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 the video below for The Legacy Project, Bakan did what he so often did best: he shared a few history lessons about gay culture in Seattle.
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: 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.
Bakan was instrumental in mobilizing the Approve Referendum 74 movement in 2012. Whether attending events on the front lines or publishing accounts for the masses, Bakan provided a powerful voice to the Seattle LGBTQ+ community.
The above video is from former nonprofit organization Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), founded by his friend and colleague Shaun Knittel.