News & Stories

George Bakan, Seattle’s own civil rights leader

A remembrance of George Bakan, written by Community Roots Housing site manager Brian Steen:

George was born in 1941, at the beginning of World War II. Born in Seattle, raised in Bellevue with a brief stint in eastern Washington, he returned to the city in the early 1980’s. George returned to Seattle and hit the ground running in community activism, social justice, and providing a space for Seattle’s LGBTQ members to mourn the loss of friends and family from the AIDS epidemic. In 1983, he took the helm as Editor in Chief of the Seattle Gay News, reporting on topics that were not popular over the last 40 years. He took challenges in life and with the paper, including running page upon page of obituaries for those who passed of AIDS in the early 80’s, all at no cost and essentially outing the deceased as gay and positive.

He was known for his activism throughout his life, founding the Seattle AIDS Action Committee, and the Seattle AIDS Action Committee candlelight vigil at SCCC. He was the regional chair in 1987 and 1993 National Marches. He pushed for bi and transsexual rights and ultimately marriage equality in Washington State and eventually the U.S.A. One of his greatest joys was on the night Ref 74 passed.

In his later years, George focused on LGBTQ-senior-focused housing, stating in early 2018, “Many of the senior people we are talking about are people who had full-blown AIDS, but didn’t die. They need some very special attention to make sure that they’re properly…getting all of their medical needs in this era, in the last phase of their lives.”

Maggie Bloodstone, SGN Staff and friend of George, stated after his passing, “George wasn’t just my boss for 16 years, he was one of my best friends, even when we drove each other crazy. There won’t be a day goes by for the rest of my life I won’t think of him and miss him. The community has a big George-shaped hole that I doubt can ever really be filled.”

I believe this message can be felt throughout the LGBTQ community in Seattle and the PNW. George was a legend in his own right, and his legacy will live on in Seattle for years and generations to come.

George passed away early last week at his desk, at the helm of SGN. He was 78 years old and had lived a life that was full and joyful.

I will miss George personally. He was someone I could always count on for support on a fundraiser, a phone call, or just stopping me on the street to chat about life or what (then) CHH was working on next. George was a wealth of knowledge of the Seattle LGBTQ scene. In October of 2016, I received the news that I was HIV+ and George was one of the first people I ran into. I saw him a few days later, and he had heard. George looked at me square in the eyes and with a loving smile said, “Plan for the future, live your live, be healthy, and put your efforts into finding a cure. You will get to be one of the lucky ones.”

“There were a lucky few who made it, who survived the gay plague.”

You will be missed, George.

-Brian Steen

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