A Tribute to Steve Brown
Editor’s Note: LGBT activist Steve Brown 60, died Feb. 19 at his home.
On Feb. 21, Kansas City’s LGBT community said goodbye to Steve Brown at his funeral service at Congregation Beth Torah. Steve Brown had countless friends through the LGBT community and beyond, gained through his decades of good work as the founding president of the Kansas Democratic Party LGBT Caucus, a founding member of the Kansas Equality Coalition, a founding board member of Four Freedoms Democratic Club, and president of the ACLU Metro Kansas City Chapter.
I mostly knew Steve Brown through tabling at the Kansas City Pride Festival and other events … and our mutual love of gossip. Steve loved some good gossip … and clearly I do, too — I did become a lobbyist.
Each year at KC Pride, Kansas Equality Coalition and PROMO shared a table, and Steve and I would settle in, share a bottle of water, eat some snacks, and revel in two long, hot days of gossip. We would grumble about the high cost of tabling at Pride, and Steve would catch me up on the genealogy of gay Kansas City as people and politicians walked by.
When we tabled at OutFest in October, we would kvetch about the weather, and as the conversation turned to upcoming elections, Steve would tell me the juicy back stories and scandals of local politics. One time, when I asked him what Kansas City politics looked like in the 1970s, Steve crossed and re-crossed his legs in his customary way and told me the story of how he ended up working in the Black Panther office.
When we tabled at AIDS Walk, Steve bemoaned being forced to give up his beloved menthol cigarettes after heart surgery the month before. As the procession began, Steve quietly told me the stories behind the names waving past on white banners.
Steve loved gossip, but he was not a vindictive or mean-spirited gossip. He had spent a lifetime living local politics and decades working for LGBT equality. He had stories to tell and a desire to pass them on. And he was still going strong. Just hours before his death, Steve was helping craft strategy to move non-discrimination legislation forward in the Kansas Legislature.
It was my honor to extend PROMO’s Love of Community honor to Steve Brown at the Words of Love event on Feb. 21. In addition to all his years of struggle and work for LGBT equality, Steve always had time to sit with a young PROMO organizer…to sit with all of us, and share the gossip, the history, and the love of our community.
Sarah Gillooly, former PROMO Kansas City field organizer, is now a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Western Missouri.