RIP Gloria Stein: Trans Pioneer | Opinion

Gloria Stein in "Uncle Gloria: One Helluva Ride!". Photo via Facebook.

My friend Gloria Suzanne Stein passed away on June 14, after a struggle with cancer, but her death was sadly unrecorded by both the LGBT and mainstream media.

This is a shame, because in her lifetime Gloria was a remarkable individual. After a long, productive, and sometimes controversial life as a man, Gloria transitioned late in life - in 2001 when she was already in her late 60s - but soon made up for lost time. At a time when openly trans individuals were few, Gloria became an activist, founding the South Florida Gender Coalition at a time when most people were enjoying their retirement. She was also active on the Boards of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale, Congregation Etz Chaim, and the Dolphin Democrats. She was even the subject of a documentary, “Uncle Gloria: One Helluva Ride!” by filmmaker Robyn Symon (2016).

Gloria was a forthright individual, who never minced words and always told you what was on her mind. She would admit to her violent past, her career as a professional dominatrix, and the fact that she always carried a gun. I first met Gloria and her partner, Dan Friedman, in the late ‘90s, when Congregation Etz Chaim rented space at the UU Church. Gloria and Dan, a trans man, experienced prejudice from some congregants, but Gloria and Dan did not let that stop them. I am proud to say that my late partner, Michael Greenspan, then cantor at Etz Chaim, was one of the first people to accept Gloria and Dan and welcome them to our congregation. Gloria and Dan made themselves at home at Etz Chaim, and remained active with the congregation until COVID and declining health forced them to step away. I also knew Gloria and Dan through our common involvement in the Dolphin Democrats, an LGBT political group.

Gloria’s relationship with the much younger Dan Friedman was an example of mutual love and devotion that we would do well to emulate. Gloria and Dan lived in Sunrise, Florida; in a suburban home they shared with their countless cats. I visited them often, sometimes carpooling with them to temple services. Gloria, the stronger individual, took care of the more fragile Dan, and she feared what would happen to her spouse if she died before he did. As it turned out, Dan predeceased Gloria by a year, an event that devastated Gloria and might have affected her own health. Gloria believed that she would be reunited with Dan (and their cats) when it was time for her to go.

Gloria Suzanne Stein was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. She was a great woman, person, friend, family, volunteer, and community activist. Though I mourn her loss, I am grateful for her friendship and her example.


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