Gray, 62, has funneled her energies into gay activism since the 1960s. She set up an LGBT hotline in 1969 —the same year she came out—and her apartment served as a de facto community center and “safe haven” for homeless queer youth. She helped create Chicago’s first lesbian newspaper, Lavendar Woman and was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1992.
More recently, Gray served as the LGBT liaison for Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and is on several committees relating to the aging gay population, including AARP’s LGBT advisory board. “When we first came out, we were excited just to walk down the street, hold hands and be openly gay,” Gray told the Chicago Tribune about her relationship with longtime partner Pat Ewert. “Then, it was exciting to turn on the TV and open a magazine and see a gay person. Now, as we have matured and our revolution has reached 40 years, we want some real-deal things. The fight for same-sex marriage and benefits is very real to me because if something should happen to me, I want [Pat] to get the benefits of my hard work..”
Photo by Hal Baim
NEXT: From an out teen in smalltown America to a major activist in New York City