisco had an AIDS project, which was responsible for the mental health counseling. There was pre-counseling at post-test counseling that was critical.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:51:30] Some of the filmmakers, I mentioned here, Peter Adair and others were involved in making films that we could use at the testing sites or use in the community.Of course, the Public Health Department contributed the Public Health Laboratory, which was doing all the testing of the blood specimens. In that day and age, just about everything San Francisco did was establishing a standard of care that became a nationwide model.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:52:00] Probably it was San Francisco, LA and New York that were all on the cutting edges, maybe Chicago, maybe somewhere in Florida. They were all in the cutting edges of these. Trying to take care of the health needs of the large urban populations of Gay men, Gay and Bi menSo it was a heady time and I never knew at the time but it began a 25-year career path in AIDS.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:52:30] I basically followed the epidemic. I worked for several years in this program, which focused on largely the wide Gay and Bi male population of San Francisco. After about five years, I migrated over to San Francisco General, the county hospital. I worked for a couple of years on the hospital's executive staff, dealing with institutional wide issues around-
Mason Funk: After a couple of years.
Tom Mosmiller: So after a couple of years at doing the anonymous testing program, I migrated over to San Francisco General Hospital, which is the county hospital and I worked on the executive staff on institutional wide issues. Some were staff training because we had surgeons at the time, who were refusing to operate on people who were HIV positive and showing up in space suits.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:53:30] There was a tremendous program, a look back program to notify 12,000 people who had received transfusion at the hospital during the previous decade. To identify those folks and contact them by letter alerting them to the risk and inviting them in to take a test.Then establishing a counseling and testing program at the hospital
Tom Mosmiller: [00:54:00] because before then all too often, HIV antibody tests were administered on patients and the patients were NOT given the results. The results were for the physicians so that they would know what to do and how much they want to engage with these contaminated individuals. So I worked at the hospital for a few years and then I went into the substance abuse program at the hospital,
Tom Mosmiller: [00:54:30] which had a census of about 300 heroin addicts. More than half of them were HIV positive and the substance abuse clinic didn't have any HIV-specific services at that time. So I spent 10 years trying to change that and collaborating with others to dramatically change it. So that the substance abuse clinic at the hospital entered into a
Tom Mosmiller: [00:55:00] collaborative relationship with the world-famous Ward 86 AIDS Clinic. To get that expertise over into this largely People of Color, poor, non-gay needle-using population.Then after a decade there, I was living in East Bay at that time. In my youth in Baltimore when I had done organizing it was all around housing-
Mason Funk: [00:55:30] We'll pause you there.
Mason Funk: Let's fill in a little bit before we cross the Bay. So two things that you mentioned that I wanted to just go into, dig a little deeper. What is the whole notion? I remember my first HIV test like it was yesterday. This is huge the testing.
Tom Mosmiller: It sure was.
Mason Funk: My God. So I want to spend a little time
Mason Funk: [00:56:00] talking about it's a huge history, we can't cover entirely. From your perspective, involved in-
Tom Mosmiller: I can into a little bit more though.
Mason Funk: Yeah, and the issues that were there, the controversies the questions of anonymity, the blind ... All that stuff that didn't exist. Holy crap.
Tom Mosmiller: I'm sitting over here, I get goosebumps just remembering it, yeah.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:56:30] So I can tell you a little bit more about that anonymous testing program that started off in 1985. I think it was the second program in the country, I think maybe New York had rolled out their program, just a little bit ahead of this. I was a little bit nave in that I didn't realize the whirlwind that I had gone into.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:57:00] The testing sites were picketed during the first six months in the Castro because community activists were afraid that they would not be anonymous, they were concerned that the government would be developing a list of who was tested. There were fears of quarantine because
Tom Mosmiller: [00:57:30] this is a part of the country where a mere 40 or 50 years ago, tens of thousands of people of Japanese ancestry had been quarantined and had lost all of their possessions and been sent to camps for years.So these fears, you couldn't say they were unfounded. It demonstrated
Tom Mosmiller: [00:58:00] the need for a vociferous community education program. That's where the San Francisco AIDS Foundation was so pivotal. There was a fellow from New York by the name Vito Russo. Was it Vito? Yeah, he must have ... The Celluloid Closet was his book and his work about ... He came out from New York for a while, maybe six months or a year and was a consultant at the foundation.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:58:30] Helping with shaping messages to get out into the community. It was a hard-headed confrontational dialogue. There were people of goodwill with differences of opinion who engaged in shouting matches at community meetings and that's how we got through.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:59:00] We listened to one another, we heard one another and that's how we got through that mess.The anonymity held up; things became more reassuring as time went on. The program, I and numerous others worked hard to make sure the program was as smoothly and as sensitive as possible.
Tom Mosmiller: [00:59:30] There were horror stories of the cops would show up with somebody in handcuffs and wanted him tested. They wanted him tested not for the person in the handcuffs but because the cop had been spat upon. We had to turn them away. We were trying to serve the community and we were trying to advocate and protect the community. Then just the reliability of the test
Tom Mosmiller: [01:00:00] and false positives and false negatives and the lab. I was never a medical or scientific person but I sure gained an appreciation for the steps and the safeguards that the laboratory people instituted.They came out to these community meetings too. This was an exciting time I think in American health history about bringing the scientist. This is scientist community dialogue. These international
Tom Mosmiller: [01:00:30] AIDS conferences have become famous for it but that was it on a local level. Where I'm sure those lab workers and lab leaders have never been up to community meetings like that before. They were cast up one side and down the other but they took it and engaged and relationships were built. So the program succeeded wonderfully well and then we transferred a lot of that into the hospital setting.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:01:00] Where it was boy, it was needed very much there too.
Mason Funk: You mentioned, for example, surgeons turning up with like space suits. I think again, it's valuable to be taken back to a time when medical professionals behaved in unacceptable ways out of complete ignorance.
Tom Mosmiller: Pure ignorance, right.
Mason Funk: Panic and pure ignorance.
Tom Mosmiller: Right. That was the head of the orthopedic surgery department
Tom Mosmiller: [01:01:30] who happened to be a woman and showed up in a space suit. That got national coverage at the time, it was just terrible. Then the discovery and the realization that so many patients had been tested and never informed of their test results. Didn't even know they had been tested. But it was because the surgeons or the other attending physicians wanted to know
Tom Mosmiller: [01:02:00] because physicians were afraid. About everybody was afraid, we didn't know too much about how it was transmitted and I was happy to be part of that history.
Mason Funk: The other big controversy was obviously raging at the time you may or may not have been directly involved with, was the question of what to do about bath houses.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:02:30] I wasn't so involved with that one but that was the health department director had closed them. Yeah, just a few months before I came in, yeah.
