A quiet, honest activist: Gary Murphy to be honored at Pride Banquet

By |2018-01-15T20:48:22-05:00June 30th, 2005|News|

WARREN – It has been said that an honest life is the most powerful form of activism. Gary Murphy has quietly, tenaciously and lovingly led a powerful and honest life, and this profound activism will be acknowledged when he receives the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pride Banquet on June 29.
Murphy is a teacher (he taught in the Detroit public schools for over 30 years) and like any good instructor he leads by example. He was a union representative, a devoted brother, uncle and son in his very large, Catholic family. He has been a committed partner, in good times and in bad. He has shown the people in his life that he can be trusted, and they have learned from their beloved gay friend that honoring him and his life makes them all the richer.
He has stepped up and stepped out when the LGBT community has needed him, volunteering at the Triangle Foundation in Detroit and as a Helpline volunteer at Affirmations in Ferndale. He and his partner, B.C. Cabangbang, are active in the Oakland County Democratic Party, and are supporters of the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBT Project at the ACLU, the Ruth Ellis Center and The HOPE Fund of the Community Foundation.
But Murphy is not the type of activist that will lead the march or rally the troops from the podium. He is the one who will quietly make personal and professional change with his closest associates. He will effect profound change in the lives of the people around him
Born in the 1940s in the little town of Shepard, Michigan, Murphy was the middle child of seven. He worked his way through Central Michigan University, and in 1961 was drafted into the U.S. Army, just before Vietnam. He was discharged in 1963 and took a sales job with General Electric, but he came from a family of teachers and soon yearned to do something more meaningful with his life.
Murphy went back to Wayne State University for a teaching certificate, and in 1970 he started a 30 year career as an elementary teacher in the Detroit Public School System. He slowly came out to fellow teachers and staff.
“I was able to go back to school and become a teacher through a program initiated by President Johnson to get more males into elementary school teaching,” said Murphy. “I was mentored by some remarkable teachers, some of whom have remained friends and who will be at the Pride Banquet,” said Murphy.
Charles Alexander has known Murphy since the 1960s and remembers that his friend refused to close the door on his personal life, at a time when the outside world was much less welcoming to gays than it is now.
“He’s led his professional and personal life as openly as possible with friends and colleagues. ‘This is who I am. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Let’s get to know each other better, and in the process of sharing enjoy ourselves.’ As a result of this honesty, Gary has made many allies for the LGBT community,” said Alexander, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. “I’ve been privileged to know ‘Murph’ as a friend and fellow LGBT activist.”
Murphy has many friendships that have endured the test of time. His first major love relationship was with a physician who is still a close friend after almost 40 years. Then there was Jeff Johnson, his lover and lifemate of 11 years.
“Jeff died of AIDS in 1991,” said Murphy. “His last words to me were ‘Take care of my mom.’ He was an only child, and I have tried to live up to that commitment. His mom will be at the Pride Banquet, I hope. We talked about it this week,” he said with a fleeting look of concern and a little worry.
It was later that same year in which Jeff died – 1991 – that Murphy met Cabangbang at the Metropolitan Community Church in Roseville.
“My family was concerned that it was too soon after Jeff died,” said Murphy who talks to his various family members every day. “But when we got together it was just right. It has never felt like work with B.C., and I feel that it has always been very easy for us. I never take it for granted,” said Murphy.
Now 14 years later, Murphy thinks that the success of their relationship is partly because they did not allowed themselves to become isolated. “I see so often with other gay couples that they fall in love and then fall off the face of the earth. You just don’t see them again until there’s trouble.”
True to his life so far, Murphy remains open to his friends, family and community. He is not afraid to be himself, and his courage shines through to his closest friends and family, and to those who meet him for the first time. For that life of honesty, he is the perfect recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

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