Vito Russo (July 11, 1946 – November 7, 1990) was a gay activist, film historian, author, and the co-founder of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). VRusso was a true activist and a gay American hero. He fought through words and actions, in literature and in the streets and he kept fighting even up until the very end.
Russo participated in every significant milestone in the gay-liberation movement: the dark days of pre-Stonewall invisibility, the Stonewall rebellion and its aftermath, and the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s and the formation of ACT UP.
Vito Russo was born on July 11, 1946 and grew up in East Harlem. As a young boy, he would sneak into Manhattan to go to the movies. From an early age, Russo knew he was “different.” A cousin remembers him always talking about Rock Hudson rather than Ava Gardner.
After graduating from New York University, Russo joined the Gay Activists Alliance. Vito threw himself into gay activism with zest and became an architect of the media-grabbing “zaps” that made headlines for GAA and helped break the cultural silence about homosexuality. He quickly became one of GAA’s stars, becoming a fiery speaker. In the early 1970’s, he started research for “The Celluloid Closet”, which entailed watching hundreds of films that included gay content and stereotypes. What originated as a lecture with film clips became one of the most informative books about gay people and pop culture.
During the AIDS epidemic Vito watched the world he loved crumble beneath his feet. Vito received his AIDS diagnosis in 1985 and that same year outraged by the media’s inadequate and inaccurate coverage of the epidemic which was well into its first decade with thousands already dead, Russo co-founded GLAAD, an organization that at which was to monitored LGBT news and representation in the media. An organization which has sadly now forgotten its co-founders original mission.
Continue reading Vito Remembered: Gay Activist and Hero Vito Russo – “Why We Fight”