Stefan Lynch was COLAGE’s first director and shares his story with us in memory of his father, and in honor of World Aids Day.
The first person I knew died of AIDS 29 years ago. When I first typed that sentence I typed “19 years” and then did the math and swore out loud. Before my community and family were transformed by AIDS we were buzzing with the energy of the decade after the Stonewall Rebellion - my dad was an out gay activist – probably the most prominent “gay father” in Canada and my mom was going about her love of women less publicly. There was an air of excitement and possibility that gay men and lesbian feminists and transfolk of all stripes carried forward with them from the 60′s – the possibility to transform society into one which welcomed them, to transform families from sites of oppression into structures of liberation, celebrations of great sex and crappy yet catchy dance music (the one thing which definitely has NOT changed).
Then purple lesions hijacked liberation and the fights that were half political half party became life or death.
My step-dad, Bill Lewis, died in 1987 and my dad Michael Lynch died in 1991. It’s tragic but not unusual to lose parents as a teenager. What was more unusual (but sadly in many communities – especially in a number of African countries – is common) was that my community was also disintegrating around me. Neighbors, babysitters, people I played video games with – what my dad called, “These Waves of Dying Friends”.
Coming through the epidemic into adulthood I was looking to recreate that vibrant community I had lost. I started a group for kids of queers the kids themselves decided to call “OK2BUS” through the Toronto Board of Education, and then in 1992 I met Hope Berry Manley, who had also lost her dad to AIDS, who was involved in a newly forming network of us they called “Just For Us” which had started at Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition International conference. I poured my yearning for community and yearning to show my dad I could be ok without him into what became COLAGE.
Years later I learned that one of the groups that found GLPCI was Gay Fathers of Toronto – which my dad help to start. From the ashes, a phoenix. COLAGE continues to create vibrant community and, I hope, help liberate our families and every family.
Listen to the conversation between Stefan and COLAGE Director Beth Teper broadcast last World AIDS Day.
Honor Stefan’s hard work and commitment to COLAGE, make a donation today.