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In some ways an ally, in some ways a member, Dan Massey was inarguably an advocate for the LGBT – and queer – community, as well as a visionary of sexual freedom for all. Massey died of cancer Jan. 28 at the age of 70, leaving behind not only a legacy of personal liberation, but the advances that come from ”over 40 years’ experience in conceptualizing, marketing, designing, developing, and managing the implementation of algorithmic solutions to difficult and intractable problems in computer application.”
The Adams Morgan resident, a graduate of both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, specialized in computer science and information systems engineering. But Massey’s intellect went far beyond algorithms and into the intersection of the spiritual and the erotic. To that end, Massey co-founded with his partner and wife Alison Gardner the groups Columbia and VenusPlusX. Together, Massey and Gardner have also served on the advisory council of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance.
A more obviously political commitment was sitting on the policy advisory board of Gender Rights Maryland. That organization’s board chair, Sharon Brackett, got to know Massey as the two volunteered on the host committee of Creating Change, the ”national conference on LGBT equality,” held in Baltimore in 2012.
”He was a quiet intellectual,” says Brackett. ”He was able to take his life experience and bring it to a situation in front of him with rather practical ease. Dan had a way of just sorting things out.”
With her own background in computer science, Brackett explains that laypeople often think of computing and algorithms as ”on and off,” saying that Massey grasped a more complete picture, an analog reality, that applied to both computing and, in various ways, people.
”He understood we have this convention of gender,” she says. ”He clearly understood it wasn’t a binary, but a range.” In other words, not ”on and off” or simply male and female.
Dr. Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, wrote a piece for the Huffington Post celebrating Massey’s life. In her Feb. 5 column, Beyer mentioned a personality trait also cited by Brackett. ”Dan often spoke his mind, in a respectful but firm manner, and somehow was able to stay actively in the mix,” Beyer wrote.
Or, as Brackett puts it, ”He was very laid back. Or, if you can imagine, a mélange of laid back and intense.”
Gardner and her two children with Massey, Tiye and Ross, will be holding a memorial service to honor this husband, partner, father and pioneer Saturday, Feb. 23. In announcing that memorial, Gardner emphasized that Massey died peacefully, in no pain, not after any battle with illness, but unaware of the cancer until the time of his death. In that announcement, she wrote, ”We are grateful for the grace that allows us to fully embrace our profound spiritual connection and certainty that our family is whole, as it has been for the last 40 wonder-filled years, as it is now, and in our infinite-eternal future as it unfolds.”
Before his death, Massey suggested that in lieu of flowers, those wishing to remember him with a gift should consider making a donation to Casa Ruby or to a charity of their choice. A new choice, Gardner points out, is the Dan Massey Transleadership Scholarship Fund.
The memorial service for Dan Massey is Saturday, Feb. 23, beginning at 1:30 p.m. at the Josephine Butler Parks Center, 2437 15th St. NW.