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Remembering Vernita Gray

vernita gray grey chicago

Vernita Gray, who passed away last night after a tenacious battle with cancer, served Chicago’s LGBTQ community with distinction for over 40 years as was one of its early leaders and strongest advocates. She organized a gay and lesbian hotline in 1969 and hosted support groups from her home. She was instrumental in forming the first Lesbian Caucus of the nascent Gay Liberation organization and the first Chicago lesbian newspaper – Lavender Women.

ville, Center on Halsted’s community newszine, had a chance to sit down with Vernita this past winter about the future of the LGBTQ movement.

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“In 1969, I didn’t really have a clue about a career, what I wanted to do with my life. As an African-American woman coming out as a lesbian, I knew I wanted to be free and wanted to be afforded all the opportunities in our culture to be who I really was. I knew that I did not want to be a closeted lesbian,” Gray told the Times’ Tracy Baim as part of the Chicago Gay History project in 2007. “I knew that I wanted to be gay and wanted to enjoy my life with other gay people.”

It wasn’t long before Gray immersed herself in activism. That same year she helped develop a telephone hotline, and started organizing support groups for gay and lesbian Chicagoans at both local colleges and in her own home, according to her biography on the website of the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, into which she was inducted in 1992.

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