Mason Funk: Start afresh because I was talking over you.
Tom Mosmiller: Okay. So it's part of that community consternation at that time.
Mason Funk: You need to tell me kind of what you're talking about.
Tom Mosmiller: Okay. We're in the middle of 1980s and I was talking about my work helping to set up this anonymous HIV
Tom Mosmiller: [01:03:00] antibody testing program in San Francisco and how controversial that was in the community. There were issues of lack of trust, fears of quarantine, all kinds of hysteria. The broader context that had proceeded I think by just a year or two the initiation of the testing program had been the closing of bath houses in San Francisco. That was the former director of health,
Tom Mosmiller: [01:03:30] Meryl Silverman who was no longer running the department when I joined it. That had been another torturous issue with proponents and opponents. Great community debate that probably had significance across the country for other metropolitan areas.So I think that huge battle had consumed the community's energy for about a year or two
Tom Mosmiller: [01:04:00] and as that was resolved, as actions were taken and then the next big battle was the anonymous testing program. So I don't think that the battle around the testing program was as severe as the bath houses but it was in the same ballpark.
Mason Funk: Okay, great. Let me see where we're at. So were going to get you to the East Bay area but let me go back to my list of questions.
Mason Funk: Well, as a Bisexual activist at this point and an advocate and a Bisexual person, we know that the AIDS epidemic impacted the Bisexual community in a very particular way. Can you talk about ... Were you openly Bisexual at this point and there's a lot of anger enraging directed at the Bisexual? Talk about that in kind of those early years in the AIDS epidemic.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:05:00] Yeah. Well, I think that the issue, the intersection I guess between AIDS and bisexuality was there from the very beginning of the epidemic. I think it became more acute say five or 10 years into the epidemic than it had been
Tom Mosmiller: [01:05:30] at the beginning. At the beginning, there was such hysteria and the focus was almost exclusively on Gay men. Bi guys got tucked in there in the traditional invisible method. But as the epidemic continued and as the number of women infected with the virus, as those numbers either grew
Tom Mosmiller: [01:06:00] or as those numbers were paid more attention, then I think the issue of Bisexual men came up more.In the African-American community, there was the great phenomena of the down-low lifestyle, which always seemed to me to be closeted bisexuality. But of course, there are many differences of
Tom Mosmiller: [01:06:30] opinion about that. So I think there were really hateful tirades I recall in writing about blaming Bisexual men, blaming men who had sex with men and women. Blaming these guys for spreading, causing AIDS among females. I'm sure some of that was true, I don't know it was true to the degree alleged.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:07:00] Even if it was, the way in which the allegations were made were not very helpful. They were shaming and blaming and going to drive men who engaged in this kind of behavior further into the shadows, rather than bringing them into the openness of public health.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:07:30] So I always find in my work that the issues of bisexuality were kind of I thought they were very relevant. I did run into the 80s circles; I still continue to run into the dismissal or the denial of bisexuality. In terms of all our focus should be on messages for the gay male community and no willingness to consider different kinds of messages
Tom Mosmiller: [01:08:00] for men who didn't identify as gay. Either because they identified as Bi or maybe they didn't identify as Bi either. But they knew they were having sex with people of both genders.So complications there and then complications among women in the field. Some of whom had a lot of anger and engaged in
Tom Mosmiller: [01:08:30] a lot of finger-pointing towards men who they thought who were spreading the disease. So it was there was a lot of volatility around those issues.
Mason Funk: Okay, good. Okay,
Mason Funk: [01:09:00] so maybe we can transition because I think when you came to East Bay is when you began working in specifically with housing, is that correct?
Tom Mosmiller: More so, yeah with housing but also with jails and immigrants.
Mason Funk: Okay. So maybe pick up with after roughly around this, roughly around whatever year it was.
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. I mentioned earlier that over my 25 years of working on AIDS issues,
Tom Mosmiller: [01:09:30] I think I kind of consciously developed a path to follow the epidemic. So I went from working in the White Gay community to five years with the anonymous testing program in San Francisco. To then working at San Francisco County Hospital, San Francisco General Hospital in the substance abuse clinic. Working with the needle-using community, which was largely an African- American
Tom Mosmiller: [01:10:00] community and community of color.Then it was after about those 15 years that I came back to work on AIDS in the East Bay and I took a position with the Housing Department as the HOPWA Coordinator. Now HOPWA stands for Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS. I won't make this too complex but a lot of people have heard of Ryan White Funding. That's the general
Tom Mosmiller: [01:10:30] medical funding on the federal level that comes down to states and cities and counties for all kinds of medical and affiliated services infected with HIV. On the federal level, there's HUD, the Housing and Urban Development Department. They have a funding stream called HOPWA, that is for Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:11:00] This is in the late 1990s. By then, I was getting personally more and more upset with the extent of homelessness in our streets. I had done work on housing issues 20 years ago back in Baltimore but it wasn't on homelessness. There weren't people living on the streets in the 50s and 60s or even the 70s. Whereas by the late 90s there
Tom Mosmiller: [01:11:30] were thousands of people living on the streets. So I was concerned about HIV among this population and I thought let me ... I kind of thought I was reintegrating some passions from my youth with my current interest of bringing housing and AIDS together. It was that and I wound up only staying with the housing department for I think two or three years.It was way too isolating. I was the only sexual minority staff person.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:12:00] I had been used to working in Public Health AIDS programs where everybody was HIV oriented and savvy about the issues. I was the only person in the housing department working on AIDS. So I was one out of 30, I was just triple or quadruple minority and it became too isolating. So after a few years with the housing department in this county, I was able to
Tom Mosmiller: [01:12:30] transfer into the Public Health AIDS Office in this county. I stayed there for the last 15 years of my work life.But during that time, I continued. I was in the AIDS office, I was in the Health Department, the housing guy. So all that expertise that I had developed, I was able to keep making use of and pushing collaborations between the Housing Department and the Health Department around housing support services
Tom Mosmiller: [01:13:00] and all that. During these years, in addition to the housing focus, I got more interested because it came to my attention about issues at the county jail and problems there with HIV services. That led me to a number of years of learning about and working with the medical staff at the county jail.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:13:30] Trying to get HIV specialist from the community involved in training of a large part-time medical staff at the jail that was not very knowledgeable about HIV.So trying to upgrade the level of knowledge and competency and also trying to change practices. A good example is when people were let out of the jails, they were given three days of medication,
Tom Mosmiller: [01:14:00] their HIV meds. Most people when they get out of county jail, their first priority is not going to see a doctor, there's a long list of maybe food, maybe housing, maybe different kinds of relaxation or recreation activities. So it took a while to get the jail staff to change tact, to give people a 30-day supply. Since the government was paying for these drugs,
Tom Mosmiller: [01:14:30] it wasn't a cost issue, it was just a standard of care issue.Trying to bring an educational program for the staff at the jail and some audio-visual things. So that was an important focus. The other major focus I had during this last 10 or 12 years was when HIV among immigrants and refugees in Alameda County,
Tom Mosmiller: [01:15:00] I don't know why they came here. But this county has always had a significant population of refugees from Burma, which for years was governed by a military dictatorship. Many of the ... Well, there was a large number of about 40 or 50 folks who were mostly male and they were political refugees. So they had come from the prisons and the
Tom Mosmiller: [01:15:30] border camps and they were infected with HIV. Either infected probably from sharing needles when they were incarcerated or maybe from engaging with prostitutes during the years on the camps.There were no services for these folks. Once I got involved in this issue, I became an advocate for trying to get some targeted services
Tom Mosmiller: [01:16:00] for the Burmese. Then that mushroomed into other Asian populations and more recently into the issue of African immigrants. The numbers are low, the cultural issues are multiple and the lack of services is problematic because HIV numbers among most populations, among the major populations
Tom Mosmiller: [01:16:30] of whites, blacks, and Latinos are decreasing steadily over the past say five-seven years. But for this more minority populations, the numbers are not decreasing, they are increasing. The numbers are small and the increases are small but we know what happens if you continue to ignore these signs. I'm doing some volunteer work in retirement to try and still bring some light and attention to these populations.
