Chicago’s Mama Gloria says “Its Time to standup and fight”

Mama Gloria
Adaption from the award winning Screen play Charm a tribute to Gloria Allen.

Seventy-Three-year-old Gloria Allen Chicago’s trans icon said those words long before most of us were born. And she’s saying it again today in her 2020 Documentary “Mama Gloria.”

Gloria Allen grew up in Chicago’s south side and began transitioning at the age of 15 in 1958.

Her director Luchina Fisher observed that during those times trans people of color had a life expectancy of just forty years.

Tragically that hasn’t changed much to this day, R.I.P. Real Eshay murdered on the southside Christmas day.

So how do we address not only our grief but advance our right to live without fear?
Mama Gloria can show us the way.

Gloria Allen will be awarded the SAGE Advocacy Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues at the 33rd annual LGBTQ Task Force Creating Change Conference in Chicago. This year for the first time the ‘creating change’ will be held virtually from 28-31, January 2021.

Of Note: KIERRA JOHNSON has been selected as the TASK FORCE’S next Executive Director. As a bisexual Black woman, Johnson will become one of few out queer-identified women of color at the helm of a national LGBTQ organization. Johnson will begin her tenure in February 2020.

Having grown up in Chicago, immersed in the drag ball scene of the city’s South Side, Allen went on to found and run a charm school for homeless transgender youth at Chicago’s Center on Halsted, reports the Windy City Times.

Her work and life at the charm school has been adapted in the play “Charm”, which first premiered at the Steppenwolf Garage Theater on North Halstead before making runs in Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and New York.

Now retired from a career as a licensed practical nurse, Allen continues to speak to youth and others about the transgender community.

At least 61 trans people have lost their lives in the USA this year, more than ever before. That’s more than a person every week simply for being transgender. And of those, 44 were trans people of color according to

We say “at least” because it has become increasingly difficult to ascertain where a person self-identifies within our LGBTQI community after they have passed. The politicization of trans issues by the Trump administration has resulted in stigmatization to a scale never seen before.

Police are routinely misgendering and deadnaming trans victims in reports to mainstream media. To top it off, the largest gay rights organization, HRC and GLAAD which mainstream media use as their source, are not communicating with or respecting the few remaining transgender news sites.

Oh, Mama!

“At a time when black transgender women in America have an average life expectancy of under 40, Gloria Allen’s life and story is not only inspiring but seldom seen. The 73-year-old grew up in the 1950s and 60s amid the celebrated “sissy” balls on Chicago’s South Side and transitioned after high school with the support of the women in her family – her mother Alma, a former showgirl and Jet centerfold who taught her about makeup; her grandmother Mildred, a seamstress who designed clothes for her; and her Great Aunt Fannie, a former “house” slave who taught her etiquette.”

“An intimate portrait of aging, the film captures Gloria’s life now, as she dines with fellow residents in her LGBTQ-friendly senior apartment building; turns losing her front tooth into a joke during her stand-up routine at Second City’s comedy training center; attends her 53rd high school class reunion and reunites with her prom date; returns to the neighborhood church where she once sang in the boys choir; connects with her former charm school students and other young people; and confesses that she’s afraid of dying alone while searching for a man to spend the rest of her life with. The film also features rarely seen archival images of Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood nightlife and drag balls.”

Director/writer/producer – Luchina Fisher

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender