People around Heather MacAllister didn’t fret about their looks.
“She just made everybody feel hot, sexy and wanted,” remembers Elizabeth Davis, who met MacAllister through a friend in 1989.
38-year-old MacAllister, a queer activist who fought on every front, died on Feb. 13 in Oregon as a result of a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Trumbullplex Theatre in Detroit.
The native Detroiter founded San Francisco’s Big Burlesque and the Fat Bottom Revue, the first act to feature large-sized performers.
“I love fashion, but the industry holds up an ideal that very few people can obtain so we spend our time focused on how we look rather than how we feel,” MacAllister told Between The Lines in 2005.
After she quit her job as a field organizer for the Triangle Foundation in 2002, she headed west and took on the performance name “Reva Lucian.”
“I knew that if I came to San Francisco not only would I have a bigger audience for what I wanted to do but I’d be able to find more dancers,” she said. “The Bay Area is the epicenter for fat liberation. If you want to do anything concerning fat liberation, in my experience, this is the place to be.”
Davis, who lives in Detroit, and her ex-partner threw MacAllister a farewell party at their house before she left. Though the two women spoke less in recent years, MacAllister served as her “unofficial mentor.”
“She just believed that women really could and should do and be whatever they wanted,” Davis says. “She was just so open sexually as far as expression. She believed in … (expressing) ourselves and (being) comfortable with that no matter what our body, shape and type and background (is).”
Davis’ fondest memory with MacAllister isn’t printable, she says, but her runner-up is taking a photo with the activist, both women clad in leather, at Michigan Pride with local politician James Blanchard.
MacAllister was committed to anti-racism training, transgender activism and was instrumental in the passing of an anti-size discrimination law that was passed in San Francisco in June 2000.
She conducted size acceptance workshops and/or performances nationwide, including locally at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Eastern Michigan University (where MacAllister graduated from), University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Davis remembers MacAllister as energetic, seemingly tireless, fierce and courageous.
“She didn’t like people who just gave lip service,” Davis says.
MacAllister’s effervescent free spirit made the sometimes frustrating and unsettling state among her Triangle co-workers more pleasant. Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of Triangle Foundation, will never forget her tear-inducing laughter and dedication to pave a path for true liberation.
“Sometimes this was done by holding us to a very high standard and challenging us; sometimes by her witty and generous way of winning the point,” Montgomery says. “But the ‘movement’ is better for her having been an eloquent voice among us.”
MacAllister’s work won’t be forgotten.
“She put the active in activism,” Davis says.
To recognize her accomplishments, Triangle Foundation will name one of their Catalyst Awards in MacAllister’s honor. The award will recognize significant work supporting the mission of Triangle, especially through collaborative efforts in underserved or isolated communities.
“Heather’s impact on this organization was deep,” Montgomery insists. “She still has a great following in Michigan and it’s also a way to honor the work she did across so many lines.”
Heather MacAllister memorial
2 p.m. Feb. 25
4210 Trumbull, Detroit
The service will be followed by a community remembering/wake with refreshments at 3 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring photos to display. Additionally, those who can are welcome to bring a dish to share for the gathering. There will be a collection for those who can help cover expenses. If anyone is coming into town for the memorial and needs a place to stay, contact Eric via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://nolose.org.