In Memoriam: Gloria Allen


Transgender activist Gloria Allen, died on June 13, 2022 in her home of Chicago at the age of 76. The “mother of queer Chicago” founded a charm school for at-risk transgender youth, inspiring an award-winning documentary film Mama Gloria and a play called Charm.

NYWIFT was proud to screen Mama Gloria as part of its NYWIFT Member Screening Series in November 2021, which included a Q&A with Gloria Allen and the creative team. Watch the conversation here

Allen overcame intolerance and sexual violence in the era before the Stonewall Inn uprising ignited the gay rights movement in 1969 to become a celebrated figure in the transgender-rights movement in Chicago and beyond. A hardworking, working-class woman, she spent her days as an X-ray technician, a licensed practical nurse, a motel clerk, and a nurse’s aide for the elderly, all while running her charm school. In 2014, she was honored with the Living Legend Award at GLAAD’s Trans 100 awards and, in 2021, she received the Carmen Vázquez Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues from SAGE, an advocacy organization for LGBTQ elders.

The director of Mama Gloria, NYWIFT member Luchina Fisher, noted her friend’s impact during a time of “a lot of misinformation and a lot of hate” as “an elder, which many young trans people hadn’t seen or experienced before, reaching out to them and offering her time and her experience and her heart. She heard what was on their minds. She heard what happened to them. And she said, ‘You’re important, and I see you and I love you, and I want you to succeed.’”

And according to Charm playwright Philip Dawkins, you couldn’t walk down a Chicago street with Gloria “without every other person stopping her because she affected their lives in some way.” That said, Chicago’s Mama will be deeply missed and her impact never forgotten.

Read more about Gloria Allen’s legacy in:

The Washington Post

The New York Times