Mason Funk: [01:17:00] Pause. Yeah, a couple of things.
Natalie Tsui: It's like an image so I'm wondering if I should pop in.
Mason Funk: Yeah, okay. For?
Natalie Tsui: Well, it's like there's a little stain on his shirt and I'm just wondering whether or not I should try and get-
Mason Funk: Yeah, so this was one of the things I was going address. So one thing, the light outside has changed quite a bit. Obviously, it's more bright than it is supposed to be in this side. Also, your first [crosstalk]
Tom Mosmiller: Ah, my first [inaudible]
Mason Funk: [01:17:30] I don't know if I want to leave it unaddressed. We could have your other shirt is enough. You could do a number of things if you try to keep your arms crossed. It's always noticeable when you kind of [crosstalk] folded arms. Or we could literally use other shirts as a not so different color, we can just have him put on a fresh shirt.
Tom Mosmiller: Why don't we look at that and see if it's acceptable? Although it wouldn't be hard for me to keep my arms folded.
Mason Funk: [01:18:00] Yeah. You tend to talk like with this gesture and I would hate to have you have to have your arms crossed. It's even not bad when you keep your arms on your side, it's when you go like this, that's visible. So-
Tom Mosmiller: Let me get the shirt and then you can look at it.
Natalie Tsui: Should I ...
Mason Funk: I'm excited in this, it's like an evolution in my level of professional understanding today. I realize that's important. So I have to, one of my goals for the next several months is to kind of create the staff that would be handling
Mason Funk: [01:18:30] that kind of post-production process and everything else to go through the various state. We've covered your career which is good.
Natalie Tsui: [inaudible] when you move.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I know, I've got to be really careful.
Mason Funk: Not for the squeakiness.
Natalie Tsui: When you move forward, you actually get into the lens.
Mason Funk: I do. This way
Natalie Tsui: Wait, I won't scoot this way, you're fine. It's just you do this thing where you move forward and then towards the left a little bit.
Mason Funk: [01:19:00] Yeah, I can [inaudible] I'll be careful as well. Yeah, I guess one question I have and I really-
Natalie Tsui: Okay. You're eating a candy?
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah, I wondered about that.
Mason Funk: You thought you could pull it off.
Tom Mosmiller: She doesn't miss a thing, does she?
Natalie Tsui: Well, I have a mic right here.
Tom Mosmiller: I understand. She's really good at what she does.
Natalie Tsui: Sorry, hoping youll be like no candy.
Tom Mosmiller: Thanks, Natalie.
Mason Funk: Also just kind of run your hands through your hair just to kind of smooth-
Tom Mosmiller: [01:19:30] Well, yeah, I meant to hit the brush or the comb before because I took the T-shirt off too.
Mason Funk: Yeah, that's fine.
Tom Mosmiller: More similar?
Mason Funk: Okay, good. So I wrote down here that it may seem obvious but what is the importance of housing to people with HIV, living with HIV AIDS?
Tom Mosmiller: Many of us in the HIV field have adopted the mantra that
Tom Mosmiller: [01:20:00] Housing is Healthcare. Why we proclaim that is because it is incredibly difficult for a person to take care of their health, maintain their health or improve their health if they don't have stable shelter. In the early days of the epidemic,
Tom Mosmiller: [01:20:30] the medication regimes were much more cumbersome. Refrigeration was essential and a homeless person doesn't have a refrigerator. Now, refrigeration is not the issue but still storage and safe storage of your meds, being able to be contacted by your medical provider
Tom Mosmiller: [01:21:00] is problematic with people who don't have stable shelter. At the big homeless shelter in this county, I think they have a program where they provide the HIV residents with cell phones to use for medical appointments and transportation appointments.So without stable ... Another dimension is aside from
Tom Mosmiller: [01:21:30] the health of the individual without housing, the community is endangered. If somebody doesn't have housing, they might be put in a compromising position where they would barter sex for shelter. For the purpose of shelter, they may spend time
Tom Mosmiller: [01:22:00] staying or living with people with whom they're engaging in sexual activities and it may not be safe. So there's the concern that people who are out of housing, they also contribute in some ways to spreading the disease among the population at large. So those are the two ways, the communal and the individual ways that why housing is important for such a contagious disease.
Mason Funk: [01:22:30] Excellent. I can say it's kind of an obvious question but not so obvious. Some of the last questions let's just skip right over.
Mason Funk: You said that one of the things that you ... I can't remember, in your questionnaire
Mason Funk: [01:23:00] in a positive sense you referred to what you sort of noticed and observed, at what you call the morality of common people you met. I'm wondering what you meant by that.
