George Bakan, Capitol Hill resident and publisher of the Seattle Gay News from the days when the AIDS crisis dominated its pages through marriage equality and 2020’s pandemic-postponed Pride, has died.
The 78-year-old reportedly passed away working at his desk on the paper he helmed since 1983 in a lifetime he also filled with fighting for civil rights, community activism, journalistic enthusiasm, and love of a good argument.
The Seattle Lesbian reported his death Tuesday:
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.
According to a biography Bakan provided when he ran to lead the Capitol Hill Community Council in 2014, Rudolph George Bakan was born in Seattle, “raised in rural Bellevue and in the 1960s he moved with his family to Eastern Washington” —
George returned to Seattle in the early 1980s to become a gay activist. Some of the highlights of his almost 30-years of gay community activism are organizing the Seattle AIDS Action Committee in 1983, which later became Mobilization Against AIDS. During the early days of the AIDS epidemic George and the Seattle AIDS Action Committee organized an annual candle light vigil at SCCC at Pine and Broadway on Capitol Hill. During his early days as an activist he co-chaired the 1984 Freedom Day Committee, now known as Seattle Out and Proud. George was the regional co-chair for the 1987 and 1993 National Marches on Washington, DC. During both organizing efforts Bakan led the Northwest sponsored push for bi and transsexual inclusion at the national events. He was on the Hands Off Washington (HOW) Executive Committee and was for a time Vice Chair for Hands Off Washington. HOW worked statewide on LGBT political issues from 1992 to 1996.
“Thought of retirement does not suit George,” the bio — that Bakan very well may have written — read. “The LGBT veteran activist continues his daily oversight at the SGN and looks towards future projects, including health issues for old gay guys and setting up training and leadership workshops for young LGBT activists and a tree planting project in Seattle parks to honor people who’ve died of AIDS.”
In 2013, Bakan was recognized with a night in his honor at Neighbours to mark his “lifetime and continued achievements of leadership and community Service.”
The last time Bakan figured prominently in one of our stories was in 2017 as we covered work to plan affordable LGBTQ-friendly senior housing on Capitol Hill:
George Bakan, editor in chief of the Seattle Gay News, had plenty of commentary throughout the night and mentioned his dealings with living in non-senior-oriented spaces. He’s fallen twice but was lucky to come out unscathed.
“We must build to avoid [falls],” Bakan said. “There is a true scale of injuries as you get older.”
He also said some living spaces don’t allow visitors without notification. Bakan knew a man with cancer who couldn’t see his boyfriend because it was required he sign up for visitation two days ahead of time.
That project is now moving forward on Broadway with plans for an eight-story affordable housing project focused on LGBTQ+ elders between Pike and Pine.
Over the years, CHS talked with Bakan on a regular basis. As a publisher, he was intrigued and excited by the growth of a news website in his home neighborhood. As a critic, he kept CHS on its toes. And as a commenter, well, he liked to stir things up — a few of our chats were about comments that were removed from the site. We always were able to sort things out and CHS articles continued to occasionally appear in print in the SGN. “Your friendship is more important than posting,” Bakan wrote. Thanks for reading, GB.
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