A Community in Mourning: Michigan Politicians, LGBTQ+ Orgs Honor Jim Toy’s Activist Legacy

So much gratitude from a community who he carried on his shoulders

Jason A. Michael

Jim Toy, LGBTQ+ rights pioneer who was believed to be the first openly gay man in Michigan, died New Year’s Day at age 91. He leaves behind an inimitable legacy.

Across Michigan, politicians, community organizers and activists, and those who’ve been touched and inspired by Toy are reacting passionately to his passing. From Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingel and University of Michigan President Dr. Mark Schlissell, it’s clear they’ll never forget Toy’s important, life-changing contributions to the LGBTQ+ community locally and beyond.

And neither will we. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

“Rest in Power Jim Toy. You and all your incredible work making the world a better and more accepting place for so many will never be forgotten.”

U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 12th Congressional District Debbie Dingell

“Jim Toy was a champion for equality. He was a trailblazer not only for LGBTQ rights in Michigan but across the country. And he was a dear friend to me and John. Throughout his life, he worked to ensure that Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County communities were safe spaces where residents could live with pride in who they are and without fear of discrimination. Often I think about Jim’s words, ‘I am committed to making as much trouble as I can to create and maintain justice.’ He fought with every bone in his body to support the LGBTQ community, to fight for marriage equality, to ensure protections for so many. Love continues to win because of the dedication that Jim put into his work. We owe so much to him and it’s on all of us to ensure his legacy continues. I’m thinking about his family, friends, and the Ann Arbor community as we mourn this great loss.”

State Senator for Michigan’s 18th District (Washtenaw County), Jeff Irwin

“Jim Toy will be missed. Jim led the way on LGBTQ rights, making the world a more equal and loving place. From his early activism, to starting the Spectrum Center at UofM, to his work with the center that bears his name, Jim Toy is a legend and will be missed.”

Candidate for State Representative in Michigan’s 23rd District, Washtenaw County Commissioner, Jason Morgan

“Jim Toy was and will always be a champion for LGBTQ rights and the our community. He was a mentor, friend and someone I admired. I am honored to have known Jim. He passed away on New Years Day, 2022.”

Mayor of Ann Arbor Christopher Taylor 

“Jim Toy, who passed last night, was an inspirational champion of LGBTQ+ rights and community, a constant and life-affirming advocate for justice and empowerment. His work — over the years with the Ann Arbor Gay Liberation Front, the Spectrum Center, and the Community Center that proudly bears his name — transformed the University of Michigan, the City of Ann Arbor, and the hearts and minds and lives of uncounted thousands. Jim lived and led with courage and grace — a warm, beautiful soul who meant so much to so many. Jim, you are missed. Thank you.”

Ann Arbor City Councilman Travis Radina

“Like many in our community, I am heartbroken by this loss. But I cannot express how lucky I feel to have known him for as long as I did and to have shared even a moment of my life with this truly incredible man.”

Candidate for Ann Arbor City Council Carrie A. Rheingans

Ann Arbor lost a giant yesterday, Jim Toy, longtime LGBTQ+ activist and community elder whose work impacted even people who are not members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

President of University of Michigan, Dr. Mark Schlissel

“I’m saddened to hear of the death of Jim Toy, national social justice advocate, life-long champion of LGBTQ+ rights, pioneer of the @UMSpectrumCtr & 2021 @UMich honorary degree recipient. May we all honor his legacy by offering our support to all who experience discrimination.”

Host of Collections by Michelle Brown – Blog Radio, Michelle Brown

“Thank you James “Jim” Toy for giving us so much – leadership, inspiration, courage, an amazing Marlene Dietrich persona, friendship but most of all unwavering love for our community. You set the bar high while remaining one of the kindest people I have ever known. Here’s to a life well lived. Rest now dear friend!”

Affirmations Executive Director David Garcia

“Betty White was a friend to the LGBTQ+ community and is a true loss for the entire nation. But Jim was ours. Jim was our pioneer. He was our chief counsel, leader, and friend. … I’ve never met anyone like Jim Toy.”

Stand With Trans

“He was the person widely considered to be Michigan’s first openly gay man and one of its most prominent LGBTQ activists. Thank you, Jim, for the work you did to pave the way for us all.

Michigan Department of Civil Rights

“He was fearless and uncompromising in the advancement of LGBTQ rights. After 91 years of life, Jim Toy has earned his rest and leaves a legacy that will continue to inspire and be an example worthy of emulating.”

SAGE Metro Detroit

“Rest in Power, Mr. Toy. Our condolences to his family and our friends at the Jim Toy Community Center.”

Jim Toy Community Center

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our dear friend, Jim Toy. Known to many as an LGBTQ+ activist, Michigan’s first openly gay man, and the namesake of our community center, Jim will be missed by those near and far. Jim’s passing this weekend does not mark the end of his legacy or the need for more LGBTQ+ advocacy work, instead, let’s allow his legacy to live on through the stories we tell and the meaningful differences we make in our communities.” 

Aut Bar

“…Jim’s power went beyond his immediate circle. He led the fight for groundbreaking laws and representation in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, The State of Michigan, and the Episcopal Diocese. He was at the forefront of fighting the AIDS epidemic. Again, if you are a member of the LGBT community in Michigan, your life is better because of Jim Toy, whether you know him or not.”


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