Chicago’s LGBT leader Marcia Lipetz passes away
Chicago’s LGBT community lost a leading light last week with the passing of Marcia Lipetz at the age of 71 due to cancer.
Lipetz is known for her role in tackling LGBT issues in Chicago, from the AIDS crisis to the fight for women’s rights.
Lipetz died last Tuesday, September 11 at her home in Evanston, as reported by her wife, Lynda Crawford.
Marcia Lipetz: Building her world
Lipetz was born and grew up in Louisville, Kentucky to social worker parents.
After attending an integrated high school, Lipetz went to Douglass College of Rutgers University in New Jersey for her undergraduate degree.
She got her master’s degree in sociology from Ohio State University in Columbus, and a doctorate in sociology from Northwestern University in Chicago.
She also taught for a time at at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern, and Spertus College.
Crawford said: “I don’t think people realize how much of a teacher she was. She just quietly helped people–teaching and mentoring.”
Lipetz came out at the age of 24. On her first “coming out” experience, she said: “It was the early days of feminism, and lesbian issues were controversial. I wanted to know more, and that was a hint of more to come.”
Marcia Lipetz: Fighting for the LGBT community
Around the 1980s, the AIDS crisis was engulfing the LGBT community.
“Marcia struggled fearlessly to protect everyone affected by that horrible disease,” said Fred Eychaner, who met Lipetz around 1980 on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
Lipetz saw the epidemic as both a health disaster and a threat to civil liberties, and volunteered at the Reproductive Rights Advisory Committee of the ACLU of Illinois.
Eychaner added Lipetz “fought fiercely against those who saw the epidemic as an opportunity to moralize and blame rather than a true public health emergency.”
In the 1980s, Lipetz worked with Eychaner on the launch of WPWR Channel 50 Foundation, which later became the Alphawood Foundation, which supports arts, activism and LGBTQ community organizations.
Marcia Lipetz’s work and accomplishments
Lipetz then went on to become the first full-time executive director of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
She was a board member of Horizons (formerly Gay and Lesbian Horizons), which she later helped establish as the Center on Halsted, the largest LGBTQ social service agency in the Midwest.
Patrick Sheahan worked with Lipetz when she was with the WPWR Foundation and recruited her to help with the Center.
Sheahan said Lipetz was an invaluable resource thanks to “her remarkable standing in the community, a rich history of creating organizations and a deep knowledge not only about Chicago’s LGBT community but the broader Chicago philanthropic community.”
Lipetz went on to become president and CEO of the Executive Service Corps of Chicago, which worked with local nonprofits.
She also started Lipetz Consulting and worked as an adviser on the LGBT Community Fund.
Marcia Lipetz in her own words
Lipetz was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 2009, which cited her for her “leadership, energy, passion, and vision for Chicago’s LGBT community and the institutions affiliated with it.”
Tracy Baim, editor of the Windy City Times, said Lipetz “really helped build the community as it is today by creating these long-lasting institutions.”
Lipetz explained that they worked hard to bring the LGBT and HIV/AIDS community together to address the AIDS crisis at the time.
“AIDS had a huge impact on all of us. We watched as the community members shriveled, and we felt helpless about what to do. We coped with the constant death,” she said.
Lipetz also told the website Chicago Gay History: “I guess I’m a builder– solid hard work that builds for the future– and I’m enormously proud of the work of the ACLU and the future of Center on Halsted.”