Michigan’s first openly gay man, prominent LGBTQ activist Ann Arbor, dies at the age of 91

WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI – The person widely believed to be Michigan’s first openly gay man and one of the most prominent LGBTQ activists has died, several officials said.

Jim Toy, 91, died on New Years Day on Saturday, Washtenaw County commissioner Jason Morgan said on social media.

Morgan and many officials have spoken with Toys gay advocacy since the 1970s, where he raised awareness and drafted guidelines to protect the gay community from discrimination.

“Jim Toy has always been and always will be an advocate for LGBTQ rights and our community,” said Morgan. “He was a mentor, friend, and someone I admired. I am honored to have known Jim. “

US MP Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said that because of Toy’s work, “love continues to win”.

“Throughout his life, he has worked to ensure that the Ann Arbor and Washtenaw Counties communities are safe places where residents can proud of themselves and live without fear of discrimination,” Dingell wrote on Twitter.

Many gay activists believe that Toy was the first publicly out man in Michigan, performing at a rally in Detroit in 1970.

Toy told MLive / The Ann Arbor News in 2015 that his coming out was an accident despite being a charter member representing the Detroit Gay Liberation Front at the rally. He was also a founding member of the same organization in Ann Arbor.

“Our speaker at the Anti-Vietnam War rally in Detroit said he wouldn’t speak, so I finally spoke and came out,” he said. “That was April 15th, 1970.”

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He is a trained clinical social worker and graduated with a Masters from the University of Michigan. He completed a large part of his work at the University of Ann Arbor, where he worked as diversity coordinator in the former Office of Institutional Equity until 2008.

He also helped set up the university’s Human Sexuality Office, which, according to his biography, is considered “the first campus center in history” dedicated to supporting sexual minorities.

“Jim Toy was a legendary alum, activist, honorary doctorate and someone to whom our entire university community is deeply indebted,” wrote UM Board of Regents Chairman Jordan Acker on Twitter. “May his memory be a blessing.”

Much of his work took place across Washtenaw County, which resulted in the county’s LGBTQ rights center being renamed the Jim Toy Community Center in 2010.

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Other work in Ann Arbor included co-founding the Ann Arbor Gay Hotline in 1972, writing the city’s “Proclamation of Lesbian and Gay Pride Week” that year, and formulating the city’s non-discrimination policy on sexual orientation. He has done similar policy work for the City of Ypsilanti, Michigan Medicine, and UM.

He also inspired more lesbian and gay support in Christian churches since he was appointed to the Diocesan Commission on Homosexuality by the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan in 1971. It was not until 2019 that the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in. honored Detroit.

Toy “fought with every bone of his body to support the LGBTQ community,” wrote Dingell.

“I often think of Jim’s words, ‘I am committed to doing as much effort as possible to create and uphold justice,’” she wrote.

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