A man who
mattered

A man who
            mattered

Jeff Katzoff had
been my close friend for over 30 years when he vanished
from my life May 19. Jeff suffered a linear separation in
his aorta, a condition revealed by CAT scans at a Long
Beach, Calif., hospital just hours before he died.
Several of his vital organs were already dead,
deprived of blood. His lover, Ethan-Cael Kenney, had to tell
Jeff he had three hours to live; then Jeff slipped
away.

Jeff and I came
out a year or two after the Stonewall riots of 1969.
Because of the accident of our great timing, we had a kind
of public life and private confidence that had never
been possible for gay men before. Jeff had “a
kind of courage I’d never known so deeply felt in
somebody gay,” Ethan-Cael said.

Jeff did not
waste a second believing that our desire for other men was
immoral, pathological, or immature. We shared the kind of
moral certainty typical of people in their
20s—the age Bob Dylan once described to me
simply as the time when “things matter.” Our
self-assurance was the gigantic gift that the
’60s had bequeathed us.

Like his hero,
Barney Frank, Jeff came from a middle-class Jewish family
in Bayonne, N.J. Fresh from Jersey City State College, he
crossed the Hudson in 1972 and met his first lover,
Arthur Felson, one of Manhattan’s earliest gay
activists. Together they attended meetings of the Gay
Activists Alliance and danced their hearts out on Saturday
nights in SoHo at the Firehouse, the first gay
community center in Manhattan. The spirit of the times
was captured by the headline on the first leaflet
distributed by the Gay Liberation Front in 1969: “Do
you think homosexuals are revolting? You bet your
sweet ass we are.”

When Jeff and I
took our first trip to California together in 1975, it
was love at first sight. As soon as we started driving down
the coast from San Francisco, Jeff knew California was
where he had to be. To make that possible, his
ambitions quickly expanded to include law school, and
five years later he had graduated from Santa Clara
University School of Law. He also spent a year at Gay
Rights Advocates in San Francisco.

In San Francisco
he worked for gay supervisor Harry Britt, who was
appointed to fill Harvey Milk’s seat after Milk was
assassinated. Then Jeff moved to Long Beach with
Ethan-Cael and founded a law practice in nearby Orange
County.

The two of them
shared their lives for 28 years, and they never lost
their vision for a better world. They were constant
supporters of HRC, the ACLU, the San Francisco AIDS
Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, the Names Project
Los Angeles, the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, and Lambda
Legal, among many others. If every member of the gay
community were as active and selfless as they were, we
would finally have the movement we deserve—and
maybe even a government in Washington we could be proud of.

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