Longtime AIDS activist and anti-imperalist organizer Tryfan Morys Eibhlyn Llwyd (also known as Arawn Eibhlyn, and who uses the pronouns they/them/their) died March 3 in Louisville, Kentucky due to natural causes. They were 70.
Llwyd was born Feb. 21, 1951 in Paris, Kentucky, and was raised by their aunt and uncle following their mother's death by suicide when they were 8. They received their English literature degree from the University of Kentucky. They then moved to California, first to San Diego and then San Francisco. To make a living, Llwyd taught English as a Second Language in San Francisco and Japan before moving to Chicago in the mid-1980s.
In Chicago, Llwyd quickly got involved in the local activist community. This included supporting Puerto Rican political prisoners, taking the Central American Pledge of Resistance opposing the United States intervention in that region, and joining the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee.
Llwyd also co-founded Dykes and Gay Men Against Racism/Repression/Right Wing/Reagan (DAGMAR). DAGMAR became Chicago for Our Rights (CFOR), then Chicago for AIDS Rights (C-FAR) and finally ACT UP/Chicago.
One of DAGMAR's direct actions was an August 1987 vigil in front of then Gov. Jim Thompson's home in Chicago. The action lasted 24 hours and included protestors chaining themselves to Thompson's fence, but did not result in any arrests.
Llwyd also participated in the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights with the Radical Contingent.
Upon moving back to San Francisco in 1987 following their HIV-positive diagnosis, Llwyd got involved in the local HIV/AIDS activist community, most notably with ACT UP/San Francisco and as a co-founder of Stop AIDS Now or Else. Llwyd and others protested Burroughs Wellcome's west coast headquarters in late 1987 due to the company's high price for AZT.
They also joined the ACT UP/San Francisco contingent alongside other ACT UP chapters in 1990 to protest an American Medical Association meeting in Chicago and what was then Cook County Hospital (now Stroger Hospital) for their lack of hospital beds for HIV patients. That same year, Llwyd became ACT NOW's third national coordinator.
Another way Llwyd got their message out was in the Breakthrough Political Journal of Prairie Fire Organizing Committee Winter 1990 issue. They wrote an article, "Fighting AIDS is More Than a Fashion Statement," that chronicled their October 11, 1988 demonstration at the FDA headquarters in Rockville, Maryland (now located in White Oak, Maryland) among other direct actions where they spoke out against the federal government's inaction and raised awareness around the HIV/AIDS crisis.
While doing their activism in San Francisco, they were also a University of California San Francisco Center for AIDS Prevention Studies research assistant. Llwyd was instrumental in making sure the language the center used in its published research did not stigmatize HIV-positive gay men.
When the aunt who raised them became ill in 2000, Llwyd moved back to Kentucky to care for her and remained there for the rest of their life. In recent years, they became a Buddhist and spent time studying at the Furnace Mountain Zen Center.
This past November, Llwyd posted on Facebook that they identified as a "non-binary or genderqueer member of the transgender community" who has "been on this journey since I was 7 years old."
Llwyd's papers are currently housed at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.
They are survived by their brother Jim Jeffries, two cats Bernie and Widget and countless chosen family members and friends.
"When I think of Tryfan, I remember dimples, a sardonic sense of humor, a pleasant radio voice and passionate activism," said longtime friend and School of the Art Institute of Chicago Professor Mary Patten. "I remember sitting in the living room of the apartment they shared with Ferd Eggan in Lakeview, circa 1985-6, with other queer + activist friends who had collectively been trying to assert an anti-imperialist presence in the Gay Pride parades.
"All of us were involved in various leftist formations and coalitions against United States intervention in Central America and the Caribbean, solidarity with the Puerto Rican independence struggle, anti-militarism and anti-racist organizing. At the onset of the AIDS pandemic in the United States, all of us felt the need to create an autonomous queer collective to address this crisis, so together we formed DAGMAR."
"Tryfan was a high-spirited individual who really cared for the underdog in his activism and personal life," said HIV/AIDS movement political comrade Darrell Gordon. "They also loved to attend cultural events in their free time and had a clever sense of humor."
"Tryfan dedicated their life to fighting homophobia, racism and United States imperialism," said friend and Illinois Institute of Technology Department of Humanities History Professor Margaret Power. "They were creative, often irreverent, sometimes grouchy, lots of fun and deeply committed to social justice."
"Tryfan was always interested in learning and expanding their worldview," said friend and private practice attorney Melinda Power. "In the last year of their life, for example, they began to learn Welsh. Tryfan attended the Breonna Taylor/ George Floyd #BlackLivesMatter protests and worked with LGBTQ youth in Louisville, based on their deep commitment to oppose white supremacy, racism and homophobia."
"I last saw Tryfan a year and a half ago when my wife, Rene, and I visited them in Louisville," said longtime friend and retired Chicago Public Schools teacher Howie Emmer. "Speeding down the sidewalk in their motorized wheelchair, commenting all the while about the evils of racist police violence, I was reminded of their spunk and spirit. I did my best to keep up with them. Back in the 1980s, when I first met Tryfan, I was inspired by their AIDS activism and commitment to the fight for gay and lesbian liberation. Tryfan was also a dedicated anti-racism activist during that time and they and I, along with others, worked together in the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee.
"Years later they told me how much our 'Stamp Out Racist Graffiti' campaign and how we challenged the Nazi skinheads meant to them. Tryfan saw racism, imperialism, anti-LGBTQ+ actions and policies and other oppressive structures and behaviors as all tied together. They lived as if their life only made sense as part of the human race and activist communities. Yet they always had their own individual take on things, always a free thinker. I miss you greatly, Tryfan, your legacy lives on."
An on online memorial service will take place June 12 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom link information TBA. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org . They are also looking to hold an in-person memorial in Kentucky later this year if it is safe to do so.