The City of Chicago, the home of Barack and Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and the International Mr. Leather contest, also boasts the first hall of fame that features members of the LGBT community. Since 1991, the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame (glhalloffame.org) honors “the contributions of Chicago’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities and the communities’ efforts to eradicate homophobic bias and discrimination.”
The success of Chicago’s GLHF inspired other queer communities to create their own halls of fame. They include the Stone Wall Society’s GLBT Hall of Fame (glbthalloffame.com), the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) Hall of Fame (nlgja.org/awards/hof) and the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame (gayandlesbiansports.com). All of these halls, while at times controversial, honor our community’s best and brightest.
South Florida does not have an LGBT hall of fame. What we do have are “portable” halls of fame, like SFGN’s annual “Out 50” issue. This is the second “Out 50” list; and it is to our community’s credit that SFGN managed to find 50 qualified individuals who were not featured in last year’s issue.
And while there might be arguments about who was included and who was left out, the fact remains that SFGN did a fairly good job in its selection process. Still, by featuring 50 individuals who are still active members of our community, SFGN’s Out 50 leaves out those qualified men and women who did a lot for our community but who are sadly no longer with us.
We are a young community; barely half a century old. Still there are enough names in our collective memory to fill an Out 50 list of great departed individuals. Much has been written of all the great, talented and heroic people who were taken from us by AIDS, all over the world, and South Florida is no exception.
They would have been in the Out 50 in their day had there been such a thing: Dan Bradley, Tom Bradshaw, Marty Rubin, Gary Steinsmith, Alan Terl, Logan Carter (Roxanne Russell) and John Goodwin (Dana Manchester), just to name a few. Some sub-communities, like the much-maligned drag/transgender and gay leather/SM/fetish communities, were decimated by the plague. Unfortunately, in our transient community, these names have largely been forgotten.
HIV/AIDS is not the only cause of death in the LGBT community, of course, and our community has lost too many good and great people to cancer, polio, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, accidental death, murder and suicide. They range from teenagers who took their own lives because they were not accepted for who they were to transgender women of color who are the most frequent victims of anti-LGBT violence. They include people whose work made it possible for same-sex couples to get married on Fort Lauderdale Beach; or to bar hop down Wilton Drive, holding a partner’s hand. Recent losses in our community, people like Richard Cimoch, Sal de Falco, Mark Haines or Tony Ramos (just to name a few), did much to make our lives better. They would certainly be in the ranks of the Out 50, if they were with us.
Someday, perhaps, South Florida will have our very own LGBT Hall of Fame. In the meantime, we should remember who were and left before us, those who made SFGN’s Out 50 issue and so many others possible. And we should thank those who are still with us, who were honored in this and last year’s issue, for maintaining that great tradition.