Lesbian Icon & LGBTQ+ Advocate Marge Summit Passes Away At 87

There will never be another Marge Summit.

Lifelong LGBTQ+ advocate and lesbian icon Marge Summit passed away last week at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke.

The LGBTQ+ community of Chicago were particularly impacted by Summit’s work, and Owen Keehnen, an LGBTQ+ historian and personal friend, says they wouldn’t be where they are today without her.

“The way I see it, we wouldn’t be where we are today if she hadn’t been around. It’s that simple,” Keehnen told Block Club Chicago. “She always stood her ground, and she loved the LGBTQ+ community. If you messed with the LGBTQ+ community, you were messing with Marge.”

Keehan continued, “there will never be another Marge Summit, she was just one of those elders who cut the path; and every day, we are living off the rights and privileges she fought for.”

Something that always stuck with Keehan was Summit’s confidence in herself and her identity. “Truthfully, what most impressed me about her was that she never believed she was the one in the wrong for being a lesbian,” Keehnen said. “Even though she grew up in the early ’50s, she never thought that being gay was her problem. She always felt like it was a matter of society catching up, and she was very protective of her community.”

Summit ran the former Chicago queer bar His n’ Hers, and her extracurricular advocacy work earned her a spot in the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 1993.

“She was a real old-school dyke, and that’s what people loved about her,” said longtime friend Gary Chichester. “She was always up for a naughty story or joke. If you gave her s—, she’d give it right back to you, but she was a dear friend. She was a real tough broad, in the kindest way.”

Her friend Kathryn Munzer said she was a “force to be reckoned with” and had a style of storytelling that made you feel like you were actually there.

“All the younger lesbians really took to her because she had so much fun telling her stories,” Munzer said. “I’m glad she was able to remind us all of our history and got the chance to share it with people who weren’t around then, too.”

Summit married the love of her life Jahan Lindsey in 2014.

“When she met Jahan, she almost turned into a different person,” Munzer said. “It was really sweet because Marge always put up this really tough front, but Janan was such a sweetheart, and Marge was much softer with her.”

Sadly, Lindley passed away 6 months ago, and friends report that it broke Summit’s heart.

One of Summit’s most proud campaigns was the “Gay Dollar” campaign in the 1980s, where she handed out stamps to all the gay bars in Chicago that said “Gay $” to put on every dollar bill that came through to show how much gay people contribute to the economy. She was warned by law enforcement to stop, but she didn’t.

She organized many fundraisers through His n’ Hers and allowed other organizations to use the bar to raise money as well, especially during the HIV/AIDS crisis.

“She was a quiet benefactor in a lot of ways, especially as she got older,” Keehnen said. “She was always donating money behind the scenes, making sure people were taken care of. She felt such a responsibility to her community.”

She will be remembered by all for having a fierce attitude and an immense love for her community.

 


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