34

Silverman's Struggle

Hughes

Well, flipping back to the year before bathhouse closure, in December of 1983, you reported to the executive board of BAPHR that, "Dr. Silverman said that he would never agree to bathhouse closings unless a large number of gay/lesbian physicians and other health care providers gave complete support to do so."

16. Minutes, Executive Committee Meeting, December 4, 1983 (BAPHR Office Records, folder: Board Minutes).

He didn't do that, did he?


Andrews

As I've said, before Silverman made his formal announcement, he had a meeting with probably forty or fifty gay community leaders, and all of the gay people that had been part of his task force were there: me, Don Abrams, and some other people too. In that meeting, Silverman tried his best to say that he wasn't really going to close them; he was going to prohibit anything besides masturbation. He was going to say, "You can go there, but you can't do more than masturbate." My sense is that the general consensus of the people at that meeting was, We can stomach this; we can handle this.

And then the next day, he made this statement that, "They'll be closed if they don't stop other than masturbatory activity." Some of the gay community leaders that had been at that Sunday meeting felt like they'd been used. But he needed to have support from the gay community to say this was a combined consensus to go to the full community.


Hughes

Did you have second thoughts about being in that newspaper photograph?


Andrews

Yes, sure. I had still such strong, agonizing, ambivalence, I wished it didn't have to be this way. Because my sense was, If we get people built up into being resistant and radically opposing this, we're going to have even more problems. We're going to lose our credibility, and the epidemic is going to keep going on unabated. But how do you get through to people? And there was just no clear way to get through to people at that time.