Tom Mosmiller: I'm glad you've asked me about this. I was focusing on what I kind of identified as the main reasons for the advances that our community, that
Tom Mosmiller: [01:23:30] the LGBT community has made over the past 50 years in my lifetime. I think I said I thought of two reasons. One would be the tremendous courage among members of our community in asserting their rights and demanding justice,
Tom Mosmiller: [01:24:00] in coming out to family and friends. So I definitely acknowledge the leadership or the contribution of members of our community. I see the other side of the coin no matter how strong we have been, we are a minority community.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:24:30] So I think our advances are the result of support, acceptance, acquiescence by the larger community. I am a believer in the wisdom of the common people and the goodness of common folk.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:25:00] So that's what I meant by the moral common sense of plain people. That I think it is the population at large has gotten to know LGBT people and become familiar and has understood that they have become allies and supporters.
Mason Funk: Where have you ... Can you sight some examples
Mason Funk: [01:25:30] or anecdotes that you remember or individuals you encountered who displayed what you call this kind of morality of the common people?
Tom Mosmiller: Well, the great marriage debate of the past five or ten years I think would be an example here of where ... Our community I think in
Tom Mosmiller: [01:26:00] a number of places is engaged in door to door campaigns in trying to either break down the stereotypes or just establish the identity of same-sex couples being loving couples. Being caring and nurturing and responsible and dedicated. I think as other members of the
Tom Mosmiller: [01:26:30] population at large who are not members of the LGBT community saw this, I think they responded positively either with votes or petitions to endorse and to accept same-sex marriage. So that's a good current example.
Mason Funk: Great.
Mason Funk: Natalie, do you have any questions you want to ask before I kind of tackle more?
Natalie Tsui: [01:27:00] No, I'm good.
Mason Funk: So we do a final four questions for every single person. Your perspective on coming out is particularly interesting that we talked about. One of my final four questions is if someone were to come to you and say, I'm thinking about coming out to somebody or my family or at work about some aspects about myself that I have previously kept hidden. From your experience, I know you don't know who this person might be but
Mason Funk: [01:27:30] what couple of pieces of wisdom or support or insight might you share with that person to help him or her, to guide them?
Tom Mosmiller: Well if somebody was asking for my advice about coming out to their important people, family, and friends,
Tom Mosmiller: [01:28:00] I would be encouraging and supportive. Maybe I would try and give them some pointers about things to consider as they proceed.So one thing would be to assess the trust levels that they have in their relationships with the people they're thinking of
Tom Mosmiller: [01:28:30] communicating with and to individualize by assessing a trust level that would almost necessitate that you individualize. Realize to consider whether you want to come out to everyone in the group or maybe to just some people in the group. It could be a staged coming out kind of process where you might decide to start off with those that you feel are the most trusting and closest to
Tom Mosmiller: [01:29:00] and see how that goes. Then perhaps go on or not go on to stage two or stage three depending on your initial experience.So trust levels would be important. There's something about trying to assess where the person is at that
Tom Mosmiller: [01:29:30] you're thinking about coming out too. If you perceive that person as having just making this up. A lot of rigidities, being very rejectionist or being a very hard and severe person in the areas you know then realize that you may run into that kind of reaction with this news.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:30:00] Whether you want to encounter that, whether you can survive it, handle it, whether you think the relationship will survive. I'm a believer in trying to meet people where they're at and some people may be better equipped and better skilled at handling a full disclosure as coming out implies.
Natalie Tsui: [01:30:30] What's that sound?
Tom Mosmiller: That's the pipes, sorry.
Mason Funk: Okay
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. It's the plumbing upstairs.
Mason Funk: Okay. So maybe just some people may be better.
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. That was my phone. So I was saying that I'm a believer in trying to meet people where they're at
Tom Mosmiller: [01:31:00] and being sensitive to individual circumstances and predilections. So if you know somebody is very rigid and easily rejects new things and perhaps things that they don't agree with. It might give you some cause to process as to how much you want to share with that person. I don't know about partial coming out, I haven't
Tom Mosmiller: [01:31:30] heard that phrase before, I must be inventing something. You might want to try to come out to them about some parts of your life that might not be as disagreeable or controversial, so a staged kind of coming out.From the organizing days, there's the great thing of you don't try and do community organizing in a Catholic neighborhood while you're eating a corn beef sandwich on a Friday.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:32:00] That would be violating a community norm. So doesn't mean that you stop eating corn beef or that you don't do it with anybody but it's like what's your goal here, evaluating what would be successful. A successful strategy for coming out. Yeah.
Mason Funk: Great, very good. What today continues to be your hope as you look to the future? What's your hope for the future?
Tom Mosmiller: [01:32:30] Well, I'm going to give you a limited answer about what are my hopes in terms of the LGBT community in the future in our country or in our society.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:33:00] I guess I hope that there's a greater-
Natalie Tsui: Wait, plane.
Mason Funk: One thing I should say, I should've explained this before. These last questions are intended to be things that we kind of put together as the kind of a montage almost of likes.
Mason Funk: So to a degree that you can kind of keep your response sort of short and sweet, that's
Mason Funk: [01:33:30] going to make it a little bit easier to work with. As soon as that plane. Yeah.
Tom Mosmiller: So my hopes for the LGBT community in our country over the foreseeable future, I hope that there will be a standardization across the country. I think right now
Tom Mosmiller: [01:34:00] we've got a very varied diverse kind of system. Where some states and some cities there are protections and safeguards. Other areas in the country there's great disparity and still violence and scapegoating. So something about standardization, I hope there's a
Tom Mosmiller: [01:34:30] job discrimination, legislation. It's something that we still very much need. We've got protection around healthcare, we've got protection around housing, we've got marital rights now. But job discrimination is still a real problem on the national level in most of the country.Of course, I think transgender rights we're still playing catch-up there. It's been amazing that the integration of
Tom Mosmiller: [01:35:00] our community members into the military forces, that's been a wonderful success. But boy in the prison system, it's a whole other area where I hope that better treatment and care for sexual minority people will occur.
Mason Funk: Great. Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Tom Mosmiller: [01:35:30] I think in my own way-
Mason Funk: Start off by it is important.
Tom Mosmiller: Yes, okay. It's been important to me to agree to this interview and to prepare-
Mason Funk: Actually, could you just say it's important to me to tell my story ...
Tom Mosmiller: Okay, I'll start with that. It's been important to me to tell my story because
Tom Mosmiller: [01:36:00] I hope that in my own individual way, by sharing my life story, I might help to be a role model or a teacher of lessons to learn for younger folk and particularly as a Bisexual man. It's been a challenging and
Tom Mosmiller: [01:36:30] interesting life and I wish that when I was younger, I would've been able to hear from some older Bisexual people how they had managed. So I hope to give younger folks some examples.
Mason Funk: Great. Last but not least, in terms of OUTWORDS and the project,
Mason Funk: [01:37:00] what do you see is the importance of a project like OUTWORDS and if you could refer to OUTWORDS by name?
