As coronavirus cases continue to rise throughout the United States, the death toll increases, and we grapple with the full impact the disease will have on our communities. Senior art critic for New York Magazine and author Jerry Saltz likely put it best in a Tweet on March 24, “We have been told that we may not die but we will all know someone who has.” qnotes will continue to try and honor LGBTQ people who have died from COVID-19 throughout this pandemic.
Richard E. Weber, Jr.
New York City attorney, Richard E. Weber, Jr. died on March 19 in New York. He was 57. Weber served on the Metuchen Council from 2001 until 2010 and was a member of the Board of Directors of the LGBT Bar Association of New York. He was a partner at the law firm of Gallo Vitucci Klar LLP and volunteered at monthly legal clinics for LGBTQ people in New York City. In a Facebook post, the LGBT Bar Association of New York wrote, “It is in his honor that we continue to steadfastly dedicate ourselves to our mission of advancing equality in and through the legal profession.”
Known as renowned New York City drag queen Mona Foot, Nashom Wooden died on March 23 in New York. He was 50. In a Twitter post following Wooden’s death, fellow drag artist, activist and now-candidate for New York City Council District 7, Marti Gould Allen-Cummings (@MartiGCummings) said “To watch Mona Foot perform was like watching a master class in the art of drag… her energy was infectious.” Wooden found success as a drag performer in 1989, according to a 2017 interview with . He was also part of The Ones, an early 2000s dance trio that produced the single “Flawless” which peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart.
Art historian and curator, Maurice Berger died on March 23 in New York. He was 63. Berger was influential in his focus on “whiteness in the art world” and the political implications of photography, according to ARTnews, often calling out major institutions for not engaging diversity. He wrote a regular column for The New York Times photography blog Lens called “Race Stories” and published the book “White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness in 1999.” He grew up poor in New York City’s East Side and once wrote, “As a Jew, I have known anti-Semitism. As a gay man, I have known homophobia. But neither has seemed as relentless as the racism I witnessed growing up — a steady drumbeat of slights, thinly veiled hostility and condescension perpetrated by even the most liberal and well-meaning people.”
Acclaimed playwright Terrence McNally died on March 24 in Sarasota, Fla. He was 81. The Tony-award winner was best known for writing librettos for the musicals “Ragtime” in 1998 and “Kiss of the Spider Woman” in 1993 and for his plays “Love! Valour! Compassion!,” “Corpus Christi” and “Master Class.” In 2019, McNally received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre. Author John Clum characterized McNally as the most prolific playwright about gay life in New York City and said his plays were a celebration of “various forms of love — of family, friends and lovers.”
Referred to as the “mother of a trans Latinx community,” Lorena Borjas died on March 30. She was 59. For more than 25 years, Borjas fought for transgender women, undocumented immigrants, sex workers and those living with HIV/AIDS. According to the Transgender Law Center, Borjas “spent years walking the streets and supporting others to escape abusive situations, providing condoms and food, connecting the trans women she met to services and support, and even setting up a weekly HIV clinic in her own home.”
Longtime LGBTQ and social justice activist, Tarlach MacNiallais died on April 1 in New York. He was 57. Born in Belfast, Ireland, MacNiallais helped lead the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) as it fought for inclusion in New York City’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The group advocated for progress from 1990 to 2016, when the Lavender and Green Alliance and other LGBTQ groups were finally permitted to march. Longtime friend and fellow activist Marie Mulholland described him as a “huge light with an even bigger heart,” following his death.
Described as a South Florida LGBTQ icon, Henrietta Robinson died on April 3 in Miami. She was 79. Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora, the first openly gay person elected to the city commission told Miami New Times, “She kind of was the godmother of all of us, always somebody happy to lend a smile, a nice comment, or word of advice.” Robinson was widely regarded as among the first out transgender women in South Florida and was a beloved socialite and icon. She moved to South Beach from Massachusetts in 1959, 10 years before the Stonewall Uprising would shift the course of LGBTQ history. For six decades, she was a fixture in the city’s club circuit.
California community leader, Garry Bowie died on April 7 in Downey, Calif. He was 59. Bowie was the executive director of Being Alive, a non-profit HIV service organization in West Hollywood, Calif. and was the former director and founding board member of the Long Beach AIDS Foundation. Reba Birmingham, the president of the Long Beach Bar Association, told the Press-Telegram, “The gay community learned how to take care of itself through Garry’s work.”
Photo Credits: Weber (Gallo Vitucci Klar); Wooden (Instagram/ms.lancing); Berger (Wikimedia Commons); McNally (Wikimedia Commons); Borjas (Facebook); Macniallais (Facebook); Robinson (Facebook); and Bowie (Facebook).