Douglass Paul Michael Drozdow-St Christian 68, died on Wednesday March 3, 2021 at his home in Stratford Ontario. Douglass lived with end stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, the result of a 55-year love affair with cigarettes. He was the second of 5 brothers, born and raised in Hamilton Ontario, raised primarily by a hard-working single mother in subsidized housing.
Though physically small, Douglass led a big life. Thoughtful and smart beyond his years, Douglass was educated by Jesuit priests in his early years and briefly considered joining the priesthood before being kicked out of multiple high schools across Hamilton for being ‘mouthy and disruptive’. He never did finish high school, but had an extraordinary career. He was an accomplished poet who once shared the stage with the Dalai Lama, an activist trained to diffuse tense situations in the heady civil rights, queer liberation and peace protest days of 1960s and 70s. He was a truly terrible dancer, but worked as a DJ in queer nightclubs in the 70s.
Douglass was also a rare gay elder, a man of a certain age who lived through and miraculously survived the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 90s. He supported, cared and advocated for and lost countless friends and loves during the AIDS crisis and beyond. These experiences propelled him, they built his rage and empathy and sense of justice.
He found his way back to school, eventually earning a doctorate in Anthropology from McMaster University, specializing in medical anthropology. As an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Western University, he taught thousands, and mentored dozens of graduate and undergraduate students, studying and teaching about health and disease and sexuality and desire. His courses were maligned by those on the right, and life-changing for those fortunate enough to enroll in them. Douglass was a teacher, not just to the students he taught, but to everyone he met.
To know Douglass was to change the way you saw the world. He was unflinching in encouraging his students to speak truth to power, to question the status quo and those with a vested interest in maintaining it, and to keep a laser focus on kindness, compassion and truth. He did not suffer fools and had a poem for every occasion, sending them daily to his chosen family. He favoured the writing of Wendell Berry and Pema Chodron, Audre Lorde and bell hooks. After years of deep study and introspection, he identified as a Buddhist. He found great comfort in his Buddhist practice in his last years, as his progressive disease made his world smaller and day-to-day life increasingly pain-filled.
In 1989 he met Stephen Drozdow, who served him at a restaurant, and so began the most important relationship of his life. Stephen and Douglass married in 2003 when same-sex marriage was legalized and peaceably separated in 2019, remaining close loving friends, confidantes and deeply intertwined in each other’s lives. Douglass is additionally survived by his beloved wide and broad chosen ‘wobbly family’, including Sacha Geer and Drew Maddison, Ted Baker, John Pennoyer, Katharine Beverly and Larry Beattie, Karen James-Abra, Peggy Coffey and Robert King, Barb McMahon and Alan Mailloux, Bonnie Steinmen, Astrid and Stephen Russell, and Bonnie Steinman, Sheila Philips, Meredith Hagen, Marlene Drozdow, Michael, Natasha, Emalea, Felix and Sebastian Drozdow, Renata Polkowski, Paul and Ann Geer, Maxine Noel and Cait Noël-Drews, and his sweet little “Princess Peanut” Saoirse, many of whom came together to help with day-to-day care for him in his final months. He is predeceased by his parents, siblings, as well as Aubrey, Grendel and Ernesto, very good dogs.
Douglass spoke highly of the exceptional care he was offered from Dr. Jeremy Thimm and the rest of his medical team. For Doug Ford and those like him, who systematically work to dismantle and undermine the health care system, long term care system and every other protection to our soil and livelihoods and who allow thousands of seniors to die through callous inaction and capitalist greed, he had no kind words.
He did like these words from Audre Lorde:
Next time ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Casey House, https://www.caseyhouse.com/support-us/support-us-overview/, through the funeral home.
Due to the current Covid-19 situation there will be no memorial service at this time, but will be held in the near future when we can all gather again. Funeral arrangements entrusted to the W. G. Young Funeral Home, 430 Huron Street, Stratford, ON. 519.271.7411. www.wgyoungfuneralhome.com
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