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. I've been really impressed by hearing about OUTWORDS and I was not familiar with it before. But I think the comparison of getting our stories documented and preserved similarly to
Tom Mosmiller: [01:37:30] stories at the Holocaust Museum for survivors of the Nazi's extermination efforts. Oral histories of African-Americans in this country, I think it's a very apt parallel. I've mentioned during this interview a couple of books like Bi Any Other Name or the movie, Word Is Out. There's no underestimating. You can't
Tom Mosmiller: [01:38:00] underestimate the importance of these personal testimonies.This is what Outwards is trying to do, it's trying to get personal testimonies preserved. I think it's one of the best ways to promote social change and social justice.
Mason Funk: Great, that's awesome. Is there anything that you feel we've not talked about that you would want to talk about?
Tom Mosmiller: [01:38:30] Let me check my sheet.
Natalie Tsui: I'm trying to change the light, the light changed again. It's really dark in here. Great, just a [crosstalk]
Tom Mosmiller: I'm going to mention one thing.
Mason Funk: Okay, great.
Natalie Tsui: [01:39:00] [inaudible] I have to change about stuff. So should I just leave it [inaudible]
Mason Funk: Let me see. I think we're probably going to be okay with where are we right now.
Natalie Tsui: It [inaudible 01:39:07]
Tom Mosmiller: The thing I was going to talk about is not essential if you're ...
Mason Funk: I think we're okay, let's go, yeah. It's still good, we'll still have it.
Mason Funk: We can still see you and it can always be quote and quote, brightened up, of course [crosstalk]
Tom Mosmiller: I wanted to share with you a few words about pride and I thought this might be an interesting cross-sectional kind of analysis. That certainly in the LGBT community we have a tremendous appreciation for how important pride has been. It's so important that it's the name for our
Tom Mosmiller: [01:40:00] major annual festivals, pride festivals. I wanted to let you know that in the Bisexual community, there's been I think a significant and serious attention paid to pride and being proud to be a Bisexual person, not be ashamed or closeted about that life.Then also in my work in the pro-feminist men's community,
Tom Mosmiller: [01:40:30] it was an important issue that we addressed back in the early 80s about male pride and anti-sexism. Not to be ashamed about being a man and not to feel inferior about being a man because so many problems are laid at the steps of traditional masculinity or patriarchy. But to take pride in being a man who's
Tom Mosmiller: [01:41:00] fighting for change and committing to change. So I think it's a good thing for most people, maybe all people to try and look within and find what they can, how they can express pride in their identity and make a contribution towards a just society. That's the final word.
Mason Funk: [01:41:30] That's awesome.
Mason Funk: We're ready to do a 30 seconds what we call room tone.
Natalie Tsui: Okay, I'm rolling.
Mason Funk: So in everything you said, even though we just talked briefly about you not wanting to appear to be bashing BAGL or smashing BAGLs but I have a couple of questions. One was about when you mentioned that your relationship with this woman you were very much in love kind of ended over your
Mason Funk: [01:42:00] homosexual desires or tendencies or whatever. Can you into more detail about that? I think it's really instructive to hear how a Bisexual man has been navigating these waters.
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. I was involved with Kathleen for about three or four years and during that time I was engaging in clandestine homosexual activity.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:42:30] Not so much relationships but stereotypical anonymous sex. I got into some professional counseling during that time and realized that I didn't want to be having a secret life. That I wanted to be fully out about the whole person that I was. So I took the courageous and scary steps to share that with her.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:43:00] Unfortunately, it didn't go very well. There wasn't an immediate breakup but as I brought these issues into the open and as we tried to deal with them as best as we could as two young people, it led to the breakup of the romance.It was ironic,
Tom Mosmiller: [01:43:30] Kathleen subsequently began to live a lesbian lifestyle for many years. Then eventually I think drifted back to somewhat of a Bisexual lifestyle before she passed away some years ago. But as I mentioned earlier, it was part of my decision that if I was going to leave the greatest love affair of my life because it meant that I should be serious about pursuing
Tom Mosmiller: [01:44:00] why and how men were so important to me. The attraction of the Berkeley Men's Center and of this new Men's Liberation Literature. So-
Mason Funk: Let me interrupt you there because that's a good, that's a complete story.
Mason Funk: We'll get back to that Men's Center. But I kind of want to now talk about maybe start off with something like so after the breakup with my relationship with this woman, I moved to California.
Mason Funk: [01:44:30] I'm paraphrasing but maybe thinking that Gay was the way to go for me, I began to search out ... I'm zeroing on the part where you were talking about how you found that you were not necessarily welcomed in the radical gay community because you identify as Bisexual. Obviously, we hear that from women on their side as well. But I want to get at is the difficulty of the Bisexual folk find in finding a home,
Mason Funk: [01:45:00] in a tent thats big enough for them.
Tom Mosmiller: So when I decide to leave the relationship with Kathleen because of the importance of men in my life and wanting to pursue the importance of men in my life. It wasn't immediate, it took me a year or two to realize that well maybe I should leave Baltimore. There wasn't much happening in Baltimore. There wasn't any Gay/ Lesbian
Tom Mosmiller: [01:45:30] stuff at that time. This would've been the middle of 1970s, there wasn't anything bisexual going on. So I came out to the San Francisco Bay Area and I think I came west thinking I was a Bisexual guy. Wondering how I was going to be able to live that life. The couple two-three years of therapy in Baltimore
Tom Mosmiller: [01:46:00] had really been helpful about bringing me to accept all of who I was. Realizing that I guess this was the end of that binary conflict, that it had to be either or.So 25 years old, I'm figuring out, no for me it's the both/and. That's been a large mantra for my life, both on the political level and on the personal level.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:46:30] So I came out here and I wanted to be a political activist and I started looking for ways to do that and where can I do that within the Gay community and where couldn't I do that in the Gay community. What other communities might I be able to do it at? So the pro-feminist men's community turned out to be a very fruitful avenue. I was focusing on male roles, I was focusing on homophobia issues
Tom Mosmiller: [01:47:00] and focusing on the empowerment of women. This was an example of where that both/and carried through that. I didn't think that to support women rights seemed to me that did not have to be done at the expense of mens rights. That one could be pro-male and pro-female. It might trickier, might be more complicated but it seemed like it was more valuable.
Mason Funk: [01:47:30] What attitudes did you encounter in the Gay male community because of your bisexuality?
