Norman, Pat 1939—
Pat Norman 1939—
Community activist and leader
At the June 1994 Lesbian and Gay Rights March on the United Nations in New York City, co-chaired by Pat Norman, demonstrators unfurled a one-mile-long, 30-foot-wide rainbow-colored flag symbolizing lesbian and gay rights. Roughly one million participants from around the world converged at the Avenue of the Americas in New York City and proceeded onto the Great Lawn in Central Park. The enormous international rally was the centerpiece of a week-long series of events at Stonewall 25, which marked the 25th anniversary of New York City’s Stonewall riots that occurred in 1969 following a police raid on a gay bar. Tired of the continuous harassment gays suffered from the police, the patrons of the Stonewall bar surprised their tormentors by fighting back for three consecutive nights. The spontaneous rebellion signalled the birth of the contemporary phase of the long struggle for lesbian and gay rights. Norman’s leadership at Stonewall 25 merely highlighted a lifetime of community organizing and service for civil rights for lesbians and gays and people with AIDS, as well as for all people of color, according to her response to a query by Contemporary Black Biography.
Norman’s activism began shortly after the riots with her formation of the Lesbian Mothers Union to address custody issues for gay women. Since then she has actively supported several political and social causes. She was the first openly gay person hired by the San Francisco Department of Public Health to serve the lesbian and gay community and has helped initiate community response to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic. Throughout the 1990s Norman has continued her human rights work as a community activist and an advocate for people with AIDS.
During the 1980s Norman co-chaired broad civil rights marches for peace, jobs, and justice and played a leading role in the anti-apartheid struggle. She broke ground in 1984 as the first out lesbian and the first lesbian of color to run for San Francisco city supervisor. Deeply involved in Democratic Party politics, Norman has been active in California state politics, including co-chairing the state’s Mobilization for Peace, Jobs, and Justice rally in 1984 and again in 1988. She was a delegate for presidential candidate Jesse Jackson at the
Born Pat Richardson, January 21, 1939, in Brooklyn, NY; daughter of James A. (owner of Richardson Trucking Company) and Maude B. Richardson (community activist and leader); became lifetime partners with Karen Norman, 1983; children: Paul (died 1987), Elise, Angela, James, Zachary, Kimberly. Education: Antioch University, B.A., M.A., clinical psychology. Politics: Democrat.
Founder, Lesbian Mothers Union, 1971; community health worker, Center for Special Problems, San Francisco, CA, 1972–78; coordinator of lesbian/gay health services, Department of Public Health, San Francisco, 1978–86; lecturer and consultant, 1974–88; statewide director oftraining. Youth Environment Study (YES), Inc., San Francisco, 1988–89; executive director, Institute for Community Health Outreach, San Franciso, 1990—. Co-chair, California State Mobilization for Peace, Jobs, and Justice, 1984, 1988, National March on Washington for Lesbian/Gay Rights, 1987; delegate for Jesse Jackson,’Democratic National Convention, 1988; Nelson Mandela Reception Committee, 1990, Stonewall 25 Organizing Committee, 1994. Military service: U.S. Navy.
Member: California State Democratic Party Central Committee, AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), Women’s AIDS Network, National Gay Task Force, Lesbian Rights Project, Human Rights Foundation, Community United Against Violence, Larkin Street Youth Center, State Community Planning Working Group, San Francisco Black Coalition on AIDS.
Awards: Numerous honors, including various awards from Ms. magazine, the Bay Area Women’s Leadership Forum, San Franciso Mayors Dianne Feinstéin and Art Agnos, the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, Physicians for Human rights, and others.
Addresses: Home—San Franciso, CA. Office— Executive director, Institute for Community Health Outreach, 507 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA 94117.
1988 Democratic National Convention, and, in 1991, she was elected to the California State Democratic Party Central Committee. She also co-chaired the United States’ Nelson Mandela Reception committee in 1990.
A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Norman learned to be active in her community at a young age in Brooklyn, New York. Norman’s mother, Maude B. Richardson, was a community activist and leader on the cutting edge of political movements for civil rights beginning in the 1940s. Maude Richardson received honors for her work from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Reverend Jesse Jackson. With inspiration from both her parents and roots in the vibrant African American community in Brooklyn, Norman got involved as membership chair of the Brooklyn Junior NAACP in her high school. She also participated in a variety of African American civic groups during her youth.
