Barb Smith


Barbara M. “Robbie” Smith

1) Birthdate:


2) Date you first mark as getting together with your partner Phyllis Johnson:

October 2001

3) Birthplace:

Chicago, Illinois

4) City/state where you live currently:

Chicago, Illinois

5) Education:

Chicago State University, BA

6) Careers:

Accounting and real estate sales

7) How do you describe your sexuality and your gender?

Lesbian, female

8) Do you have children and/or grandchildren?

One daughter

9) If you are GLBT, please describe when you first “knew.”

About 15 years old.

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

I can't say that I there was a formal "coming out" for me. I became a practicing lesbian at 18 years old and began living the lifestyle.

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

When I began living a lesbian lifestyle in the ‘60s, there was a lot of police harassment. It mostly centered on how you dressed. For example, women who wore "fly-front" pants were frequently arrested for impersonation.

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

My mentors were the older lesbians in the community, who basically counseled me on what a "stud" should or should not do in terms of how to dress and how to behave towards your partner.

13) List organizations (GLBT or mainstream) you have been involved in.

Affinity Community Services (board member and donor)
Women of All Colors/Cultures Together/WACT (organizer, member)
Lesbian Community Cancer Project/LCCP (donor)
Crossroads Fund (donor)
Chicago Foundation for Women/CFW (donor)

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

Maxine’s, Mark III, and Kitty Kat Club.

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

It would have to be being faced with the threat of police harassment when walking the streets, or the fear of parties and bars being raided.

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

Definitely different issues – same-sex marriage, domestic partnerships, discrimination in the workplace.

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

I've had several male acquaintances who have died of AIDS and a very good friend who passed away from breast cancer. I'm also a cancer survivor, so I'm very supportive of local organizations such as Lesbian Community Cancer Project (LCCP) and national organizations such as The Susan B. Komen [Breast Cancer Foundation] and Y-Me.

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

I think my personal legacy to the community would be a testament about the rewards that come from being a service to others.

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

There have been several in my life at this point, the first being the realization that my daughter was a born leader. Another would be that my involvement with Affinity has been gift that I have been given. Lastly, realizing a cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence.

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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