LGBTQ activist Carmen Vazquez has passed away at 72

Carmen Vazquez
Carmen Vazquez

Carmen Vazquez had complications due to COVID-19

Born in Puerto Rico, Carmen Vazquez was raised in Harlem and earned a Bachelors in English and a Masters in education. During a 20-year residency in San Francisco, Vazquez co-founded The Women’s Building, was the Executive Director for the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and also served as the Coordinator of Lesbian and Gay Health Services for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. She was also co-founder and co-chair of Somos Hermanas, a Central American Women’s Solidarity Network.

In 1994, Vazquez returned to her roots, where she continued in her activism by serving as Director of Public Policy for the LGBT Community Center in New York from 1994-2003, then as Deputy Director for Empire State Pride Agenda (2003-2007) and was working as Coordinator of the LGBT Health Services Unite of the AIDS Institute, New York Department of Health, at the time of her passing.

Vazquez was the government and public policy director of the New York City LGBT Community Services Center, a founding member of the New York State LGBT Health and Human Services Network, a board member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a board member of the Funding Exchange’s OUT Fund, and a co-chair of the Equality Federation from 2004-2006. She was a founder of Causes in Common, a coalition of LGBT Liberation and Reproductive Justice Activists.

“The loss of Carmen tears open a hole in the heart of the LGBTQ+, social justice, immigration, reproductive justice, and sexual freedom movements” Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director, said in a statement. “And in mine. I’m deeply sad that one of our movement’s most brilliant activists is no longer with us. I’ve never known this movement without Carmen in it. A fierce, Puerto Rican butch, who spoke, wrote, organized, mobilized, and willed with her small but powerful body justice and liberation into this world.

“Carmen was Task Force family, having served on our board of directors, and as a colleague, advisor, and friend to a long line of executive directors. That laugh. Those cowboy boots. The ties. I never thought I’d say this, but part of me is glad we aren’t in person for Creating Change this year because I don’t think I could bear not seeing her there. And yet, the cruelty of having to mourn her loss, while not being together as a community she loved so much, is overwhelming. Rest in power, Carmen. We will continue your work for liberation.”

In 2020 at the Creating Change conference in Dallas, Vazquez was awarded the SAGE Award for Excellent in Leadership on Aging Issues. “Change is never about one person alone,” she said in her acceptance speech. “There are countless others who paved the way for my activism and countless others who will follow me and build a bride to the future… we are and always will be an intergenerational movement and we should act that way… equality is not enough, justice and liberation are where our hearts and minds should lead us.”