In Buffalo, Schneider was the official doctor for firefighters and police officers. When he was late for a lecture, he thought nothing of snapping the magnetic red light on the roof of his station wagon and turning on the siren. "For that reason alone, they were glad to see me leave," he said.
Not everyone has loved his sense of humor. When women complained 10 years ago that his lectures and jokes were sometimes offensive, he dropped sexist, smutty and ethnic jokes from his talks, he said. He knows how subtle discrimination feels. Sometimes when someone tells a homosexual joke, he'll wait until the speaker is finished to ask: "Do you know anyone who is homosexual? Well, you've just met one."
\o7 The beautiful part about it is he and his lover have his mother living with them. She said she'd rather be here with her son, his lover and their nice friends than in an old folks home in Buffalo.\f7
When Schneider and Ron Smelt, 37, a former psychiatric technician, decided to have a committed relationship, Smelt moved in with Schneider and his mother in their north Orange County home. That was 16 years ago. It took five years to adjust to his new family life, Smelt said. But he persevered because he wanted the relationship to succeed.
Most of their friends are homosexual couples in committed relationships, he said. Many of them do not understand why Schneider and Smelt accept most mainstream social invitations as a couple. "We feel strongly our life can be an example," Schneider said.
They belong to two Jewish temples and one fundamentalist church and believe in a higher power, "whatever color She may be."
\o7 When our church was burned by an arsonist, he was there the next Sunday and made a significant contribution. It helped it survive.\f7
Ten percent of his income goes to a long list of charities, ranging from the temples and churches and alcoholism prevention programs to the Elections Committee of the County of Orange, county arts institutions and Native American Indian groups, Schneider said. He also lends money to gay students, some of whom are from affluent families who disowned them when they learned of their homosexuality.
The library at the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center is named for him and Smelt. The annual Southern California Physicians for Human Righs scholarship is called the Max Schneider, M.D. Honorary Scholarship fund, and proceeds from the roast will start the Max Schneider Endowment Fund.
\o7 Max himself has had a chronic illness for a long time. Myasthenia gravis is a disease which . . . causes weakness in face and voice and sometimes breathing, sometimes arms and legs. It's . . . similar to rheumatoid arthritis and unrelated to AIDS. It's not easy to treat or to live with . . . but he has maintained this remarkably active program in so many ways.\f7
--Dr. Stanley van den Noort
When it became obvious that he was sicker than many of his patients, Schneider took a colleague's advice and retired.
"The way you live the longest is to get a chronic disease and take care of it. Or: When natures gives you a lemon, you make lemonade."
Some people think he's a "hard-hearted SOB," he said. In fact, he cries at parades, is so shy he can't make small talk, becomes uncomfortable in crowds and still feels the pain of anti-homosexual insults, he said.
Schneider said he sometimes wishes he had been born into the mainstream rather than into the merry-go-round of guilt and coping associated with homosexuality.
But then a new thought came to him. "Without the painful stimulus to help me grow," he said brightly, "look how mediocre I would have turned out."