Tom Mosmiller: Kind of the stereotypical response that I was just on the fence-
Mason Funk: So frame my question is-
Tom Mosmiller: So when I tried to get politically active in different parts of the gay community, I ran into the somewhat stereotypical response to my Bi nature.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:48:00] That I just hadn't yet made up my mind and that I might be an exploiter if I was just dabbling with guys and using them for physical satisfaction. That was a no, no. Or I was not just yet courageous enough or conscious enough to come out all the way as a Gay person. I got pretty involved in the Bisexual Center for a couple of years. Participated in workshops and panels. There were great social events and some political action stuff too.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:49:00] So it was a very supportive place here in the Bay Area. Both I and others in the Bi community were engaged in many levels of conversations with Gay and Lesbian comrades. This was when Autumn Courtney became as a Bi woman. She had been involved in a local group called Bi-Pol,
Tom Mosmiller: [01:49:30] which was a political action group and Autumn became one of the co-chairs of the PRIDE community parade one year. That was the first time an out Bi person had been allowed to assume such a position of responsibility. It was still many years later before the parade changed its name to be inclusive of Bi folks and then Trans folks.These were friendly conversations within a community. We were allies, we might have conflicts and differences but we were in the same boat.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:50:00] That was a rich period. My work in the men's community was different. In that, there were no conflicts about my bisexuality really in that community. It was accepted and there were many other Bisexual guys present. Some of those guys might have been
Tom Mosmiller: [01:50:30] at a destination of bisexuality and some of them might have been transitioning but it was safe to be whatever you said you were.
Mason Funk: Do you remember any specific conversations like you mentioned some stereotypical attitudes and comments? But do you remember any specific anecdotes where you might be say going out on a date with a guy and say actually, I'm a Bisexual and he would have-
Tom Mosmiller: [01:51:00] Yeah, I don't remember names but I'm know there were a couple of men who I was attracted to and they were probably politically actively also. Folks who I thought I would really enjoy getting to know better and maybe having a close relationship with. Being rejected because I wasn't Gay, because I was Bi. Those were painful.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:51:30] Of course, during this period I was also pursuing relationships with women. I did develop a rather significant long-term relationship with a woman here in the Bay Area that lasted for about eight or nine years. That I learned from my mistakes in sense that it was an open relationship. I didn't want to put myself in the bind that I had been in before and it was okay.So I was open with her and she was accepting
Tom Mosmiller: [01:52:00] of my bisexuality and we had other issues but not that one.
Mason Funk: Does that mean by being open, does that mean that you were free even in your relationship with her to have one-night stands or relationships with men? Did it mean you were just open about your bisexual nature?
Tom Mosmiller: Both, yeah. She knew that I might
Tom Mosmiller: [01:52:30] have be having an intimate relationship with a guy and she would probably meet the guy. So it was ... Of course, we were younger then. I'm talking about the late 70s, early 80s in the Bay Area. I'm 30 years old, more or less, it's before we know about AIDS. I was thinking of her and her family.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:53:00] Her brother was Peter Adair who did the wonderful movie, Word Is Out. Maybe you've heard of it because it has some similarities to the work that you're doing in this film. So it's a different time.
Mason Funk: Yeah. I really kind of enjoyed drilling down into what was fearsome that you able to glean. What was fearsome to say a guy you identified as Gay
Mason Funk: [01:53:30] to hearing that you identify as Bisexual? But you're like I'm really into you, I kind of think you're awesome, I kind of want to get to know you and I'm Bisexual. What did you learn or glean or understand about what was kind of ... In some ways it is no different than saying I'm Gay and I like you but yeah, there's a possibility I'll find some other guy I'll like better. It's complicated and I think it's really important to try and shed as much light as possible on the underlying attitudes
Mason Funk: [01:54:00] that made and make it so hard for some people to accept bisexuality as a reality.
Tom Mosmiller: Well, I think the Gay men that I encountered who had difficulty with my bisexuality, there might be two reasons or two groups. The first hurdle was whether there's an acceptance and an acknowledgement
Tom Mosmiller: [01:54:30] that bisexuality is a legitimate self-determination lifestyle. I think a lot of times I was running into; I didn't find that. It was rejected, that it wasn't accepted at all. But then if somebody was accepting of the concept or of the possibility, then you get into other relationship issues about are we talking about monogamy
Tom Mosmiller: [01:55:00] or what does it mean?That's been a more a complicated one in my life. I can totally understand if I was involved in a relationship with a man. Say my male partner might want a monogamous relationship, what that means is he doesn't want me to have another partner regardless of the gender. He wants an exclusive relationship and I can respect that and accept
Tom Mosmiller: [01:55:30] that's where somebody is coming from. If on the other hand, the person is saying okay, we can have what we're doing and then yes, you can other relationships if you want. Well, does it make any difference that the other relationship is with a man or a woman? So that would be a question.I would be remiss if I didn't mention I ran into some anti-woman attitudes. It's like that Gay chauvinism or the Gay
Tom Mosmiller: [01:56:00] superiority number, which I think is flipping the coin from we've been oppressed and we've been oppressed, repressed and put down and closeted. So the reaction is to bounce back and to now be superiority. So it's like how can you be interested in women? It's like, well why not? Women are wonderful people. Not all the guys I was running into in the gay community
Tom Mosmiller: [01:56:30] maybe thought that. So I've found that and that was an interesting comparison with the men's movement. I was finding anti-women attitudes being fairly prevalent in the Gay male community as they were in the straight male community.So I didn't think that sexuality necessarily led to progressive political perspective. That's a mouthful.
Mason Funk: Yeah but that's a thing.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:57:00] It's a thing about women's issues and the other thing that similar to that is around homophobia. I've had a lot of experience in my life where I think ... I've dealt with a lot of homophobia among Gay men and even Bi men as well as among straight men.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:57:30] It's one thing to be sexual with each other, it's another thing to be opening our hearts to each other and sharing our anxieties and our fears and building trust. So these are human conditions, I think.
Mason Funk: Yeah, that's great stuff. Yeah, certainly you cross over to the Gay world and there's these new set of rules you got to be straight acting, very masculine.
Tom Mosmiller: [01:58:00] I think what was it? The Castro clone motif was probably going on in the 80s and that Butch Militarism and all of that. Remember I was the guy who threw like a girl so.
Mason Funk: Can you talk about that, how even within the gay male world, there could be discrimination and-
Tom Mosmiller: [01:58:30] Sure, the lookism in the gay community is as obnoxious as the sexual objectification in the straight community. I guess what I'm trying to address is that there would be ... In the gay community, I encountered a lot of traditional male roles that had been oppressive
Tom Mosmiller: [01:59:00] growing up in the straight community. I wasn't really keen on either embracing them or continuing to be subject to them. So that was the challenge of having to find a new way to be a man, new way to be a human being. Some of the stereotypes running around were
Tom Mosmiller: [01:59:30] body image and the Butch Motif and also just the rigid rules. Top-bottom, the rigidity of the sex roles rather than allowing a person to explore all of whom they might be.
