Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



PASSAGES Legendary Chicago transgender activist, icon, mentor Mama Gloria Allen
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 2798 times since Tue Jun 14, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Legendary Chicago Black transgender activist, icon and mentor "Mama" Gloria Allen died June 13 in her residence at Chicago's LGBTQ senior living facility Townhall Apartments in Lake View. The cause of death is unknown at this time. She was 76.

Allen was born Oct. 6, 1945 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and grew up on a farm there before moving to Chicago's South Side in the late 1950s. Allen received an LPN degree and worked as a nurse's aide at University of Chicago Medicine and in private homes at various points of her professional life.

Four years prior to the Stonewall Uprising, Allen came out and at that time was involved in Chicago's South Side drag ball scene with her chosen family. Allen credited her showgirl and former Jet magazine centerfold mother Alma Allen, seamstress for crossdressers and strippers grandmother Mildred Johnson and great-aunt Fannie's strength and acceptance of her transgender identity for the woman she became.

In recent years, Allen led a charm school for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness at Center on Halsted. At the 2014 Trans 100 Awards, Janet Mock and Precious Brady-Davis presented Allen with the Living Legend Award for her charm school work.

The critically acclaimed play Charm written by Philip Dawkins was inspired by her life and activism work. Charm premiered at the Steppenwolf Garage Theater. Subsequent productions were staged in Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and New York City.

Allen was also the focus of Luchina Fisher's award-winning documentary, Mama Gloria. It premiered at the 2020 Chicago International Film Festival and was subsequently aired on PBS's Afropop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange. The documentary opened up a whole new audience outside of Chicago with feature stories about Allen in People Magazine, The 19th News online publication, the BBC and NowThis News.

Additionally, Allen received the Carmen Vázquez SAGE Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues at the National LGBTQ Task Force's 2021 Creating Change virtual conference. She was interviewed for the book To Survive on This Shore, by Jess T. Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre, alongside other transgender and non-binary elders as well as was featured on the book jacket cover. Allen also wrote an op-ed in this publication last year speaking about her experiences as an out transgender woman and her advocacy on behalf of Chicago's transgender youth population.

Allen is survived by her siblings, many nieces and nephews, chosen family members and friends and the numerous transgender youth she called her children.

"There is so much that should be said about my Aunt Gloria that my words seem futilely doomed to match the measure of what I need to say," said Allen's nephew Benton Johnson II, Ph.D. "So, whatever you see written add 100 percent more to its measure and you might get a glimpse of this amazing woman. I saw her show nurturing love and care to all in the family—even to my little dog, Eli, whom she loved to watch whenever she could. My friend once commented that Aunt Gloria's apartment was so full of love that it made him comfortable enough to fall asleep upright on her couch while we talked aloud.

"Since I talked about family, let me say I was not always sure who was real family or chosen family as she treated everyone so spectacularly well. This attests to her commitment to humanity. She lived her life to the beat of equity; with her heart, legs and feet thumping to the beat of social justice with her special emphasis on improving transgender lives worldwide. While I wish she was still here to fix Great Grandma Mildred's gumbo one more time, I just have a feeling that she is over there stirring up some yummy gumbo goodness and charm for anyone who did not get enough love here. And that, for sure, was her secret ingredient for us all, love."

"I lost my Mama yesterday," said Dawkins. "I am struggling to find the words to express how much this wonderful woman meant to me, so, as usual, I will let her beautiful spirit do the real talking. If you knew her, you loved her. She had a hard life and used it to make life better and more beautiful for absolutely everyone she met. I realized this morning, she did not get to live a good life, but she chose to live it good. I know she is up there now singing in the choir, in a beautiful hat, while making eyes at the sexy heavenly choir director. I am full of sadness but mostly overflowing with gratitude, as I know all of us in her big beautiful family are. As Mama would say, love each other and be beautiful."

"Gloria was courageous, charismatic, a pioneer and an original," said Northlight Theatre Artistic Director BJ Jones; who also commissioned and directed Charm. "I loved her, as did the cast and Philip. She was generous in letting us into her life and loved the play. Her birthday was the day before mine so I kept up with her as did Philip and Armand Fields who played Jonelle in the world and west coast premieres of the play. It was a special experience and one I will never forget."

"Mama Gloria was love, strength and grace personified," said Fields, who can currently be seen as Bussy in the new Peacock series Queer as Folk. "She lit up every room she walked into and no matter who had the fortune of coming in contact with her, you would always walk away feeling seen and heard and your spirit would be dancing a little lighter. A community elder and leader, it was always an honor to be called one of her 'babies.' And now that she is no longer with us in the physical realm, her spirit and legacy can now be experienced by her babies old and new, far and wide."

"It is only fitting that Mama Gloria should leave us during Pride Month because she lived proudly and unapologetically," said Fisher. "I believe it was the love of her mother and grandmother that carried her through her 76 years on the planet. It is that love that Gloria passed forward to me and others and still remains."

