Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


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



The life of trans icon Gloria Allen celebrated at event
by Vern Hester

This article shared 1243 times since Fri Oct 7, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

A celebration of the life of noted transgender activist, mentor and teacher Gloria Allen was held on Oct. 6 at Center on Halsted.

Allen—who wasaffectionately called "Mama Gloria" by her friends and colleagues, saw her efforts in the Chicago LGBTQ+ community depicted in a well-received play (Charm) and a GLAAD-nominated documentary (Mama Gloria)—passed away at the age of 76 on June 13. The event, which was held on what would have been her 77th birthday, was attended by many friends, neighbors and family members who freely shared memories of her; the celebration was capped with a videotaped message from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a proclamation delivered by state Rep. Greg Harris.

Born in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1945, Allen grew up on Chicago's South Side during the era of the legendary drag balls before the Stonewall Riots in 1969. With the support and love of her mother, Alma (a showgirl and former Jet Magazine centerfold), and her grandmother, Mildred (a seamstress), Allen overcame traumatic sexual violence in high school and earned an LPN. She worked at the University of Chicago Hospital and in private homes as a nurse's aide. Later in life, she became a celebrated figure in the trans-rights movement with her charm school that operated out of Center on Halsted from 2012 through 2017. Allen's charm school was for at-risk transgender youth and offered free lunches as well as classes on life lessons in love, style, etiquette and make-up. Allen is quoted as saying, "I taught charm school for five years—and those were the best five years of my life."

Allen's cousin Gail Collier said, "She was born in a time when it was hard to stand out as yourself. No matter what, she was bold and beautiful and she didn't care what people thought."

Center on Halsted CEO Modesto Tico Valle reminisced about meeting Allen for the first time 15 years ago: "It was very hard to miss he. She told me, 'I need your help. We need to teach our young people. We need to teach them how to love themselves and hold their heads up.' And before I could say anything she said, 'I'll be here Friday, and I'll need lots of pizzas and refreshments.'"

Former charm school student and GenderCool Project co-founder Gearah Goldstein said, "She set a foundation for me to be who I am. Trans, Black, white, queer, men, women—with her charm school she created all LGBTQ safe spaces. When you were around her, you were safe. She refused to lead with trauma; she led with triumph."

Later during the program, Allen's nephew, Dr. Benton Johnson, said of her, "She had pain, she had struggles, she had triumphs, but she paused to make others great. Her way was caring and she cared."

Allen was also embraced by her neighbors at Town Hall Apartments. Longtime neighbor Don Bell said, "When I think of Gloria, all I can say is 'Well done.' Hers was a life well lived. Let's not mourn her departure; let's celebrate her life big-time. She died in her own home in peace. She lived her full life expectancy for a trans woman, and you can't say that for many trans people."

Town Hall staff member David James said of her relationship with her surroundings, "She loved Center on Halsted, she loved being in the Town Hall Apartments. She died in a place that she loved. She died in a place where she was loved. I was struck by the love of her biological family, which is something many trans women do not enjoy."

Documentary filmmaker Stephen Lewis recalled how Allen wished to be remembered: "[She said,] 'I want to be remembered as a happy person, happy-go-lucky and as a good person. I want to be remembered for my dimples because I got them from God. He said, 'You're cute!!!'"

Documentary filmmaker Luchina Fisher added, "Gloria didn't have advanced degrees or a whole lot of money, but what she did have was love. Love from her beautiful mother, her grandmother and great-aunt. Love for herself won over years of pain and struggle. Love from her trans sisters who didn't make it but whose spirit she carried with her. And love for a new generation of trans, non-binary and queer youth who she called her children."

She went on to say, "It was important for me [as a filmmaker] to capture her voice and spirit, knowing that she would not be here forever. But she was an important part of history, one that we must never forget. And she paved the way for my daughter and so many other young trans people today."

Allen's cousin Renee Greenwood said, "I remember the boys in high school would chase her and call her names but what I really remember of her is her class—how she would present herself. She was so funny, but she fulfilled her purpose for being here."

In her taped message, Lightfoot said of Allen, "Our entire city is so lucky to have felt Mama Gloria's powerful presence. Not only did she teach youth the important lesson about their health and safety, [but] she taught them how to embrace their identity and have fun with it."

Fisher later said, "Two days after Gloria's passing, my daughter and I traveled to the White House to celebrate Pride. As I stood listening to President Biden speak about the road ahead, he mentioned the shoulders on which we stand—and he called out Gloria's name. I gasped out loud and wept because I knew the world now knows Gloria's name and she will never be forgotten."

The film Mama Gloria is streaming on PBS and Third World Newsreel.

This article shared 1243 times since Fri Oct 7, 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.