Chrissy Surewater

Chrissy Surewater pic 2

July 23, 1953 – May 1, 2019

Warren resident Chrissy Surewater attended Fordson High School in Dearborn, studied at Rochester College in Rochester, and worked at Precision Imagery and as a photographer for Ford Motor Company.  She was also a longtime member of the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit, for three years serving as office administrator.  Surewater was survived by her beloved fiancé Michelle Fox-Phillips.

Between The Lines, May 2, 2019 [online only]

Augustus Rissman

Augustus Rissman aka Gorgeous Gussy pic

September 7, 1922 – May 30, 1997

Detroit native Augustus Herman Rissman was better known to members of the local gay community as Gorgeous Gussy.  Noted for “a gravelly voice and gruff manner,” Rissman entertained audiences throughout the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s at such Detroit bars as the Golden Slipper, LaRosa’s, the Diplomat, and the Gold Dollar.

Cruise, June 18, 1997

Aimee Stephens

Aimee Stephens pic

December 7, 1960 – May 12, 2020

Originally from North Carolina, Redford resident and trailblazing activist Aimee Stephens was fired from her job as a funeral director in Garden City in 2013 when she revealed she was transgender and would be living as a woman.  She filed suit against her employer but did not live to witness the Supreme Court decision that her firing violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Stephens was survived by her wife Donna.

New York Times, May 12, 2020

Between The Lines, May 18, 2020 [online only]

Billie Truitt

September 15, 1948 – May 20, 1977

Billie Jean Truitt was born in Detroit worked as a hotel clerk.  Truitt was, in the terminology of the 1970s, a “post-op transsexual” when she took her own life in her Detroit apartment at age 28.  She was survived by her fiancé Art Walker.

Detroit Free Press, May 25, 1977

Jeri Shupe

Jeri Shupe pic

September 16, 1954 – February 23. 2019

Jeri Shupe of Pontiac grew up in Taylor and graduated with the class of 1972 from Taylor High School.  She worked variously as a ballroom dance instructor, a law office manager, and a licensed cosmetologist.  Shupe was active in the Flint-area group Transgender Connect and in 2016, according to her obituary, transitioned from male to female.  Her life partner Diane Morin survived her.

Sparks-Griffin Funeral Home

Gwen Sanford

Gwen Sanford pic

October 26, 1942 – January 15, 2018

Traverse City resident Gwen Sanford grew up in Grand Rapids, studied at Grand Rapids Junior College and Valparasio Technical Institute, and served as a trooper and diving instructor with the Michigan State Police from 1966 to 1992.  After retiring, the former Glenn transitioned to Gwen and later served on the board of Friends North.  Sanford was survived by her wife Carol Larson and three children.

Traverse City Record-Eagle, January 21, 2018

Alice Anderson

Alice Anderson pic

September 4, 1993 – June 11, 2019

Grand Rapids resident Alice Joy Anderson was born in Holland.  Anderson’s creativity drew her to mythology, literature, music, architecture, history, and photography, and a passion for LEGO building blocks.  Her studies took her to India and Iceland.  At age 16, Anderson entered Hope College, where she worked as a set carpenter in the Theater Department and earned her B.A. in studio art in 2016.

Holland Sentinel, June 21, 2019

Nancy Ledins

Nancy Ledins pic

July 27, 1932 – July 18, 2017

Nancy Ledins was born in Cleveland, Ohio as William Griglak, was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1959, and served as an assistant rector at St. Anthony parish in Detroit in the early 1960s.  After leaving the priesthood to marry a nun, William transitioned to Nancy in 1979 and was obliged to divorce.  In her last years, Rev. Ledins resumed ministering with a congregation in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Charlotte Observer, July 22, 2017

Nancy S. Ledins profile at LGBT Religious Archives Network

Sarah Emma Edmonds

Sarah Edmonds pic

December 1841 – September 5, 1898

Born in Nova Scotia, Sarah Emma Edmonds began presenting herself as Frank Thompson at age 15.  Thompson moved to Flint in the 1860s and was considered “quite a lady’s man.”  After serving as a male nurse in Second Michigan Volunteer Infantry the Civil War, Edmonds resumed living as a woman.  Her memoir Nurse and Spy in the Union Army became a best seller.

No known obituary

Dani Som

Dani Sommerville pic

December 8, 1998 – February 16, 2019

Dani Som, also known as Dani Sommerville, was born in Southfield and was a 2017 graduate of Berkley High School.  He received a Spirit of Detroit Award in 2015 for achievement and leadership, including his involvement in music and theater, as well as extensive volunteer work.  As an out young trans man, Som was active with Affirmations and FtM Detroit.  Months after moving to Oregon, he took his own life.

Between The Lines, April 11, 2019