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LGBTQ Community Mourns Passing Of Pioneer Dan Kirsch

HRC Charlotte

Tributes are flowing for Dan Kirsch, a leader and organizer in Charlotte's LGBTQ community, who died suddenly Friday.

The Charlotte Observer reported he was 66.

Kirsch was a pioneer who helped organize a variety of groups and events in the 1990s and early 2000s when many in the local LGBTQ community still feared the repercussions of coming out.

"Dan Kirsch always had big dreams and worked hard to give his best to the community. He will be missed," the LGBTQ newspaper QNotes said in a Tweet.  Charlotte Pride called him "a true visionary."

On Instagram, Human Rights Campaign Charlotte said Friday: "Dan did so much for the community he loved … (his) work in the community will continue to have positive impacts for years to come."

Kirsch moved to Charlotte in the late 1980s from Philadelphia, where he was a member of the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus, according to Human Rights Campaign Charlotte.

"It was a life-changing experience to be part of that chorus," Dan told the organization in 2017, when he was given the group's Pioneer of the Year Award. "It gave me courage and confidence to be fully out and ready to do my part for equal rights."

Kirsch became a leader in Charlotte, helping start groups including One Voice Chorus, and the Lesbian and Gay Community Center. In 1994, he and fellow activist Sue Henry helped bring the NC Pride festival to Charlotte, where 4,000 people marched through the streets in support of LGBTQ people.  

The following year, he led the formation of OutCharlotte, an uptown community and arts festival that drew participants from far beyond Charlotte.  Kirsch said at the time it was about building community, but also getting Charlotteans to talk about the issues surrounding LGBTQ people. 

"This came from people who have lost the fear of being openly gay and lesbian and who had a vision of helping their brothers and sisters. We're looking to have that dialogue with the community," he said. 

Kirsch moved away from Charlotte for a decade, according to The Observer, to pursue arts and nonprofit management jobs in San Diego and Fayetteville. He moved back to Charlotte in 2016 to lead a fund-raising campaign for the nonprofit Time Out Youth.

He never stopped organizing. His most recent venture is Charlotte LGBTQ Elders, aimed at  residents 55 and older. That group honored him on Facebook on Sunday:

"Dan provided courageous leadership for the queer community here in Charlotte as well as other cities where he worked and served. He worked tirelessly to promote the visibility of LGBTQ people at a time when being Out, was unheard of and in most places a dangerous idea. We have come a long way with leadership from him and others who paved the way for so many of us to live our lives out in the open. We will be eternally grateful for all he did for us."

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.