The Activist sharing one Sassy story at a time
Dan Glass has created a mass ripple effect through his work as an AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) healthcare and human rights activist. By overcoming injustice through performance, popular education and movement building, Dan Glass is a force of freedom in the UK.
Having just launched his new book 'Queer Footprints - A Guide to Uncovering London's Fierce History', Dan Glass sat down to talk with our Sassy host, Cyd Eva to tell us more. This book has been described as a travel guide, a history text, and a social commentary that brings to life the vibrant narrative of queer allies and activists within the city. As Dan tells us, not only is his book archiving stories, it is a form of activism - inspiring people from around the world to cherish and nurture the ancestry of LGBTQIA+ communities.
Tune in to hear about Dan's journey to creating his book and the way he writes to help people feel a deeper sense of belonging. We have the special sassy privilege of having Dan read parts of 'Queer Footprints' telling us about the idols and icons he is celebrating one story at a time. So sit tight and get ready to be taken down Dan's path to revolution.
Queer Footprints is all about reclaiming our heritage, our stolen culture, what's been silenced in terms of our queer family, our queer stories, our queer power
Dan Glass has been a rebellious and transformational figure on the activist scene within the UK for the past couple of decades. He has helped raise awareness and create care for a rainbow of different movements including climate change, the AIDs pandemic and LGBTQ+ rights. This month, Dan launched his new book 'Queer Footprints', celebrating the history of the queer community and actively archiving the stories that must not be silenced or lost.
"Walking queerly in the footsteps of Dan Glass is a reparative experience to have. We have been here and forever will be. While strolling alongside these pages you will be invited to engage with the mosaic of a city as seen through experiences of lesser and more known queer trailblazers of all times. This book is a monument in the making - find your pace and don’t you walk straight!" Szymon Adamczak - performance maker and HIV activist from Poland.
In his book, Dan Glass has mapped the streets of London and included stories that reflect the lively presence of the LGBTQ+ communities. Having grown up in London himself, within an Orthodox Jewish biological family, Dan tells us about escaping to Soho. "I ran a mile because I always knew I was queer. I knew guys around the age of 14, in the synagogue who were gay and killed themselves... So I ran away to the club scene as a teenager, the gay scene and then found out about the rave scene, the free party scene. And they were the best years of my life!"
My eyes are really open to the beauty of collective action - glorious and glittering collective action can create beauty against all odds
It is this community that Dan has such a huge role in actively fighting for and with, to protect and celebrate multiple movements but predominantly ACT UP! (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) as a healthcare and human rights activist. Alongside speaking publically and facilitating protests, Dan also helps run multiple events in London that celebrate the queer community as well as providing spaces specifically for those with HIV to connect and talk openly in fun and playful ways.
When discussing the start to Dan's activism, he explains how "My family weren't left wing. [But] I had the knowledge from listening to my grandparent's stories that injustice happens and if you have the opportunity you should stand up and speak out". It was years later when he was in the toilet of a squat party, that Dan saw a poster for a protest against the Iraq War. This was the start to his life working professionally as an activist.
I'm here to fight for the protection of queer culture... I want people to read this book and use it as a toolkit for continued freedom struggles across the world
When discussing the reality of LGBTQIA+ global rights, Dan highlights how one of the most long-lasting results of the British Empire was the export of homophobic legislation across the world. "There's still 69 countries in the world where it's illegal to be LGBTQIA+, 41 of them are in the commonwealth. The book is about activism, it's about civil rights. I don't want people to read it and get sentimental about our journey but use it as a toolkit for continued freedom struggles across the world".
Dan's knowledge of Nazi Germany and the huge impact it had on his ancestors is something that informs his work today. When discussing the cover of the book, Dan describes how the pink is symbolic of the pink triangle queer Jews wore in the Nazi concentration camps to define their identity. This connection to his ancestors is something that continues to inform Dan's work, which we are able to witness in the video below.
‘The strength and the beauty of this book is its resolute and joyful nod to queer history, the multiplicity of our stories, and the ongoing, transformative process of our queer footprints which continue to add layers onto the city I was lucky enough to grow up in.
London, through the eyes of Glass, is ever-changing but always radical.’ Juno Roche
When do you feel most confident?
In The Rose's Bar in Berlin - it's pink ceiling, fluffy walls, Amy Winehouse tables, a Jesus wanking clock, swing doors to the bathroom. It's ridiculously, obnoxiously, unapologetically queer and loud! You can be who you want to be.
What key experience has shaped you positively?
My friends - my friends are my family and my rock. And ACT UP!, I was in a bad way after I was diagnosed for many years.
What dream do you wish to come true?
On a personal level, I'd really like to have a home. My own nest so I can rest and be strong for my activism work.
One law you want to change or a cause that's close to your heart?
I hate the monarchy with such a fucking passion. A new report came out about the amount of money they made from slavery and still do, let alone all the land they use. They are such an archetype of the root cause of inequality. I want to completely abolish the monarchy and turn Buckingham Palace into a Queer, Palestinian, Migrant Rights Centre. #fucktheroyals
What is the best thing about being you?
I have tonnes of energy - don't need to sleep much and I want that to continue. It bamboozles my lovers and friends, I'm always like "let's do it!"
Interview by Cyd Eva