There is sadness and shock across Chicago after news that longtime transgender activist Lois Bates has died. She passed on Thursday November 17, only three days before the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Bates was the transgender health manager at Chicago's Howard Brown Health Center, the largest LGBT health center in the Midwest. "Over the years, in addition to being an outspoken HIV activist, she was also a Navy sailor, a cosmetologist, a postal worker and a security guard," notes the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. "But she'll likely be most remembered for her trans-advocacy work."
Bates' leadership "often bridg[ed] the divides of age and race," reports the Windy City Times.
"I considered Lois to be the "Mother" of the African -American trans community as well a mother and a mentor to all," said Helena Bushong, a well-known transgender activist. "Lois was present for us in need of direction as we entered our 'authentic' lives. Lois was and shall continue to be an inspiration in my advocacy issues regarding the HIV aging population and the trans community."
Every year, Bates hosted "The Night of Fallen Stars," a collaborative Transgender Day of Remembrance event with Center on Halsted that featured performances by transgender youth. The upbeat variety show was held at Center on Halsted immediately after a somber tribute to transgender victims of hate violence. Bates was expected to coordinate and emcee the show, scheduled for Nov. 20. Instead, said LaTrobe, the show will be cancelled and replaced with a remembrance of Bates
"Lois was really quite amazing. She articulated her perspective on trans issues and what we as a community should do to address those issues in a way that could not be ignored," said Keith Green, director of federal affairs with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Green interviewed Bates in 2008 for Positively Aware.
On a personal note: I was very lucky to have met Lois several times through the years. We spoke several months ago at the Esteem Awards. Lois was a dynamic and inspiring presence. She will be missed.