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Deaths in 2016
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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—Jeanne Cordova: Pioneer feminist, activist, journalist, publisher and LGBT media figure Jeanne Cordova passed away Jan. 10 at the age of 67.

—David Bowie: Superstar British singer/songwriter David Bowie died at age 69 after a sustained battle with cancer. On Sept. 23, 2014-Jan. 4, 2015, almost 200,000 people visited the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago to see its "David Bowie Is" exhibition, setting attendance records.

—Antonin Scalia: Antonin Scalia—the U.S. Supreme Court justice seen by some as most hostile to equal rights for LGBT people—died, resulting in the court being reduced to eight members. It stayed that way through 2016 because of a Republican Congressional stalemate against President Obama's choice, Merrick Garland.

—Harper Lee: Nelle Harper Lee—who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 for her book To Kill a Mockingbird—died at age 89 in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

—John Gagnon: John Gagnon—a sociologist who shifted the ground in sex research by proposing that sexual behavior could better be understood by looking at social forces rather than biology or psychology—died Feb. 11 in Palm Springs, California, at age 84. His wife said the cause of death was pancreatic cancer.

—Dr. Quentin Young: Dr. Quentin Young, known for his civil-rights activism, passed away March 7 in Berkeley, California. Among other achievements, Young participated in one of the historic 1965 Alabama marches from Selma to Montgomery, and co-founded and was national chairman for the Medical Committee for Human Rights.

—Prince: Rock superstar Prince, whose music and work inspired many in the LGBT community—even as he courted controversy with them—died April 21. He was 57. His body was found in an elevator his Paisley Park compound in Minnesota.

—Jack Evans: Gay Dallas advocate Jack Evans—who made national headlines when he and his partner of 56 years became the first same-sex couple to legally wed in Dallas County—passed away at age 86 after a battle with lung cancer. Evans and Harris—who met in 1961—founded the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, and were involved with The Dallas GLBT History Project.

—Jeffrey Montgomery: Michigan LGBTQ-rights activist Jeffrey Montgomery, the founding executive director of the Triangle Foundation, died July 18 at age 63. In 1991, Montgomery, Henry D. Messer and John Monahan co-founded the foundation, which later merged with Michigan Equality to become Equality Michigan.

—Michelle Cliff: Michelle Cliff—a Jamaican-American writer/activist/professor who was the widow of Adrienne Rich—died of liver failure June 12 at age 69. Cliff published "Notes on Speechlessness" in Sinister Wisdom, a feminist journal of lesbian culture that she and Rich edited and published in the early 1980s.

—Phyllis Schlafly: Arch-conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly—who bitterly opposed LGBT rights, pro-choice rights and the Equal Rights Amendment, among other causes—died Sept. 5 at age 92. In 1992, her son, John Schlafly, was outed as gay just after his mother debated a gay Republican at the 1992 GOP convention. A staffer at his mother's organization, the Eagle Forum, he continued to support her in her causes.

—Juan Gabriel: Mexican singing superstar Juan Gabriel died of a massive heart attack in Santa Monica, California, on Aug. 28 at age 66. Fans and media outlets have long said Gabriel ( who had four children but never married ) was gay, but he has only answered the question once formally, telling a Univision reporter, "Don't ask about something that is obvious."

—The Lady Chablis: Transgender figure The Lady Chablis ( also known as Brenda Dale Knox )—who became famous in John Berendt's best-selling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil—passed away Sept. 8 in Savannah, Georgia at age 59. In 1996, Chablis penned her autobiography, Hiding My Candy, and went on to play herself in Clint Eastwood's 1997 movie adaptation of "Midnight."

—Edward Albee: Edward Albee—considered by many to be among the top U.S. playwrights for at least a generation—died Sept. 16 at his home in Montauk, New York, at age 88 after a short illness. Among his lasting works are Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?; and Three Tall Women.

—Alexis Arquette: Transgender personality/activist Alexis Arquette died Sept. 11 at age 47. Her transition was documented in the film Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother. Her siblings include Richmond, Rosanna, Patricia and David.

—Janet Reno: Janet Reno—who then-President Bill Clinton selected to become the country's first woman U.S. attorney general—died Nov. 7 of Parkinson's disease at age 78. Reno was involved in some of the biggest crises in the 1990s and early 2000s, ranging from the FBI siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas; to Clinton's relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky; to the arrest of sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was connected to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings; to the saga of Elian Gonzalez, a 6-year-old boy who federal agents seized and returned to his father, who took the family to Cuba.

—Fidel Castro: Controversial longtime Cuban leader died at age 90. When it came to LGBT rights, Castro was not known for his liberalism, as he sent thousands of gay men to labor camps. ( He apologized for the camps in 2010. )

—George Michael: British-Greek singer George Michael—who launched his career with Wham! in the 1980s and later continued his success as a solo performer—died at age 53 on Christmas Day. Michael, who was openly gay, had previously dealt with depression and drug addiction, and almost died from pneumonia in 2011. Among his hit singles were the title song, "Father Figure," "Praying for Time," "Careless Whisper" and "I Want Your Sex."

This article features national and international individuals. See next week's issue for coverage of deaths of local LGBTQA figures.

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