Eldon Murray Named to Senior Citizen Hall of Fame

By Jamakaya

Milwaukee -- Longtime gay activist Eldon Murray is among five Milwaukeeans who will be inducted into the Milwaukee County Commission on Aging’s Senior Citizen Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place in the office of County Executive F. Thomas Ament on Friday, May 19 at 10 a.m. The Hall of Fame honors older adults who have made significant contributions to the community.

“Awards coming from within the gay community are meaningful,” Murray commented to IN Step. “But it is not too often that awards are given outside the community to openly gay people.”

“This award gives recognition by the county and the Department on Aging to a whole segment of the population that has heretofore been overlooked,” Murray said, “because in recognizing me, they are also recognizing all gay and lesbian seniors.”

Murray has a history of activism in Milwaukee’s gay community that dates back to 1969. He was a founder of the Gay People’s Union, one of the first gay liberation groups in Milwaukee, and he edited the GPU News, a glossy monthly publication, from 1970-80. He helped establish the GPU VD Clinic in the 1970s. That clinic evolved and continues operating today as the Brady East STD Clinic.

More germane to his award from the Commission on Aging, Murray started the Milwaukee chapter of SAGE — Senior Action in a Gay Environment — in 1994. Since then, he has been a tireless advocate for gay and lesbian seniors, within the gay community and in the community at large. Last year alone, SAGE sponsored 59 educational and social events for older gays and lesbians.

Murray was the first openly gay person to be appointed to the advisory board of the Milwaukee Commission on Aging. In 1999, he arranged to bring the “Village Elders” exhibit from New York to Milwaukee for Older Americans Month. It was displayed at the LGBT Community Center, but also at the Department on Aging and the Washington Park Senior Center where it raised consciousness about older gays and lesbians.

Asked of things have improved for gay and lesbian seniors, Murray told IN Step: “We still have a long way to go. We badly need an outreach program, because the older a person is, the more likely they are to be in the closet, and we know we are not reaching a lot of people who might need our assistance.”

“Even though we’ve been in existence for six or seven years,” he said, “there are still a lot of older people out there who don’t know about us.”

Murray thinks that, in general, things have improved quite a bit for gay people.

“We’ve come a long way in Milwaukee since I became active here in 1969. We have good rapport with our elected officials who work with us. We now have a domestic partners registry. We have a police department that actually recruits gay and lesbian people for the police force. We have a strong PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) group. Our PrideFest is now on the Summerfest grounds. We’ve got a very strong AIDS project. There are a lot of things that Milwaukee can be very proud of.”

Still, there are areas for improvement, according to Murray.

“One priority should be trying to make the District Attorney understand that he must prosecute [gay bashing assaults] under the hate crimes laws. I think it’s a disgrace that he refuses to. And, of course, SAGE could really use a strong outreach program to help more of our gay and lesbian seniors. You know, a community is judged by the way it treats its elderly people.”

To contact SAGE, call (414) 271-0378 after 4 p.m..


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