By Randall Jobe
It may seem odd to refer to 67 year old volunteer and activist Judy Reeves as a “ rising” star, but no one can deny that her contributions make her worthy of considerable acknowledgement and praise.
Speaking with Reeves is a conversation about the history of Houston’s GLBT (her insistence of order) community, including its triumphs and tragedies. But as a founding member and chairperson of the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum of GLBT History(GCAM) her sharing her historical perspective is to be expected and welcomed.
In addition to her work with GCAM, Reeves volunteered tirelessly in the mid-to-late 1980s (which she refer to with a laugh as “ the olden days” ) with several other organizations including Colt 45’s, MCCR (now Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church), Pride Houston, The Names Project and the ever-changing acronymed GPC (Gay Political Caucus, now the Houston GLBT Caucus). She has also been involved with 90.1 FM’s KPFT and the station’s radio show, After Hours,for the past 29 years—“ off and on,” she says.
After retiring from a career in banking and working with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Reeves also found time to publish a “ semi-autobiographical” book.
In the ’80s she was instrumental in the “ Buddy Program” which lent support to persons with HIV and AIDS, working with some of the first people in the community to step up to care for their own. Like so many, she has experienced the losses to the epidemic personally, but does not dwell on it.
Her own family discussed their fears about AIDS when, she came out to her parents in her early twenties in what she calls an “ anti-climactic” experience. Her mother responded by saying, “ Yeah? And…? We pretty much figured it out when you quit dating in high school.”
When asked about differences in young people then and now, Reeves has strong opinions that she hopes will not make her any enemies.
“ Young people today are too self-absorbed. There is a distance, no real inclusion, and that bothers me,” she says. “ If we don’t stand together, we can’t fight together. They seem to have less of the willingness to assist one another when help is needed. There also seems to less of a cohesiveness from the community.”
In the same breath, Reeves acknowledges that things and people change, including herself.
“ I can’t keep up with the changing gender qualifications,” she says. “ But I mean no disrespect if I use the incorrect pronoun. It stems from my own lack of knowledge.”
She speaks with no malice, just matter-of-factly, making it hard to believe that anyone could be angered, even though she says her nickname among people who know her well is “ BITCH,” with all caps!
She opens up about a brain tumor that she insists will not take her any time soon. Regardless, she has a few “ bucket list” items that include a cruise, return trips to Europe (specifically, to Germany and Greece), and domestically to San Francisco.
Most importantly she wants to see a permanent home for GCAM and the many artifacts from Houston’s GLBT community. Some of these artifacts can be seen at The Eagle in a timeline mural created by JD Doyle with GCAM’s assistance; many themed items are displayed for special events at The Ripcord and Heritage Society Houston.
GCAM also assisted in creating The Banner Project, a timeline mural of GLBT history spearheaded by Doyle and Sara Fernandez.
“ We don’t turn down opportunities to create displays,” Reeves says. The showings often are used to help raise much-needed funds for GCAM’s overhead, none of which is used pay to administrators.
Reeves’ dedication is tireless and often encompasses all days each week—because that’s what a dedicated “ Rising Star” does.
For more information or to donate to Gulf Coast Archive and Museum of GLBT History (GCAM), please call 832-722-5785 between noon and midnight, or visit www.gcam.org or www.facebook.com/groups/43128899869.