"I am heartbroken hearing the news," said Brady-Davis in a Facebook post. "Gloria Allen was a legend of whose shoulders I stand on today. In 2014, I got to tell her publicly what her story of activism and survival meant to me as a young trans woman of color. [There are] too many girls leaving us too soon."

Memorial services details TBA.

Links to features and news concerning Allen which have appeared in Windy City Times:


Editorial by Gloria Allen in 2121: .

Film 'Mama Gloria': .

Gloria Allen interview: .

This article shared 2798 times since Tue Jun 14, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

Kentucky, Tennessee allowed to enforce anti-trans youth healthcare bans
The Cincinnati, Ohio-based Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed Tennessee and Kentucky to enforce laws banning gender-affirming medical care for minors, such as puberty blockers, hormones and surgery, Reuters reported. The ruling is the ...

Gay News

Groundbreaking U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein passes away at 90
Dianne Feinstein—the oldest member of the U.S. Senate and the longest-serving senator from California—has passed away at age 90. Feinstein had planned to retire at the end of her 2024 term, according to CNBC. Shecast her ...

Gay News

GLAAD: GOP primary debate includes question on anti-LGBTQ+ violence, candidates duck
--From a press release - GLAAD: "Instead of addressing the critical issue of the safety and rights of all Americans, GOP primary candidates ignored the rise in violence and hateful rhetoric aimed at the LGBTQ community and our allies. Several chose ...

Gay News

WORLD African efforts, HIV in Amsterdam, Donatella Versace, 'The Queen in Me'
A new attempt to prevent the recognition of and equal rights for LGBTQ+ people in Kenya through a constitutional amendment has been introduced in Parliament, The Washington Blade reported. The move was in response to this ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Outfest, Halo, 'Sex Education,' trans singer, 'Doctor Who'
Outfest announced that it will honor Oscar winner Shirley MacLaine with the James Schamus Ally Award and trans actress Trace Lysette with the Trailblazer Award at the 2023 Legacy Awards presented by Genesis Motor America, per ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Bisexual politicians, DADT, NBJC awards, crimes, Buttigieg
For Bi Visibility Day (Sept. 23), The Advocate ran a piece titled "35 Bisexual Politicians You Should Know." Just a few on the list include trans Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, Nevada Assemblymember Cecelia Gonzalez, U.S. ...

Gay News

Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoes some LGBTQ+ measures and approves others
For California's LGBTQ+ community, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has made things interesting over the last few days. Late last week, Newsom vetoed three progressive measures—including an unexpected rejection of a ...

Gay News

PASSAGES: Chicago musician, producer and DJ Don Crescendo
Queer Chicago musician, producer and DJ Rodney Donovan Taylor, a.k.a. Don Crescendo, was fatally stabbed on the evening of Sept. 12 in his Avondale neighborhood apartment building. He died Sept. 15 at Illinois Masonic Hospital after ...

Gay News

Lambda, TLDEF urge 4th Circuit to uphold rulings protecting gender-affirming care in NC, WV
--From a press release - (RICHMOND, VA - Thursday, Sept 21) — Today, a full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard arguments in two cases involving equal access to health care for transgender people. State ...

Gay News

Arrests, fights punctuate battles across Canada over gender diversity in schools
Arrests were reported in the Canadian cities of Ottawa, Halifax, Vancouver and Victoria, among others, on Sept. 20 as opposing groups clashed on how schools address issues of gender identity and how teachers refer to transgender ...

Gay News

WORLD French fund, mausoleum, Abrazo Grupal, Biden, Billie Jean King
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna announced a fund to help promote the rights of LGBTQ+ people, French24 reported. She made the announcement at the 15th anniversary of an LGBTQ+ group at the United Nations at the ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Sarah McBride, TIME100 lists, Kentucky clerk, suspects arrested
A poll showed that Delaware Democrat Sarah McBride—who is bidding to become the nation's first openly transgender member of Congress—leads her primary opponents by a wide margin, The Hill reported. In a survey of likely Democratic ...

Gay News

19th annual Andersonville Arts Weekend Sept. 29 - Oct. 1
--From a press release - CHICAGO (September 18, 2023) The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce (ACC) is pleased to welcome back its 19tn annual Andersonville Arts Weekend, with the neighborhood transformed into a "walkable art gallery" ...

Gay News

Marge Summit's life to be celebrated Oct. 15
--From a press release - A celebration of the extraordinary life of Marge Summit, the legendary Chicago bar owner, promoter of live music artists, political advocate and much more who passed away on May 16, 2023. Born Sept. 3, 1935 in ...

Gay News

WORLD Quebec lesbians, violence study, Rugby World Cup, Ugandan bill
The hidden history of Quebec lesbians is being explored, the CBC reported. Between 1985 and 1996, a group of lesbians leased the Plateau-Mont-Royal school and ran it as a community center. The school was also home ...


Copyright © 2023 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      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

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.