On Sunday, June 7th, Seattle Gay News publisher and editor-in-chief George Bakan was found dead at his work desk. He was 78 years old. George was a much-beloved trailblazer, activist and leader in the LGBTQ+ community, spearheading many of the LGBTQ+ social movements we take for granted today.
George was active in the HIV and AIDS communities, organized dozens of PRIDE events, advocated for LGBTQ+ senior housing in Seattle, petitioned at the national level for marriage equality, helped end “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT), worked tirelessly to get Washington LGBTQ+ politicians elected, and made it his mission to post page upon page of free obituaries for those who died from AIDS in his Seattle Gay News publication’s obit section, a decision that was not very popular at the time. He also served with several LGBTQ-focused nonprofits as either a founding member or Board Chair, including being regional co-chair for the 1987 and 1993 National Marches on Washington, DC. George believed in being a voice for the people and was seen by many as a beacon of hope and a champion of civil rights and social justice for the LGBTQ+ community. Along with Marsha Botzer of Ingersoll Gender Center and others, George helped to get the Transgender and Bisexual communities recognized and represented under the Queer umbrella. Without him, the LGBTQ+ acronym would just be Lesbian and Gay.
Called “hard-headed and soft-hearted” by his close friends, George was fearless in his opinions and his willingness to speak them out loud, no matter how controversial. He was also a mischievous rascal and one helluva storyteller. George was well-known for regaling folks with his personal accounts of Seattle Queer history. If it happened, he was probably there and could tell you everything you wanted to know about the players. A friend, Justice McCartney, said of George’s passing that our community had “lost one of the pillars that has held it up for as long as I have been alive…. He knew everyone and knew how to get things done in this community. Our community was stronger with him in it. He stood for what was right. He stood for the underdog. He will be missed.”
George leaves behind a profound legacy of Queer journalism and activism that will continue on in his memory. Founded in 1977, Seattle Gay News was owned and operated by George for almost 40 years and is the # 1 and third-oldest LGBTQ+ newspaper in the United States. George has received an outpouring of love on his Facebook page, and will be sorely missed by the community he worked so tirelessly to support. It is fitting that he died peacefully at his desk, doing what he loved.
George’s daughter Angela and Sherry Harris are organizing a virtual memorial service for him, with details to follow soon.
Astro (they/them) is the Editor-in-Chief of the Seattle Collegian, the President of Seattle Central's Queer Cooperative club, a fully-professed Guard with the Sisters of the Mother House of Washington, a social worker and behavioral scientist, founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance at Seattle Central (TDoR), Board Member-At-Large with Diversity Alliance of Puget Sound (DAPS), and a self-identified Queer-Alien-Person-Of-Color. They have won awards for their journalism and community service work as well as for innovation in leadership and academic excellence, and are an active and outspoken advocate and activist for both the LGBTQ+ and recovery communities. They speak regularly at events relevant to these causes, and work closely with their fellows to support these communities. Social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion are their banners, and their belief in the gifts, strengths, and resilience of all minoritized communities is the driving motivation behind their work and their mission: using the powers of journalism, self-expression, creativity, conversation and connection to uplift and foster acceptance for all peoples.