November 23, 2011
Lois Bates, a longtime transgender activist in Chicago, died on November 17, according to a report from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (aidschicago.org). Bates was the transgender health manager at the Howard Brown Health Center. Her life was one of varied experience -- in addition to being an HIV activist, she was also a Navy sailor, a cosmetologist, a postal worker, and a security guard. But she'll likely be most remembered for her advocacy work on transgender issues.
"[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. "She inspired me to be bold and brave and stand up for what I believe is right, even if it goes against the grain." Green interviewed Bates for a 2008 profile story for Positively Aware magazine, where he was associate editor before working for AFC.
"She also cautioned me against always compromising for the sake of the greater good," Green said. "Time and time again, LGBT folks get left behind as a result."
Jim Pickett, AFC's director of prevention policy and gay men's health, said that while his contact with Bates had been limited, he was nonetheless impressed by her work.
"I did not have the opportunity to work directly with Lois very much over the years. But that didn't impede my incredible respect and admiration for her and her work," Pickett said. "Her loss hurts."