Mason Funk: Right, great. Good stuff. All right, so let's see here.
Mason Funk: [02:00:00] So I did have a great conversation with your friend, Bill Numark in the car on the way. We drive up here on Sunday. He said and we're going to get to AIDS because I know it's a wide issue.
Tom Mosmiller: Big part of my life, yeah.
Mason Funk: Yeah. But he said that one thing you have brought to a lot of these groups you've been part of and worked at is that you sort have this unique ability to bridge
Mason Funk: [02:00:30] people who tend to be more polarized or polarizing. That you often times were the one who could kind of keep the conversation going so to speak. It's not really a question there but I wonder if you can talk about yourself, that ability of yours and maybe where it came from and how you learned it.
Tom Mosmiller: Well, I mentioned earlier that I grew up in a what I would consider as dysfunctional family, I think most people would
Tom Mosmiller: [02:01:00] consider dysfunctional. So as a kid in a dysfunctional family, you need to figure out where the minefields are. I also mentioned earlier that I did a couple years of therapy on the east coast focused on my sexuality. On the west coast, after I moved here, I did a couple of years of therapy focused on being the adult child of an alcoholic. That was a very fruitful experience also.
Tom Mosmiller: [02:01:30] I guess it helped me to settle and maybe to clarify how much of my life I was living being in the middle.I had these waring parents, the totally evil alcoholic father,
Tom Mosmiller: [02:02:00] the totally good religious Irish Catholic mother. Realizing that the truth might be somewhere in between. I had been struggling with my bisexuality for 10 or 15 years but maybe even 20. Realizing it wasn't one way or the other but it could be an inclusive path for my journey. So how that played out in a lot of my political
Tom Mosmiller: [02:02:30] work was realizing that people with strong positions sometimes try to inflict those positions on their comrades and allies, their fellow travelers. That's what I call horizontal hostility and I would be the guy who would be trying to find the common path that would unify us towards
Tom Mosmiller: [02:03:00] the common goal or the common enemy.Again, I mentioned earlier my work doing just doing block clubs, Black and White people against slum lords. Well, there's that kind of modality follow through, I guess. In the men's movement, there would be arguments and great battles about the role of women or the relation. What did it mean for men to be pro-feminist? We were trying to define this
Tom Mosmiller: [02:03:30] and figure this out. What's our litmus test? What did it mean to be redefining male roles and men as fathers, men as sons, men as brothers? So always room for disagreement but I thought it was important to try and
Tom Mosmiller: [02:04:00] keep finding the unifying themes that would move us forward.
Mason Funk: That sound maybe chicken and egg, some ways being a Bisexual person kind of gave you a unique-
Tom Mosmiller: I think so, I thought so since my adolescence.
Mason Funk: So tell me this.
Tom Mosmiller: I think that since when I was a teenager and realized
Tom Mosmiller: [02:04:30] the outer world was telling me that heterosexual activity was sinful and homosexual activity was just off the charts. I was having to rebel against both of those and say no, I'm doing both of them. I'm not wanting to buy into an inferiority complex about either one. I think life is beautiful. Sure I wasn't thinking this way at 15, I might have been thinking having more occasional suicidal thoughts at 15.
Tom Mosmiller: [02:05:00] Hopefully, by the time I was 25 and through those years of therapy, I was realizing life is beautiful, love is to be celebrated where you can find it and trust and human respect these things transcend genders as well as races and classes.
Mason Funk: [02:05:30] I think the question I was going towards was that in some ways your bisexuality set you up for a life of. Also, your childhood, these things also sort of set you up for a life of being a good mediator.
Tom Mosmiller: Well, I think my life experiences did predispose me towards mediation or towards being mediation or unifier, a consensus seeker.
Tom Mosmiller: [02:06:00] I've also been in, I won't say been ambivalent but in my life I've both had a lot of opportunities to be a leader and opportunities to be an organizer. Those are different roles, I'm very clear about that. I think the bisexuality is setting me up to be a good leader, an inclusive person and one who realizes that doctrinaire
Tom Mosmiller: [02:06:30] ideologies that are painful and hurtful and keep people apart are not good. That how do you acknowledge differences but unite people in a common direction as a leader or empowering people as an organizer? Yeah, so the Bi stuff has really been important, it still is.
Mason Funk: Great. Now there's a few people you mentioned you want to talk about. One of them you've already brought up, is Rubinstein. Stein as opposed to Steiner, is that right, Rubinstein?
Mason Funk: Okay. So who was Maggie Rubinstein?
Tom Mosmiller: When I moved here in the late 70s-
Mason Funk: You need to say where instead of here.
Tom Mosmiller: Sure. When I moved from Baltimore to the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 70s, I lived in Berkeley for a couple of years and then I moved into San Francisco. I was trying to become politically active.
Tom Mosmiller: [02:07:30] I discovered the Bisexual Center, which I think was fairly new at that time. One of the leaders of it was an older woman who was a psychotherapist by the name of Maggie Rubinstein. We didn't become friends but she was a great role model for me. I was probably in my young 30s, I'm guessing at that time she was around 50.
Tom Mosmiller: [02:08:00] So she was definitely an older generation. But I had never met anyone before who had such an integrated understanding of bisexuality and also of social justice.So I know we ran a couple of panels together, I was kind of a young fresh voice and she may have been an older, wiser, experienced
Tom Mosmiller: [02:08:30] voice. But it meant a lot to me. She was one of the ringleaders that had brought the Bi Center into an existence. She was still an active leader during this period that I came in. She and three or four other people were really great role models for me. I was terribly appreciative of what they were doing to build this alternative institution. Meanwhile, I was also trying to build
Tom Mosmiller: [02:09:00] alternative institutions in different areas so I knew how much hard work it was.
Mason Funk: What particular strengths, abilities, or wisdom did Maggie Rubinstein bring that made her effective? Be sure to mention her by name.
Tom Mosmiller: Sure. I remember Maggie Rubinstein; she did a fair amount of public speaking. So she was courageous in that
Tom Mosmiller: [02:09:30] she spoke at lots of LGBT political events and rallies and she was probably maybe one of the foremost Bi representatives in that period in San Francisco. So I admired her courage and I admired her dedication to the greater good. She might have been acknowledging
Tom Mosmiller: [02:10:00] some differences or challenges because of the bisexual issues but she was a dedicated ally and activist within the larger community. So I think she was a trailblazer in that way.Now, as a psychotherapist, she had a lot of good understanding of personal relationship and I'm sure I think I benefited
Tom Mosmiller: [02:10:30] a lot from that at that time. I was still searching a lot of how to make better sense of my life. Here in the west coast I felt like I had the freedom to do that. I was away from the conservative city of Baltimore where I grew up and I was away from my conservative Irish Catholic family. That would've been just totally disapproving of all of these.
