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KING 5 NEWS Interview with Gaysha Starr and SGN Employees
to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 26, 2020 - Volume 48 Issue 26
Remembering George Bakan
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Remembering George Bakan

by Geov Parrish - Special to the SGN

I am still processing the news late last night of the passing of George Bakan, the longtime publisher of Seattle Gay News. He deserves to be considered in the pantheon of great local civil rights leaders like Bob Santos and Roberto Maestas, and I don't want his death to get buried in all the other news going on right now. It's Pride Month, and George was doing Pride before it was a thing.

George was of the generation, pre-Stonewall, for whom being a Gay man was truly dangerous. Almost everyone was closeted in a way that's unimaginable today, with elaborate rituals so people could find each other - most notoriously the handkerchief system that would tell potential dates whether you were a top or a bottom so that it didn't require verbal discussion. George never forgot that era and where he came from.

I met a lot of men from that era as a young, effeminate-looking, very closeted (and athletic) twink who did occasional sex work 40 years ago. Many of my dates were products of that secretive culture. And I was very, very lucky to never have contracted AIDS, which was the devastating pandemic of our generation. For many of us, including George, it shaped our worldview. Far, far too many healthy young men died.

I first met George before I moved to Seattle. I was living in Washington, DC, in 1987, and was on the paid staff of the Gay/Lesbian March on Washington that year. I was in charge of coordinating housing for all the people who came in from out of town. The march drew 750,000 people, so it was a huge logistical job, and George was one of the regional co-chairs of the Pacific Northwest contingent. He and I were also two of the only voices advocating for the inclusion of bisexuals and trans people - very much a minority opinion then.

The big issue in 1987, of course, was AIDS and the Reagan administration's complete disinterest in addressing an epidemic that then had a 100-percent mortality rate. George was a force locally in getting services and help for the young men stricken with AIDS.

By 1993, for the next big national march, he'd helped succeed in getting bisexuals officially included - though not thoroughly enough to prevent Kate Clinton from making jokes on stage about "sleeping with the enemy." I was in Seattle by then, and over the years, George occasionally published pieces of mine. We weren't close. We were more like colleagues, with a mutual understanding of what we'd each lived through.

And still, he kept at it. SGN wasn't perfect. Under his leadership, the paper was always pretty male-centric. But all the way through the marriage equality battles and this generation's corporatized version of Pride, he never forgot what he'd lived through. In recent years, he became an advocate for senior housing for Gay elders, and that project is now underway on Capitol Hill. It will be a fitting memorial for him.

George's historical perspective and his activist voice will be missed terribly. Rest in Peace, George.

Tell a friend:

Remembering George Bakan
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George Bakan: Rescuer of lost souls
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IN MEMORIAM - Randall Jess Spohn
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Remembering not only an editor, but a friend
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Remembering George Bakan
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A tribute to George Bakan from Julie Shaffer
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Tributes and eulogies for R. George Bakan (via Facebook)
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