Five years ago, South Florida Gay News began an annual tradition when it published its first “Out 50” issue. This week SFGN reveals its fifth list, and it is to our community’s credit that SFGN managed to find 50 qualified individuals who were not featured in previous years.
And while there might be arguments about who was included and who was left out, the fact remains that SFGN does a pretty good job in its selection process. Still, by featuring 50 individuals who are still active members of our community, SFGN’s annual list leaves out qualified people who did a lot for our community but who are no longer with us.
There are enough departed greats in our community’s grateful memory to fill more than one Out 50 list.
Here are just a few.
TONY RAMOS, who died in 2014, did enough in his 47-year lifetime to deserve a place in any Out 50 list. Ramos was President of GUARD - Gays United to Attack Repression and Discrimination - from 1906 to 2003. Under his leadership, GUARD played a leadership role in South Florida’s LGBT community. According to Art Greenwald, “under Ramos’s watch, GUARD flexed its muscles and affected change without the radical militancy, the antagonism and unruliness that epitomized other LGBT activist groups throughout the country. The mild-mannered, polite and unflappable Ramos favored a more low-keyed and cooperative diplomacy to confrontation and problem-solving.”
Ramos led community protests against Fort Lauderdale’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, which under the late Rev. D. James Kennedy was a leader of the anti-LGBT religious right. He also forged bonds between the LGBT community, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and local police departments. “Many laws in the state of Florida need to be repealed, but instead of wondering what others are doing about them every member of our community should be calling, faxing and writing to our city, county and state elected officials and demand these unjust laws be removed,” Ramos said. “Only when we come together and stand up for what is right will change ever come. Our community has become complacent in its way of life and this can be very dangerous.”
JAMIE BLOODWORTH, who passed away in 2005, was a political activist who was active in South Florida LGBT and women’s movements. Bloodworth was president of the Broward County National Organization for Women and the Gwen Cherry Women’s Political Caucus, the Broward County Commission on the Status of Women and the Broward County Human Rights Board. Together with her life partner, Beverly Cothern, Bloodworth was a founder (1982) of the Dolphin Democrats, and was instrumental in the passage of Broward County’s domestic partnership ordinance. Bloodworth was inducted into the Broward County Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998. After she passed away, the Dolphin Democrats created the annual Jamie Bloodworth Leadership Award to honor women who have “shown excellence in leadership and/or sponsorship of issues improving the human rights of the LGBT community at large.”
DIANE ARNOLD, who died in 2009, was an early trans activist and pioneer. Arnold was the first trans person to be elected (1999) area leader for Broward County Democratic Executive Committee and the Dolphin Democrats’ Board of Directors. “In April there was an opening for an area leader for the Democratic Executive Committee, and I decided I wanted to be the area leader,” Arnold told Out and Elected in the USA. “The people who voted for me, they knew who I was before, they knew David. But they still voted for me because they felt I could do the job, which is why I was elected. I wasn’t elected because of the fact that I was a transsexual or gay or anything. I could do the job. The person before me didn’t do the job, and he was gay! I knew I could do the job.” In addition to her political work, Arnold was a trendsetter and a role model who paved the way for generations of trans activists who came after her.
The last departed great that I want to mention is personal. When MICHAEL ROBERT GREENSPAN, my partner of 32 years, died in 2017, he left behind a legacy of activism, education and music. Michael was an active member of Congregation Etz Chaim, which he served as cantorial soloist for 25 years, and other LGBT groups in South Florida. As an educator in Broward County schools, he was a finalist for Broward County Teacher of the Year (1999). Michael was also a talented accordionist, singer, composer and recording artist; who delighted audiences as a solo artist and member of the American Balalaika Company. In 2008 the Pride Center honored Michael with one of its Stars of the Rainbow awards. If he was alive today, he would surely be in SFGN’s Out 50 list.