Mina Meyer, a cutting-edge, pioneering LGBT and AIDS activist, has died at the age of 76 in Long Beach, California. A longtime force in Southern California’s LGBT and AIDS movements, she leaves behind a towering legacy of compassion and service.
Meyer grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and moved to Los Angeles in 1963. In 1971, she met her one-time childhood friend and sociology professor Sharon Raphael. The two stayed a couple for the next 45 years, legally marrying in 2008. Since the 1970s, Meyer and Raphael were dedicated LGBT activists who tackled issues involving LGBT rights and health, gay and lesbian senior citizens, and AIDS.
“Mina was the love of my life,” said Sharon Raphael. “I am a better person for joining with her in marriage, and before that in partnership both in love and in our life-long battle for justice for all people.”
At a time when the gay and lesbian community faced fierce homophobia in the 1970s, Meyer and Raphael were important leaders at the Gay Women’s Services Center, which provided legal services, support groups, and shelter for lesbians in Los Angeles. Meyer later established the first lesbian medical clinic in the world at the Gay Community Services Center, which would later become known as the Los Angeles LGBT Center. And Meyer and Raphael were longtime gerontologists, studying and working on issues involving LGBT seniors.
Working with close friend and AIDS Healthcare Foundation co-founder and president Michael Weinstein, the couple were major contributors in the creation of AIDS Hospice Foundation, which would become AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the largest AIDS medical care provider in the world.
In the mid-1980s, Meyer, Raphael, and Weinstein came up with the idea to provide quality, humane hospice care for terminally ill AIDS patients, who often had nowhere to live out their last, dying days. After numerous hard-fought, victorious battles with Los Angeles County government, Meyer helped Weinstein secure the first hospice facility in Los Angeles County, the Chris Brownlie Hospice in the city of Los Angeles. Between 1988 and 1996, approximately 1,200 AIDS patients died with dignity at the medical facility.
Of that time battling with Los Angeles County officials in late 1980s, Meyer said in an interview, “We had to get the county supervisors to pay attention [to AIDS]. We had to get the powers that be to pay attention, and all the governmental folks to pay attention to us. We didn’t have any money. We had to get all the people to pay attention to us to be able to show the needs for all the people who had AIDS.”
AHF president Michael Weinstein said about his close, longtime friend: “Mina was an irreplaceable treasure. The enduring love between her and Sharon was an inspiration to many of us. She supported me every step of the way over our 44-year friendship, and played a critical role in creating the AHF movement.”
In addition, Meyer was instrumental in addressing issues about senior lesbians, and was an active member of the LGBT community in Long Beach, California, where she lived with Raphael.
In 2000, Mina became co-chair of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC), a national organization that advocates on the behalf of lesbians over 60. She also organized a Southern California chapter of OLOC, which continues to have a monthly support group in Long Beach. And both Meyer and Raphael have been members of the seniors committee at the Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Center.
Meyer is survived by her wife, Sharon Raphael.