by Bernard A. Niechlanski
About: Rodger Charles Brooks
I met Rodger Brooks when I became a massage client of his in 1983. I went from client to lover and our partnership lasted until his death in 2011.
Rodger was an activist going back to his teens when he participated in Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington. While attending the University of Hawaii in the 1960’s, Rodger was involved in the anti-war movement, burning his draft card.
In the early 1970’s, he and his partner at the time, Larry Berner, were instrumental in overturning the Briggs Amendment which sought to ban gay schoolteachers in California; Larry was a school teacher at the time. Rodger was a co-chair of the 1978 Gay Freedom Day celebration and helped to politicize that event in light of Anita Bryant and her anti-gay movement then arising in the country.
In the early 1980’s, he worked with Carole Migden at Operation Concern, a gay mental health service. Subsequently he became an Amma Massage practitioner targeting men just becoming sick at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.
Rodger, himself, contracted HIV at this time and he was a participant in an early 1989 trial of AZT. Rodger was also a great believer in alternative medicine and used acupuncture and Chinese herbs early on, which may be the reason he didn’t succumb to an HIV infection until 2011, when he was a ripe old 67 years of age.
In the early part of this century, Rodger was on the HIV/AIDS Advisory Board of SF Kaiser; wrote for the Kaiser HIV Update newsletter under the name of Ol’ Codger Rodger; and initiated the World AIDS Day Kaiser Red Ribbon awards for outstanding service to the HIV community.
In October 2007 Rodger received a Community Hero award from the SF Gay Men’s Community Initiative for his work. He was an active member of SF Thriving, a support group for long-term HIV survivors.
It was my honor and pleasure to live with Rodger for 28 years, to me he will always be an outstanding citizen and hero.