Roger Goodman


1) Full name: Roger Goodman

2) Birthdate and year: May 23, 1946
3) City/state where you were born: New York, New York
4) Name of partner, and date you first mark as getting together:

5) City/state where you live currently: Chicago, IL
6) Education - schools, degrees/years: Seabury Western Theological Seminary, Cert. Adv. Theol. Studies/1989, Chicago Theological Seminary, M.Div./1987, Northwestern Univ., M.M./1974, Oberlin College B.Mus./1968
7) Career(s) former and present:Concert harpsichordist and teacher, DePaul University, Spiritual Director in private practice 
8) Did you serve in the U.S. military? (If so, what years?) No
9) How do you describe your sexual orientation and your gender?  Queer, Male
10) Do you have children and/or grandchildren? (How many of each?) No
11) If you are GLBT, please describe when you first “knew.” 3 years old
12) Who did you first “come out” to (as GLBT or as an ally of GLBT people) and when? Please write a short narrative about your experience in coming out, whether one time or over many years.  I came out to my friends and peers at Oberlin College in 1965 when I was 18 years old.  It was quite a wonderful experience.  My fellow students and the faculty treated me with great respect.  I was "exotic" back then, not because I was Gay, but because I was out.  I came out to my parents in 1968, That was somewhat traumatic for them.  My mother cried and said, "We knew you were Gay when you were a little boy."  I got furious with her and said they should have said something to me, as it would have saved me a lot of heartache.  If I had had a family I could have come home to after a homophobic incident I would have been a lot less shame-filled and a lot less neurotic.  My father never accepted my Gayness, although he pretended to be my best friend and very liberal, deep inside he hated the fact that I am Queer. He died hating that I am Queer.  My relationship with my brother is as close as two brothers can possibly be.  He loves the fact that I am Queer.  He has also been one of my greatest allies in my fights against AIDS.
13) What troubles did you face as a GLBT person (or an ally of GLBT people)? Describe any incidents in school, at home, at work, in the community, etc.  In adolescence, constant tormenting from my peers.
14) Did you have mentors in the Chicago GLBT community? Did you have role models, even if not from Chicago? if so, who are/were they?
15) List organizations (GLBT or mainstream) you have been involved in. (Please specify founder, board member, volunteer, donor, etc.) Founder GLF Chicago, 1969, GLF Cambridge, MA, founder Bonaventure House, Volunteer Center on Halsted
16) When you were coming out, what were your favorite Chicago GLBT bars, and in what years? 
17) What were the key issues faced in the GLBT community when you first came out?  There was no community when I first came out.  Shame was the main characteristic of LGBT people in the 1960's
18) What issues do you see as key in the GLBT community today? Cohesiveness, lack of compassion, HIV/AIDS
19) How have AIDS and/or other health issues impacted your life personally? Please also list any leaders, family members, or friends whose death impacted your activism. I have AIDS, was diagnosed in 1995. I was a chaplain at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Unit 371 and before that Unit existed, and was a chaplain at Bonaventure House.  I facilitated funerals and memorial services almost everyday, 7 days a week for 10 years until my own diagnosis in 1995.  I have lost over 200 friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and lovers to AIDS and my life has been devastated by the disease.  It has both ruined me and made me the kind, compassionate, caring, loving man I am today.
20) How would you describe the “diversity” within the Chicago GLBT community? Specifically, how do you feel racial, gender, class, age and other issues divide or bring the community together, both in your personal experience and as part of the larger community?  THe Chicago LGBT community is a racist, classist, and ageist community.  It is sad but these things are rampant, especially racism and ageism.  Elderly Gaymen and Lesbians are invisible to society, but worse, we are invisible to our own community.  Our Elders have so much to offer and to teach, and our resources are dwindling.  We are the carriers of the story.  We are the carriers of the Myth.  We are the keepers of the Queer Mysteries, the rituals and symbols, and Queeryouth blind themselves to our existence.  I find it insulting and offensive.
21) If you consider yourself a “political” activist, how do you define this? My adult life has always been as an out Gayman.  I have carried on an out musical and pastoral career.  I am a veteran of the Stonewall Riots and the Gay Liberation Front.  Being "in the face" of the larger straight community as an out, proud Queerman is being political
22) Describe in as many words as you would like what you feel your personal legacy is to the Chicago GLBT community, whether political, social, business, volunteerism, archival, etc.  My legacy is the thousands of lives I have touched as an out Gayman, as a teacher and spiritual director, as a speaker and workshop facilitator.  My most material legacy will be my film "Project Elder Wisdom" (working title)
23) This project is also about “defining moments.” Please discuss some of those in your own life. I divide my life down to "before AIDS" and "after AIDS", which means THE defining moment in my life was my diagnosis with AIDS  in 1995.  I fought for my life from various opportunistic infections for 7 years.  That entire period was one long "defining" moment.
24) Additional comments and memories: This is my 100 word biography:  I was born a Queermale baby in New York in 1946 and grew up on Long Island and in Pittsburgh.  My childhood and adolescence were filled with fear and shame for being Gay.  Had I not had music in my life as a pianist, even as a child, I probably would have killed myself and been one of the Queer child suicide statistics.  Coming out in 1965, in 1969, I fought at the Stonewall Riots and helped found the Gay Liberation Front in Chicago. I then went on to work with the GLF in Cambridge, MA.  I have had an international concert career as a harpsichordist and teacher, and a private practice as a Spiritual Director since 1989.  I have been HIV+ since the early 1980's and was diagnosed with AIDS in 1995.  Currently, I am making a documentary film called "The Elder Wisdom Project" (working title) which is set for release in 2011.  