Mason Funk: [02:11:00] Speaking of that, that's funny, that was just the question that was on my mind. To what extent did you come out to your conservative Irish Catholic family, your alcoholic driven father about not even ... It probably would've been easier for them to accept that you were Gay than you're Bisexual, what? How much of that became part of your relationship with them?
Tom Mosmiller: Not much.
Mason Funk: So include my question
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. So after I was living here in the Bay Area for a couple of years, having been a refugee from Baltimore,
Tom Mosmiller: [02:11:30] I had to come to terms with how I was going to relate to my biological family back east and how open I was going to be with them. For the most part, I had not been very open with almost all of them. There are two or three members of the family who I have been very open .
Tom Mosmiller: [02:12:00] with and who I feel know who I am and what I've been about in my adult life. But most of my family, my separation from them has been inclusive in total. It's not just about my sexuality, it's about my political values and my lifestyleWe'll talk more about,
Tom Mosmiller: [02:12:30] I've worked in HIV services for years, I worked for a shelter for battered women, setting up a program for men counseling, men who batter women. I did this community organizing stuff. I've just lived a life where most people in my family wouldn't relate to it. There have been conflicts. One of my brothers was a corporate financial titan in the Baltimore
Tom Mosmiller: [02:13:00] metropolitan area. I was part of a Jesuit picket line at his bank around racial redlining and mortgage lending practices. So the divide has been pretty great about what I was doing with my life and how they were living their lives. It's been a lot of silences.
Mason Funk: [02:13:30] I think that is really valuable because there is such an emphasis these days on coming out and kind of maybe an unspoken assumption everybody should come out to everybody.
Mason Funk: I think it's important to hear from you because we can assume that it's not for lack of courage.
Tom Mosmiller: I don't think so.
Mason Funk: Later in the interview, I always ask people on advice on coming out. In your case, I feel like I can maybe ask you for advice on not coming out.
Mason Funk: [02:14:00] What was behind your choices to not be fully open with your family about your life?
Tom Mosmiller: I think for myself that the decision not to come out to a lot of members of my biological family, that it's not that it was a lack of courage, I hope that it was the presence of wisdom. I said that even when I was aware 25 years ago when I was making these decisions. The three people
Tom Mosmiller: [02:14:30] in my family who I have come out with, who I have been pretty open about my life, it's a trust issue. They're people, it's my older sister, it's my favorite niece, who is 55 years old and another nephew. These are folks there's a simpatico, there's a mutuality of respect and acceptance. I feel like I can talk to them about any other crazy things I'm involved in. It may not be their cup of tea
Tom Mosmiller: [02:15:00] but it's okay with them.Whereas with so many members of my family things that are relatively of minor importance in life have led to great disagreements. I have felt great disrespect
Tom Mosmiller: [02:15:30] and rejection. So if I felt like I was encountering that for minor parts in my life, it seemed like I thought that I might run the risk of jeopardizing and maybe severing relationships if I push the envelope too far. So its always seemed to me to be kind of a kindness thing. It's like how much can they tolerate?
Tom Mosmiller: [02:16:00] Trying to push the envelope whether it's talking about working with batterers or working with HIV and AIDS. It's like when I first started talking to those things about my family 10, 20 years ago, it was pretty crazy and far out. It's so wonderful that the times have changed, that have helped normalize and that's good.
Tom Mosmiller: [02:16:30] It's one of the difficulties of being ... Maybe of feeling like I was the only child following such a different path. I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam war, the whole seminary stuff. Just there's been a lot of divergence from the family plan.
Mason Funk: Great. I have a couple of questions. I want to go with the other two people that you've mentioned you want to talk about and maybe
Mason Funk: [02:17:00] we'll take another little break And swap out the card. But Lani Ka'ahumanu.
Mason Funk: I'm learning that and getting better at saying her name. I slow down it's what I [crosstalk] Ka'ahumanu and BiPOL. But mainly, who was Lani Ka'ahumanu?
Mason Funk: It is Lani Ka'ahumanu.
Tom Mosmiller: Yeah. When I got involved in the Bisexual Center in San Francisco in the early 80s
Tom Mosmiller: [02:17:30] when I was living here, a lot of the Bi Center's focus was on personal development and relationship issues. But there was a small group of folks who were interested in political action and they formed a group called BiPOL and Lani was one of the leaders of the BiPOL. She was involved with a guy at that time by the name of Bill Mack and Bill was involved
Tom Mosmiller: [02:18:00] in Bi-Pol and there were two or three other folks, key people. Autumn Courtney who I mentioned was involved in BiPOL.So I think this was probably around 1984 when the Democratic National Convention was going on in San Francisco. It was also during the period when Anita Bryant was leading the nationwide campaign about save our children. There was state-wide proposition
Tom Mosmiller: [02:18:30] here in California to not allow LGBT people to be school teachers. So the BiPOL group was active on all these fronts and Lani, she was an eloquent spokesperson. Boy, she was an incredibly energetic person and charismatic. She's physically a
Tom Mosmiller: [02:19:00] sizeable person and she's got a personality that matches or even exceeds her size.So it was a great pleasure to meet her and get to know her and we've been life-long friends since then. I know that she referred me to you and I appreciated that on her part. Then she came out, I don't know. When did the book ...
Tom Mosmiller: [02:19:30] Lani co-edited a book, it's called Bi Any Other Nameand it's 25 years old. So it must have come out back around 1984, 1983, probably during this period. She must have been working on that book. That book was really special because that was in my adult life it was the first book, I knew of that was giving space
Tom Mosmiller: [02:20:00] for bisexual voices and that meant a lot. This was during the period when the movie Word Is Out had come out, which did a cinema cinematic venue for the gay and lesbian community.That's where we were in that period. I may have not listed Harvey on my list, I debated whether to put down Harvey Milk. Harvey, despite my personal story, the Harvey Milk
Tom Mosmiller: [02:20:30] of come out, come out. I think was a game-changer and I think it has been a game-changer in our society over the past 50 years.
Mason Funk: Right. Great, okay. Let's take another little pause and then we're going to talk a little more about your work you've been doing, substantial work.
Natalie Tsui: [02:21:56] Okay, that's good. Thank you.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Natalie Tsui
Date: May 11, 2017
Location: Home of Tom Mosmiller, Oakland, CA