Andrew Deppe & Stephen Weiser


1) Birthdate:

Andrew: 1962
Stephen: 1951

2) Birthplace:

Andrew: Chicago, Illinois
Stephen: Fall River, Massachusetts

3) Date you first mark as getting together:

October 1993

4) City/state where you live currently:

Chicago/Uptown (both)

5) Education:

Oberlin (BA, 1985)
University of Illinois at Chicago (MPH/Masters in Public Health, 1993)
Chicago College of Healing Arts (CMT/Certified Massage Therapist, 2003)

Boston University (BA,1973)
Washington University (JD/ Juris Doctor, St. Louis, 1978)
DePaul University Law School (LLM/Master of Laws, 1983)

6) Careers:

Public affairs director, AIDS Foundation of Chicago (1988-1991)
Program director, CDPH, Title I/Ryan White CARE Act (1993-1998)
Massage therapist in private practice

Assistant General Counsel, Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois

7) Did you serve in the U.S. military?

Absolutely not.

8) How do you describe your sexuality and gender?

Gay male (both). Politically Stephen identifies as gay, but he is bisexual.

9) Do you have children and/or grandchildren?

Both: Our adopted son Silvano Vanegas was born in 1983. He’s now married to Krystal Clouse and living in South Haven, Michigan.

10) If you are GLBT, please describe when you first “knew”:

Andrew: As a young child, seven or eight years old.

11) Who did you first “come out” to and in when?

I was "out" to my younger brother and many friends in high school, to nearly everyone at Oberlin, and formally came out to my parents, grandmothers and extended family around 1983 as a sophomore in college. I've been "out" throughout my several careers since 1985.

12) What troubles did you face as a GLBT person?

I have led a fairly privileged life, partly due to my choosing to live and work in LGBT-friendly environments. As a child and adolescent, I suffered verbal and physical harassment from peers – being "beaten up" after school, taunted by bullies, shunned by "popular" kids and called names like "faggot" and "queer."

I always had a sense I was different, and was always interested in the male body from three years old. I did not realize I was gay until I was 19, at which point I underwent a very homophobic and fearful period until I was 21.

13) Did you have mentors in the Chicago GLBT community?

Nearly too numerous to mention. Ron Sable, Marcia Lipetz, Bill McMillan, Adam Burck, Terry Cosgrove, Alan Amberg, Norris Hopkins, Nathan Linsk, Tom Klein, Joe Alongi, Joe Vest, Carol Hayse, Mary Patton, Ferd Eggan, Darryl Gordon, Jeanne Kracher, Rex Sandborg, Michael Thurnherr, John Givens, Vince Garrido, Scott McPherson, Stuart Michaels, Mary Farquhar, Martha Fourt, Ed Young, Larry McKeon, Mark Ishaug, John Volkening, Chuck Hughes, Dale Barber, Bruce Besley, Renie Hanover, Arthur Eisenberg, Ed Mogul, Carol Goldbaum, Carla Cenker, Tom Dombkowski, and Frank Oldham.

Elaine Noble [the first openly lesbian or gay person elected to a state legislature in the U.S.] during my Boston days, during the period between 1973 and 1975. Jim Kelleher, who is now diseased, was a well-known alcohol/substance abuse counselor at Grant Hospital and served the recovery community in general.

14) Involvement in organizations (GLBT and/or mainstream):

Lesbian/Gay Progressive Democratic Organization/LGPDO (founder)
Horizons Anti-Violence Project (founder and volunteer)
Oberlin Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Alumni (founder, board member, and volunteer)
Lesbian/Gay Voter Impact (founder, board member, and volunteer)
LGPDO (board member and volunteer)
Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ (board, volunteer, and donor)
Dykes and Gay Men Against Racism and Reaganomics/DAGMAR (volunteer)
AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power/ACT UP Chicago (volunteer)
Chicago Smelts (volunteer)
Congregation Or Chadash (volunteer)
Ron Sable campaign (volunteer)
Chicago Urban League (volunteer)
United Methodist Annual Conference Council on Youth Ministries (volunteer)
SANE/Freeze (volunteer)
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador/CISPES (volunteer)
American Friends Service Committee (volunteer and donor)
Radical Faeries (volunteer)
AIDS Foundation of Chicago (donor)
Crossroads Fund (donor)
Stage Left (donor)
Oberlin College (donor)
Museum of Contemporary Art (donor)
Center on Halsted (donor)

Chicago Frontrunners (I co-founded together with Peg Grey and two other guys. I initiated the traditional Tuesday and Saturday after-run breakfasts as well.)
Congregation Or Chadash (Donor; and member since 1980; board member from about 1999-2005; co-president 2004 and 2005.)
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund (donor)
Center on Halsted (donor)
Sexual Compulsives Anonymous/SCA (In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s I was very involved in the LGBT efforts in groups promoting the recovery from sex addiction. I was one of the founding members of the Chicago chapter of Sexual Compulsives Anonymous/SCA and was one of the founders of the first SCA meeting on Monday nights as the New Town Alano Club.)

