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  • Nic F. Anderson

LGBTQ+ Activist and GLAAD Cofounder, Arnie Kantrowitz, Dies at 81

Arnie Kantrowitz, an LGBTQ+ rights activist and founding member of GLAAD, has died at age 81.

Dr. Lawrence D. Mass, Kantrowitz’s long-time partner, told the New York Times that Kantrowitz died Jan. 21 at a Manhattan rehabilitation center. Kantrowitz died due to complications of COVID-19.

Mass, who is a founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, called his partner “a true sage and champion.”

Kantrowitz became vice president of the Gay Activists Alliance in 1970; it was one of the first LGBTQ+ groups that formed after the Stonewall Riots.

He helped found GLAAD (formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in 1985.

From 1965 to 2005, Kantrowitz was an English professor at the City University of New York’s College of Staten Island and started one of the first gay studies courses in the nation, where he promoted the work of Walt Whitman and other gay writers.

Kantrowitz published a memoir in 1977 titled, “Under the Rainbow: Growing Up Gay, which details the difficulties he and other gay people in his generation faced, his struggled with mental health and the gay rights movement – including the first Pride march in New York City.

In 2009, he was nominated to be the grand marshal of Staten Island’s Gay Pride Parade.

Kantrowitz appeared in a 2011 documentary “Vito” which was about a 2011 documentary about Vito Russo, and LGBTQ+ activist, along with other LGBTQ+ related documentaries such as “Gay Sex in the ’70s” and “After Stonewall.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD said on Facebook: “Arnie Kantrowitz’s activism paved the way for the growing visibility, protections, and acceptance of the LGBTQ community that we see today. At a time when LGBTQ people were villainized in the public sphere, Arnie bravely used his personal story to educate the public about our community and its history, ultimately fighting for the fair and accurate representation of LGBTQ people and our issues in the media. His legacy inspires us to continue fighting for a future where the most marginalized among us are seen, heard, and protected.”

“So much of LGBTQ history has been documented, explored, shared, & preserved because of the actions of a handful of people, and he was one of them,” Lauren Herold, an LGBTQ+ media scholar, wrote on Twitter.

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