In 1996 or so, I went after a long day in the law office to a place called the Manhattan Gay Community Center to get counseling at the Gender Identity Project, where transsexuals could go to get help. Wearing my suit and my butch haircut, I was scared and ashamed, afraid I would be seen, and afraid not to be seen.
Suddenly a woman went past my field of vision like a sunburst. Like a goddess she was, her body and limbs full of life, her hair alive, her face full of the joy of living. She certainly wasn't one of the butch lesbians, and I knew, with a thrill of certainty, that this was a transsexual woman. She was so beautiful and so bursting with joie de vivre that I knew then and there that if there was anything I wanted to be in life, any song that I had to sing, any vision that I had for myself, I had just seen it, and more importantly, knew that it was possible. That was Chloe.
Alas, Chloe is dead. At her memorial service on Saturday at Judson Memorial Church in Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village NYC, there were about 700 people and standing room only. Michael Musto paid her homage in the Village Voice, Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons performed in her memory, and many people spoke, including photographer Alice O'Malley, artist Viva Ruiz, filmmaker Katrina Del Mar, songwriter Cat Yellen-Rebennack (songwriting and life partner of Hall of Famer Mac Rebbenack), performer Justin V. Bond, LGBT policy advocate Dr. Barbara Warren (a founder of the longstanding Gender Identity Project, which helped me in my time of need), and queer activists Kelly McGowan, who has helped many LGBT and AIDS community organizations prosper, and Shira Hassan. The Reverend Moshay Moses, a most inspiring preacher, gave her a rousing and inspiring eulogy that had people on their feet with tears in their eyes and hands in the air to send her spirit on its way. What made Chloe so special?
Here is her obituary as found in the Village Voice:
Chloe Dzubilo, artist and AIDS and transgender activist, died February 18 in New York City. She was fifty years old.
Chloe studied art at the Parsons School of Design and received an associate degree in Gender Studies from the City University of New York City College 1999.
A native of Connecticut, Ms. Dzubilo moved to New York in 1982 where she briefly worked at Studio 54. She soon became the ad director at the downtown art magazine the East Village Eye just when the neighborhood's art scene began to explode.
In the '90s, Chloe was an icon of downtown nightlife. She wrote plays for and performed with the Blacklips Performance Cult at the Pyramid club and edited the group's zine, Leif Sux. She was the lead singer and songwriter for the punk-rock band the Transisters, who played at CBGB's, Squeeze Box at Don Hill's and other trendsetting hubs of downtown culture.
Chloe was a muse for designers Marc Jacobs, Alexis Bittar and Patricia Field and art photographers Nan Goldin, Alice O'Malley, and Tanyth Berkeley. She modeled for fashion photographers David Armstrong, Steven Klein, and Michael Sharky.
Chloe was diagnosed with HIV in 1987 when her partner of nine years, Pyramid Club founder Bobby Bradley, died of AIDS. Since her diagnosis, Chloe advocated for civil rights, adequate health care and dignity for people living with HIV/AIDS, transgendered people and drug users.
A longtime volunteer for the LGBT Community Center's groundbreaking Gender Identity Project, she served on its transgender HIV prevention team conducting prevention outreach in bars, nightclubs and on strolls. She spoke at national and international conferences, in video Public Service Announcements and training workshops for health care and mental health providers.
Chloe was involved with the political action group the Transsexual Menace and went on to direct one of the first federally funded HIV prevention program for transgender sex workers in 1997.
In 2001, Chloe founded the Equi-Aid Project, a Manhattan-based riding program that specifically targets children who are infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS as well as other at-risk youth.
In September 2002, Chloe Dzubilo became the first transgendered person on the cover of POZ, a magazine for the HIV/AIDS community. She graced the magazine's cover two more times.
In 2003, Chloe was appointed to the HIV and Human Service Planning Council of New York, an advisory body composed of people living with HIV/AIDS, service providers, and government representatives, charged with ensuring that "people living with HIV have access to appropriate, quality services across the continuum of care, resulting in the best possible health and quality of life."
At the time of her death, she was working on a project with her spouse -- musician, visual artist and trans-man T De Long -- which will be shown in June by the arts and advocacy organization Visual AIDS.
To offer donations in support of her celebration and her favorite causes -- Visual AIDS and Return To Freedom -- go to:
A memorial page created in her memory on Facebook is filled with remembrances of her life.
Tim Murphy also had insight into her life when he said
That's how I would sum up Chloe: equal parts compassion and glitter. Who was more fabulous than Chloe? She was friends with Rosario and Tatum O'Neal and virtually anyone who had ever done anything interesting in New York from the days when Madonna was a no-name above 14th Street.
Here's a quote from Chloe on the Manhattan LGBT Center website mourning her passing:
"Ain't nothing like knowin' what it feels like...when you slip thru the cracks of society, political niceties, political correctness, health care, housing, employment, wealth, shoe stores, subways, family outings, holidays, systems, systems, Systems. Ain't nothing like knowing these facts deep in one's bones. When you're transsexual. Ain't nothing like knowing triumph over all of these adversities." - Chloe Dzubilo
Rest in peace, my friend.