“I became an activist when I was born, because my parents were Holocaust refugees,” Meyer said. “When I was a toddler in the 1940s – when Truman was president – they raised me to believe, quote, ‘there’s nothing more precious than American freedom.’ And they raised me to believe that you should always speak out in the face of oppression.”
In his first brush with activism, he recalled going with a friend to join a protest against a diner that refused to serve black patrons when he was 13 years old. Once there, he was struck in the head with a rock that smashed his idealistic notions of changing the world in one day with one action.
“Before I was hit in the head with a rock, I had my boyish fantasies that I was about to change the world in my one-day participation,” Meyer said. “After I was hit in the head with a rock, I realized this was going to take a long time and dedicated my life to civil rights and activism.”
Meyer came out as gay at 15 during the 1964 World’s Fair, however three decades would pass before he would join in earnest the struggle for his own human rights.
It was only after losing his companion and lover to AIDS in the late 90s that Meyer found what he calls his, “real purpose in life,” which was a spokesman and activist for gays in the military.
When Meyer joined the Navy in 1968, he found himself a member of an extremely intolerant organization, though this was no surprise to him. He knew what he was getting into, but after seeing his University of Miami colleagues burning an American flag in protest of the Vietnam conflict, Meyer decided it was time to pay his dues.
“During Vietnam, many, many straight people lied and said they were gay so they wouldn’t have to go to Vietnam. I had friends who did that,” Meyer said. “I lied and said I was straight so I could serve.”
Ten years ago, Meyer was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to live. After undergoing a radical bladder replacement surgery, he became involved in the movement to achieve full rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender veterans and service members.
Today, he is the National Public Affairs Officer and Veterans Officer of American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER), a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans’ service organization, and the media director and veterans affairs officer of the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA).