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Gloria Allen Trans Icon & Activist Passes

By Charlotte Robinson, June 15, 2022

Gloria Allen who founded & ran a charm school for homeless transgender youth in Chicago & was the subject of the award-winning documentary “Mama Gloria” & the critically acclaimed play “Charm” has died at the age of 76. Born in Bowling Green, Kentucky she grew up in Chicago amid the legendary drag balls on the city’s South Side & transitioned before Stonewall with the love & support of her mother Alma a showgirl & former Jet magazine centerfold & her grandmother Mildred, a seamstress for crossdressers & strippers. She pioneered a charm school for young transgender people at Chicago’s Center on Halsted offering lessons on love, makeup & manners that she received from her mother & grandmother. The young people affectionately nicknamed her “Mama Gloria.” Her life & activism were featured in the Chicago Tribune & served as inspiration for the hit play “Charm” written by Philip Dawkins. The play premiered at Steppenwolf Garage Theater in Chicago before traveling to Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles & New York. In 2020 she became the subject of the acclaimed documentary feature “Mama Gloria” directed by Luchina Fisher. The film was broadcast on “Afropop: the Ultimate Cultural Exchange” on World channel & PBS & was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. The documentary brought Allen new audiences & new fame. Her story was featured in People magazine, the 19th News, the BBC & NowThisNews. In 2021 she received SAGE’s Advocacy Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual Creating Change Conference. She died peacefully in her sleep & is survived by several siblings & numerous nieces & nephews as well as her chosen family.

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