15) When you were coming out, what were your favorite Chicago GLBT bars?

1979-early ‘80s: Alfie's, the Bistro, Blinkers, and Carol's Speakeasy.

I came out in Boston, but when I came to Chicago I went to the Bistro, the Gold Coast, the New Flight, Carol’s Coming out Pub near Halsted and Fullerton, and the Bushes.

16) What were the key issues faced in the GLBT community when you first came out?

Not all that different from today, except I came out before AIDS/HIV. Issues were street safety/hate crime; racism within the LGBT community; anti-discrimination legislation; electing LGBT people to public office; domestic partner rights; adoption and family issues; addiction and recovery.

When I first came out it was immediate post-Stonewall. So it was the time of the Lavender Revolution.

17) What issues do you see as key in the GLBT community today?

Pretty much the same as above [see question 16], with the addition of marriage rights, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and trans visibility/civil rights.

Gay marriage and the epidemic of crystal meth.

18) How have AIDS and/or other health issues impacted your life personally?

This response could fill volumes. My first encounter with AIDS occurred in late 1981 or early 1982 when my friend Don Gould was diagnosed with GRID [gay-related immunodeficiency disease]. Since then, I've spent years of my professional life in HIV/AIDS services, public policy, and advocacy – first as public affairs director of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (1988-1991), then as program director for Title I of the Ryan White CARE Act at CDPH (1993-1998). I was active behind the scenes with ACT UP Chicago and its precursors DAGMAR [Dykes and Gay Men Against Racism and Reaganomics] and C-FAR.

I have lost at least 50 or 60 friends and colleagues to HIV disease over the years, including our adopted son's mother Ida Greathouse in 1995. Others whose deaths affected me include many of those listed as mentors in the preceding question, especially Joe Alongi, Norris Hopkins, Michael Thurnherr, Vince Garrido, Joe Vest, Scott McPherson, Rex Sandborg, and Ron Sable. The two most recent deaths of those close to me were Paco Pedroza and Thom Dombkowski in 2006. Many friends and current massage clients are still living with HIV.

Many of my friends died; too numerous to mention all. But the most significant were the first love of my life, Dennis Benoit, and my dear friend Hank Jones, who was a leader in the Recovery Community.

19) How would you describe the “diversity” within the Chicago GLBT community?

In general, I think LGBT people are just as divided along class, gender, and racial lines as the rest of the population; however, in some cases, sex and romance can bring us together across these lines. In addition, I experience a good deal of overlap here in Chicago between the arts community, the progressive political community, the AIDS/HIV community, and the LGBT communities.

Same as above. The great thing about coming out in the ‘70s was that there were not a lot of bars or much choice. So it was a true melting pot.

20) If you consider yourself a “political” activist, how do you define this?

I was an activist – street activism, non-violent civil disobedience, voter registration, volunteer community organizing, electoral campaigns, lobbying in Springfield and Washington, DC, etc. Now I am content to go to political demonstrations as a participant and carry a sign.

I would not say I have ever been a political activist until Bush II started the war in Iraq. I have never been as politically involved as I am now.

21) Describe what you feel your personal legacy is to the Chicago GLBT community.

I feel many of us got the ball rolling for LGBT people in important ways: getting LGBT people elected to political office; starting the Horizons anti-violence project; building coalitions with other victimized groups (women, seniors, immigrants) around the issues of hate crime and street safety; getting government and public health bureaucracy to respond to HIV/AIDS. My personal legacy is more that of an organizer, grant writer, strategic planner, lobbying coach, lover, partner, healer and parent – and that of a white man who is aware of his race and gender privileges.

The formation of Chicago Frontrunners and my contributions to the LGBT Jewish Community. I also served as a volunteer attorney in the early years of AIDS Legal Counsel.

22) This project is also about “defining moments.” Please discuss some of those in your life.

Harold Washington and Ron Sable campaigns; spending three years partnered with Terry Cosgrove; sharing my life with Stephen Weiser for nearly 14 years; parenting our adopted son Silvano together from ages 14 to 19; and getting married to Stephen in 1998 in a traditional Jewish ceremony officiated by my father, Martin Deppe, a now-retired Methodist minister.

My attendance at the first New England Gay Conference in 1973 and my life with Andrew.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community, the book is edited by Tracy Baim and features the contributions of more than 20 prominent historians and journalists. It is published by Surrey Books, an Agate imprint, and is hard cover, 224 pages, 4-color, with nearly 400 photos.
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