Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-02-13
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



'80s Hades: Panelists talk of 'Surviving Reagan'
Extended for the Online Edition of Windy City Times
by Yasmin Nair

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

The Reagan years defined a new era in LGBTQ organizing. The community struggled against governmental apathy towards AIDS while forging activist communities that demanded resources and health care for those affected by the disease.

For the most part, historians have paid attention to LGBTQ activism in this decade by focusing on the two coasts. However, Chicago witnessed its own efflorescence of intense activism in this decade, and a May 7 Out at CHM ( Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark ) panel entitled "Surviving Reagan" provided a glimpse at the work of some of the city's queer activists. The event was moderated by Jennifer Brier, assistant professor of history and gender studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the author of a forthcoming book on the politics of AIDS from 1980 to 2000.

The three panelists were Jackie Anderson, Debbie Gould and Gabriel Gomez. Anderson is a longtime activist who came of political age in the 1960s and has worked to bridge the gap between the Black and white lesbian communities on the South and North sides. She was part of the Lesbian Community Care Project and among those responsible for its annual Ball moving to the South Side. ( This year, the "Garden of Eve" gala, as it is now called, will take place on the West Side at the Garfield Park Conservatory. ) Gould, soon to join the University of Santa Cruz as a faculty member, was a member of Chicago's ACT UP and Queer to the Left ( both defunct ) , and is currently a member of Feel Tank Chicago. Gomez is currently an associate professor of library science/communications media program at Chicago State University. He was a member of ACT UP and then Queer Nation ( also now defunct ) .

Brier began with a brief introduction to the Reagan years and pointed out that, in the telling of the history of the decade as a triumphant march of conservatism, there tends to be "a deep sense of loss and disempowerment" among queer activists. In an effort to complicate how that came about, she asked the panel members to address their triumphs as well as their failures in the context of their groups. Brier also asked about the impact of race and racism within queer activist groups like ACT UP, emphasizing that "knowing racial difference [ is very different from ] acknowledging racism." She also asked about the relationship between left politics and queer politics.

The ensuing conversations revealed the complexity of experiences that made up community organizing, both from a generational and a racial and cultural perspective. Anderson, who grew up in segregated Chicago and came of age in the 1960s, was forthright about cultural and racial segregation between the city's north and south side lesbian activist communities. She pointed to that as a marker of strength: "Chicago is such a difficult city for people in vulnerable communities, and therefore we have sophisticated activists." She said that her work was about "struggling to define issues important for lesbians, to improve lesbian visibility and to build collaborative relationships across lines of color and culture.

Gould said she was a politically unaware 16-year-old in California in 1980, when Reagan was first elected. Going to the University of Chicago in the late '80s, she went to her first ACT UP meeting "and found my political home." She said, "It's where my political development happened. AIDS was a lens through which to understand how power constructs meaning, hierarchies of race, gender, and class. " Noting that her entry into political activism was significantly motivated by a desire to meet girls, she said "activism works when it achieves a level of desire."

Gould also said that the popular narrative about ACT UP as a racist organization was "bullshit." According to her, the fact that the AIDS crisis eventually became a contest over resources and a lack of access meant that different groups at different times ( people of color, women, white gay men ) felt betrayed, causing tensions.

Gomez described himself as a "scared kid" in 1980, when he went to the University of Chicago as an undergraduate. While his family was thrilled to see him enter the bastion of higher learning, Gomez soon came face to face with racism when he was told that "my roommate was excited to show his friends the Mexican." Soon after, Gomez left for Berlin, where even coffeehouses distributed government-supported fliers on how to survive the AIDS crisis. He credited that kind of sexual and political culture, so different from the stigmatization in the United States, with saving his life. Coming back to the United States, Gomez joined ACT UP and then Queer Nation where, he said, the point was that knowing that "being joyous was how we were going to survive."

Speaking about contemporary organizing, Anderson said, "The model of bridging the gap is over in the country and the community. The community doesn't give a shit." She added that "white gay people get universalized as the gay identity but that has nothing to do with Latino or African-American communities." Gomez addressed the preponderance of marriage organizing in today's movement and said that marriage did matter to him, in terms of the benefits it offered but not "in the lockstep way determined by some D.C group." Gould said that she felt "disconnected from … the gay movement in its mainstream manifestations" but stressed the importance of "activism as world-making."

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Before Stonewall, The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community restoration out in June 2019-02-13 - ( February 14, 2019 ) — First Run Features is proud to announce the theatrical re-release of the legendary documentary Before Stonewall: The ...

Gay News

'FACES: Out and Proud' debuting March 1 2019-02-11 - The Center on Halsted is presenting "FACES: Out & Proud," an exhibition of the fine art photographs by Chicagoan Chuck Kramer. The ...

Gay News

Clarence Darrow Commemoration, two events March 13 2019-02-07 - The Clarence Darrow Commemorative Committee will hold the annual wreath-tossing and symposium commemorating Darrow on the 81st anniversary of Darrow's death on Wed., ...

Gay News

Gerber/Hart Library History of LGBTQ Activism lecture and other dates 2019-02-06 - A four-part series of talks on the history of LGBTQ activism will be given by LGBTQ historian John D'Emilio on the four Thursdays ...

Gay News

Colleagues, student remember generous gay art-history professor 2019-01-30 - Martha Pollak remembered colleague Ross Edman bringing his Pekinese dogs to campus at the University of Illinois at Chicago ( UIC ), which ...

Gay News

The Rest of It, Hustlers, Cocaine... 1976-1988 2019-01-09 - Parts of your life are missing. Maybe you've forgotten, purposefully or by accident. You were overwhelmed and didn't look, too influenced by ...

Gay News

Novelist's fascination with history comes alive on stage 2019-01-09 - Novelist Emma Donoghue has had a long and rewarding relationship with Regency historical figure Anne Lister. Lister created a series of coded ...

Gay News

Two LGBTQ Senators, Eight LGBTQ Reps Sworn In, Most Diverse Congress History 2019-01-03 - Washington, DC — Ten openly LGBTQ people will be sworn-in to the 116th U.S. Congress this afternoon — two to the U.S. Senate ...

Gay News

'My Fair Lady.' 'Brokeback' added to film registry 2018-12-21 - On Dec. 12, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the annual selection of "25 of the country's most influential motion pictures to be ...

Gay News

Gerber/Hart unveils AIDS-awareness stamps 2018-12-17 - On Dec. 13, Gerber/Hart Library and Archives unveiled a new exhibit among its collection of LGBTQ historical records: Red Ribbon for AIDS awareness ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.