Connie Norman, a nationally known transsexual AIDS activist who pioneered commercial radio talk shows focusing on homosexual issues, has died. She was 47.
Norman, a gay youth who underwent a sex-change operation in 1976 and became HIV-positive in 1987, died Monday in Los Angeles’ Chris Brownlie House of the complications of AIDS.
“Connie Norman worked tirelessly with AIDS Healthcare Foundation to fight for AIDS services and was a prescient and powerful voice in the community,” said Michael Weinstein, president and co-founder of the foundation. “Her outspokenness frequently made people uncomfortable, but she said things that needed to be said. Her efforts on behalf of gay and lesbian youth, the transgendered community, and people living with HIV and AIDS were extraordinary.”
Norman began “The Connie Norman Show,” an innovative Monday through Friday evening talk program on XEK-AM (950) on Nov. 25, 1991.
“The gay and lesbian community has, to date, had to depend upon the kindness of others,” Norman told The Times at the outset of the program. “If we’re going to have an argument, it should be amongst our family. It should not be a heterosexual person having the token argument or the token discussion for us.”
Sometimes called “the AIDS Diva,” Norman championed reform of federal AIDS funding formulas, routine offering of HIV tests by medical providers, testing newborns for HIV and better treatment of those who have HIV or AIDS.
In addition to the radio show, Norman co-hosted a weekly cable television show, wrote a column called “Tribal Writes” in the San Diego gay and lesbian newspaper Update and a monthly column titled “Notes on Life” in the publication Stonewall Speaks. As an actress, she appeared in the film “Wrecked for Life,” gave a show, “An Evening with Connie Norman,” at Highways Theater in Santa Monica, and was part of the cast of “AIDS Us Women.”
“I often tell people that I am an ex-drag queen, ex-hooker, ex-IV drug user, ex-high risk youth, and current postoperative transsexual woman who is HIV-positive,” she said recently. “I have everything I ever wanted, including a husband of 10 years, a home and five adorable longhaired cats. . . . I do, however, regret the presence of this virus.”
Norman’s advocacy earned her awards from the Los Angeles chapter of ACT UP and AIDS Healthcare Foundation, as well as proclamations from the state Senate and Assembly, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles City Council.
Born in Texas, Norman ran away from home at 14, lived on the streets in Hollywood and became addicted to drugs. In 1976, after therapy and becoming drug-free, she had a sex-change operation.
In addition to her husband, Bruce Norman, she is survived by her grandmother, Mable Murphy, and an aunt, Barbara Potter.