Article below from Windy City Times,
Sept. 29,2010
by Kate Sosin

One of Roger Goodman's favorite moments in the trailer for his upcoming film is also the hardest to sit through. Gregory Ignatius, a middle-aged man living with AIDS, admits to the camera that the first time he knew what "grace" actually meant was the moment he came to terms with his roommate's death.

Those who don't know Roger Goodman might not understand the significance of that confession. But in Goodman's world, it speaks to heartbreaking paradox.

"I really believe that as the queer body was dying by the thousands, queer spirit grew and grew," Goodman said.

From outside his neighborhood coffee shop in Rogers Park, Goodman recalls that when the AIDS crisis swept through Chicago in the 1980s, gay people united against illness and discrimination. Now, he said, those days of kinship are over.

"People aren't dying anymore," Goodman said. "There's no need for compassion anymore. There's no need for respect."

Goodman's "paradox" is the subject of his upcoming documentary, From the Ashes Risen, from Tribal Elder Productions. Tentatively due out next spring, From the Ashes Risen follows the stories of 10 middle-aged men living with AIDS in Chicago. It also includes conversations with three nurses who treated AIDS patients and LGBTQ youth.

The film is not just a historical look at Chicago during the AIDS epidemic. It's meant to serve as a conversation between at-risk youth and elders. Goodman worries that infection rates among queer youth are high because they haven't lived through an epidemic. He wants elders to relay that history.

It's a history that Goodman is attached to personally. He's living with AIDS, a fact when he is reminded of when he counts out the 60 pills he takes daily. As a spiritual director in the '80s, he facilitated AIDS funerals for more than a decade. People don't talk about AIDS now, he said. "They have no use for the story," he explained. "They're having a good time, so it's irrelevant."

In an eight-minute trailer for From the Ashes Risen, Goodman and two other gay men talk about finding out they were HIV-positive and losing close friends to AIDS. A nurse who worked in the AIDS unit at Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital also talks about her experiences caring for AIDS patients. Original music by Sheldon Atovsky forecasts a heavy-hearted film.

Goodman's filmmaking approach is far from conventional, perhaps even a little ambitious for an ailing 64-year-old first-time filmmaker. He pulls from his wallet a list of the 29 medications he's taking, complete with dosages and ailments they're intended to quell. Is he nervous that health problems will prevent him from making the film?

He shakes his head no. His health has been bad for the last two months, but he's getting better, he said.

Still, he has no funding to start shooting. He needs to raise $185,000 to finish the project. He's a retired harpsichordist living on disability. He's not sure how he'll scrape together the money, but he's confident that he will. Several people have already offered to help him for free.

The film's oddities may also border on controversial for some. Goodman regularly refers to the 1980s AIDS epidemic as a gay "holocaust," stating that gay people were the victims of institutionalized homophobia. Goodman was raised Jewish, and he said he leaves the "h" in "holocaust" lower-case to differentiate between the AIDS epidemic and the Jewish Holocaust. But the explanation may not satisfy all. Goodman also previously referred to the epidemic as "genocide" but gave up that label because he said it upset so many people.

And there's something else unique about Goodman's plans for the film. From the Ashes Risen is spiritually inspired. Goodman believes in queer mysticism and magic. He sees gay men as a "tribe," bound by ancient history and special gifts. He supports the tenants of the Radical Faeries, a subculture of gay men who embrace gender fluidity, communalism, and spirituality. In making the film, he wants to inspire older gay men to mentor LGBTQ youth, teach youth to revere their elders, convince the community to abandon its "individualism," and heal what he calls the "queer spirit." And he plans to do it in less than one hour and 45 minutes.

"What I think we have to pursue right now are spiritual issues, not political issues," Goodman said of his peers. "Gay men have bought into consumerism, and materialism, and individualism."

While the idea of gay men as a "tribe" may not resonate with audiences everywhere, From the Ashes Risen grounds its message in relatable truths. Goodman's nostalgia for a coherent queer community is also informed by his feelings that the LGBTQ community needs to heal racial, economic, and generational divides. It's a call that has been echoed by many LGBT activists this year.

When asked if he'll be satisfied if audiences take away his message of community,without adopting a message of spirituality, Goodman shrugged, as if he can't imagine one without the other. He's been told by fellow crew members that he needs to separate himself emotionally from the film. He isn't sure he wants to. For Goodman, it's not just about making a documentary. It's a film about all of his deepest hopes, a last-ditch effort to bring us back from bar culture and retail therapy. His ambitions are at once idealistic and incredibly simple. "I think what I want in terms of the making of the film, I want a want a family," Goodman said.

He talked about it as if it's inevitable: LGBTQ people will come together in the ways he hopes, and his film will be a part of that.

"There was Stonewall. There was the decade of AIDS," he said. "In 2010, it's another decade. And a tipping point is happening."

Goodman and his crew will be presenting the trailer for From the Ashes Risen at Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. St. Louis, in its auditorium Thursday, Oct. 7, at 5 p.m. For more information, go to http:// .

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.
Click Here for more Information.
Chicago Gay History
© COPYRIGHT 2023 Chicago Gay History
Powered by