However, Norman did not take on a leadership position until 1971 when she founded the Lesbian Mothers Union in California, a group that sought custody rights for gay women with children. Later, as the first openly gay person hired by the San Francisco Department of Public Health to serve the lesbian/gay community, Norman created the position of coordinator of Lesbian/Gay Health Services. Norman received two citations for her exceptional, ground-breaking work during her tenure there and was among the first in the United States to address the specific health issues of sexual minorities.
When AIDS became epidemic, outspoken social critics such as Larry Kramer, cofounder of New York City’s renowned Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), came together in San Francisco to form the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). ACT UP served as an exclusively political organization that staged numerous, visually startling demonstrations to draw attention to the worsening AIDS crisis and the imperative to invest resources to end the epidemic. Taking part, Norman helped develop the unique “San Francisco Model”—a program designed to meet the social, medical, and emotional needs of people with AIDS.
Meanwhile Norman volunteered with a score of AIDS advocacy groups in San Francisco. Norman has served on a number of boards of directors, both for women’s groups and AIDS advocacy organizations. Specifically, Norman helped administer and direct the San Francisco Women’s Center Building, the Women’s AIDS Network, the National Gay Task Force, the Lesbian Rights Project, and the Human Rights Foundation. Norman also organized and co-chaired the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian/Gay Rights.
Pat Norman has been extremely concerned about the impact of AIDS in the African American community, particularly among African American women. “In the United States as a whole, 60 percent of all women with AIDS are African American, as are 50 percent of the babies born with AIDS,” Norman lamented in the San Francisco Metro Reporter. “It is important that we stop the rise of HIV infection among African American women. Only awareness and education can help us confront this epidemic in our communities,” she then concluded, while commenting on the first HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention Campaign designed for African American women in 1992 in San Francisco.
Awareness and education were exactly the goals Norman pursued in her work through the mid-1990s. In 1995 Norman provided recommendations to the State of California on HIV/AIDS prevention services funding priorities. She also directed the implementation of preventive care training programs and numerous street and community prevention and awareness outreach programs. Norman accomplished her goals through her position as executive director of the Institute for Community Health Outreach and her work with various advocacy organizations. For example, she served as co-chair of the State Community Planning Working Group and board president of the San Francisco Black Coalition on AIDS.
In an interview with CBB, Norman identified fundamental change in the health-care delivery system as her long-term goal: “I hope to change the hospital and health care delivery system to remove the insensitivity and cultural bias so it can hear the needs of those receiving services. And I don’t do it alone. There are a lot of other people who work with me to confront racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia—not only in health care but in social services, too.”
These goals drive the programs Norman administers as executive director at the Institute for Community Health Outreach. First the institute trains community health outreach workers for the California State Office of AIDS. Next, the institute runs preventive care education programs in the community. The African American community education project, for example, focuses on self-esteem and positive behavior among youth ages 15 to 24; the institute staff conduct workshops, peer support groups, and individual and peer counseling. “We support their changing behaviors to save themselves and their community,” Norman declared in a CBB interview. In collaboration with other organizations, the institute operates two additional street outreach AIDS prevention and health care programs. These are the “3 Street Project” and Street Outreach Services, or “S.O.S.” When asked by CBB to clarify the meaning of “street outreach,” Norman explained, “That means we meet the high-risk populations—alcohol and substance abusers, the homeless, sexual workers, or just gay, lesbian, bi[sexual], and heterosexual people with multiple sex partners—wherever they are.” The bottom line in all of Norman’s work is quality. “Quality of service is above all else,” Norman confirmed in her CBB interview. “It’s my responsibility to see that we are top notch.”
Pat and Karen Norman became lifetime partners in 1983, raised six children, and by 1995, had seven grandchildren. Pat’s public life merged with her private life in the early 1990s, when she and Karen were featured on billboards across San Francisco in 1992. The couple modeled for an anti-defamation campaign advertisement sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Captioned “Another Traditional Family,” the billboard showed Pat Norman embracing Karen Norman, then nine months pregnant.
In all of her endeavors, Norman has been guided by an expansive vision of the future. Her devotion to health care issues and her positive commitment to community and youth is unfaltering. Proud of the efforts her organization has made, Norman elaborated on the Institute for Community Health Outreach’s goals in an interview with CBB: “In every area we go in we work with youth; in every case we try to look at the whole person. Health is not only about diabetes and high blood pressure. It’s whether or not you can make a living—and that you value yourself.”
AIDS Demographics, Bay Press, 1990.
The Advocate, May 3, 1994, p. 50.
New York Times, June 27, 1994, pp. Al, B2.
Village Voice, June 28, 1994, pp. 25–29.
Additional information for this profile was obtained through a CBB telephone interview with Pat Norman on August 31, 1995.
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