Civil rights leader and Seattle Gay News publisher George Bakan dies

by Sarah Toce – The Seattle Lesbian

Civil rights leader and Seattle Gay News (SGN) publisher George Bakan was found dead at his desk on Sunday evening, June 7, 2020. He was 78 years old.

A pioneer in the LGBTQ+, HIV and AIDS communities, Bakan was beloved by many who were influenced by his natural wit and personality. In the latter part of his life, Bakan devoted the majority of his time advocating for marriage equality, affordable LGBTQ+ senior housing and telling the stories of our time. He was the editor-in-chief of the SGN for nearly four decades.

On the subject of affordable housing for LGBTQ+ seniors, George told Seattle Weekly on October 31, 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.”

In a video for The Legacy Project, Bakan did what he so often did best: he shared a few history lessons about gay culture in Seattle –

In a Seattle Times interview published on March 7, 2019, Bakan reflected on the early days when AIDS began ravaging Seattle. “We knew we weren’t going to be spared. When you know a disaster is brewing, you do something about it.”

He did something unpopular at the time, the interview stated: he began running page after page to memorialize the dead with free obituaries.

“I felt it was time to open the door and publicly give people with AIDS an identity,” Bakan said at the time.

Sarah Toce’s remarks on Facebook (6-9-20):
George Bakan. I really have no words, but I am going to try. I wrote Shaun’s obituary for George and the SGN after his untimely passing…it was too close to me as a journalist, but I did my best to do his life and legacy justice as he would have done for me. Now, George has passed – and as much as I want to write something profound in dedication of his memory, I think I’m still in shock.

George was always quick with a quip or history lesson – even when I was in the middle of deadline mode and really had no time to pick up the phone. “Call me” and then he’d put his number. A few days later I’d eventually call. I’d try texting first – nothing. Then I’d try messaging on Facebook. The response? “Call me” and then he’d put his number. When I eventually picked the phone up and stopped staring at my computer, we’d talk for 45 minutes about whatever was on his mind.

George was always supportive of my creation and production of The Seattle Lesbian. He always wanted us to collaborate and work together as a team – and we did. In between his musings and my questions, he’d ask me about Sophia and Stephanie. Always happy with a chuckle and some off-color remark about something. I will sure miss his humor and heart.

Bakan was instrumental in mobilizing the Approve Referendum 74 movement in 2012 to achieve marriage equality in Washington state. Whether attending events on the front lines or publishing accounts for the masses, Bakan provided a powerful voice to the Seattle LGBTQ+ community.

Following are the links to The Legacy Project’s 5 videos with George Bakan:

Written & Directed By: Shaun Knittel
Produced By: Shaun Knittel & Dru Dinero

About The Legacy Project
The Legacy Project was started in 2013 by Shaun Knittel. Its aim: to capture the history of the LGBTQ community in the Pacific Northwest of the US.

Through extensive interviews with LGBTQ policy makers and cultural leaders, Shaun captured stories from the early days of the movement, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the ultimate milestone of Marriage Equality in the US.

Shaun Knittel was a Navy veteran, journalist and LGBTQ community activist. Helping lead the push in 2012 for Marriage Equality in Seattle, WA through a grassroots campaign, Shaun’s work was recognized by those who had been leading the movement since the early days.

Shaun Knittel passed away in December of 2019. Being a close friend to Shaun and producer of The Legacy Project, Dru Dinero has started this channel to bring the project to life. This channel is in remembrance of Shaun and his journalistic work in the LGBTQ community that he loved so much.

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