With the 50th birthday milestone looming, Dan McNeil knew it was time to get in shape. It started a year ago. One of the catalysts came from an unlikely place.
The vice president of his company had lost a son to leukemia and sent out a challenge to create a team to walk in a benefit in his memory. McNeil was just starting his new fitness kick and decided to give it a try.
“I’d lost 26 pounds through Weight Watchers so I thought, ‘Why don’t I try to run 26 miles?’ I didn’t think I could do either, but I did,” the 49-year-old Rochester, N.Y., native says.
Like many, McNeil had seen cancer affect those he knew. He lost an aunt to lymphoma and a gay friend of his in Rehoboth died from a brain tumor. McNeil found a win-win — he could continue getting in shape and helping a cause that was dear to him at the same time. He’s down to 165 pounds from a high of 208 and on Sept. 10, he’ll do the Nation’s Tri event for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to help research in its mission to erase blood cancers. More information is at teamintraining.org or go here to sponsor McNeil. He’s met his goal but still accepting donations. He blogs about his training there too.
McNeil, a consultant who designs financial software for the government at CGI, came to Washington about 20 years ago. He and his partner, Patrick, who also got on a fitness kick and lost 70 pounds in six months, have been together 17 years and met at a Dignity (a gay-friendly Catholic group) gathering. They were married in 2008 in San Francisco and adopted two kids, then ages 7 and 9, in 2003.
McNeil enjoys family time with his teens, 17-year-old Jaden and 15-year-old Taniya, cooking and training for endurance events in his free time. They have a beach house in Rehoboth and he also enjoys yoga. McNeil lives with his family on U Street. (Blade photos by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out in my early 30s, about 20 years ago. It was hardest to tell my parents.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Our friends Peter and Jack were together 40 years before Jack died 10 years ago. They created a life together filled with friends and beauty at a time when there was no support of any kind. They taught us to value being together.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I’ve been a parent for the past eight years. What’s a nightlife?
Describe your dream wedding.
In 2008, we were married in San Francisco at City Hall with a few close friends and our kids as our witnesses. It was a dream come true to be legally married within my own lifetime, surrounded by my kids.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Adoption. There are hundreds of kids right here in D.C. who need loving homes. If you have the capacity to love, you have the capacity to be a parent.
What historical outcome would you change?
The death of Dr. Martin Luther King.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Obama’s election night. Hope springs eternal.
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I bragged about completing a sprint triathlon in Luray, Va. I was pretty proud to survive the half-mile swim and to finish the race.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would keep it a secret since I wouldn’t want all by straight friends becoming gay.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe how I live my life here and now in the physical world is what counts.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Don’t stop until all families are recognized and appreciated, no matter what shape they come in.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
Gay men only die from HIV and lesbians die from breast cancer. Our community is deeply affected by many diseases. My close friend died this past year of a brain tumor. The father of another gay friend is undergoing treatment for lymphoma. I care about all these things.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
My middle school aged kids once suggested I dress in drag before my son’s new girlfriend met the family. It was the perfect opportunity to show them “The Birdcage.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
According to my 15-year-old daughter, it is being too nice. When walking together in public, I wave to her friends, her teachers and anyone else she points out. I tell her you can never be too nice in this world. She just rolls her eyes at me.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I’ve always wanted my own crown. If I complete a marathon, a triathlon and a century ride to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I will earn a triple crown.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Life just gets better and better.
I came out in Washington almost two decades ago. Over 10 years ago, Patrick and I were able to register as domestic partners. After that we were able to jointly adopt our kids through D.C. It continues to be a place where we can actualize our dreams.