Amber Hollibaugh, an activist, organizer, author of “My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home” and a self-educated leading public intellectual in the LGBTQ, feminist, sexual liberation and economic justice movements, died suddenly of complications of diabetes in her home in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Oct. 20. She was 77.
Hollibaugh is she is survived by her life partner, award-winning novelist Jenifer Levin, and stepsons Mak Levin and Van De Laurier.
Hollibaugh was born in Bakersfield, Calif., on June 20, 1946. She lived in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Mississippi, Chicago and Canada before she moved to New York in 1981.
“Amber loved life with an embodied passion. She brought that passion to seek justice in the world for us in a way that was unwilling to leave any of our complicated selves behind. Amber’s work for lesbians living with HIV, poor and working-class queer folks and older LGBTQ+ members of our community was groundbreaking and sometimes left Amber not appreciated in the very movements that she was trying to move towards more liberation,” said Beth Zemsky, a former co-chair of the National LGBTQ+ Task Force and the former director of the University of Minnesota’s LGBT Programs Office. “Amber was a fierce friend, somebody you could count on to see you fully and show up for you. I’m grateful to have been able to look into her dazzling blue eyes and see the best of who we could be.”
Barbara Satin, a Task Force faith consultant, also mourned Hollibaugh.
“My early activism had focused on trans inclusion plus the affirmation of queer folks within faith settings — then I met Amber who introduced me to the beautiful, old LGBT community — my peer group. These pioneers, on whose shoulders we have built a burgeoning progressive movement, had hopes, expectations, fears and concerns around aging that were seriously overlooked by the broader community,” said Stein. “Through her work on LGBTQ aging at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, including the publication of ‘Outing Age,’ the seminal work on the issue, Amber spotlighted the needs and expectations that our elders had and offered practical and appropriate responses to their difficult situations. Amber added an important element to my activism and the applause I have received over the years for my work on aging are directly connected to her influence on my life. As I approach my 90th birthday, Amber Hollibaugh still is my role model for doing activism with grace and style.
Another remembrance notes Hollibaugh’s legacy “is an integral part of the history of the modern LGBTQ+ and feminist movements.”
“Her contributions were always visionary, as she worked at the intersections of sexual and economic inequality, LGBTQ and women’s health disparities,” it reads. “Her legacy and long-term impact in progressive movements is inestimable, and her loss will be widely and deeply mourned throughout queer communities and beyond.”