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Chicago Pride History Makers: Tracy Baim, Founder Of The Windy City Times

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It was 40 years ago this month that the first man was officially diagnosed with something that would one day be called HIV/AIDS. Tracy Baim did more than tell the fight-for-rights story in Chicago.

"To me, pride is community," she said.

Despite her stature, she's a giant.

"Our society will be hurt if we lose the voices of the marginalized that are mostly represented in community media," she said.

A community media evangelist, she saved the Chicago Reader, but also co-founded the Windy City Times.

Baim's Windy City Times was cover-to-cover 'need to know' for the queer community.

"Back then it was gay press or no press," she said. "This is when mainstream media was still badly covering us, when they covered us at all, as pedophiles. That moment in Chicago we were working on two parallel issues. One was HIV/AIDS and then also the Gay Rights Ordinance."

The year of the paper's launch was 1985.

Ald. Cliff Kelly introduced what was call the Gay Bill of Rights. Mayor Harold Washington first put it to a vote. Mayor Eugene Sawyer signed it into law.

The three Black men were pivotal players in a decade-long fight to give queer Chicago protection in jobs, housing and more.

"And within 25 years, we have an openly gay mayor, right?" said Baim.

The Times, in return, bolstered support for such allies.

"Our role was to inform, educate and document," she said.

After the ordinance, the Times became a constant column in what became a war -- AIDS.

"Most people thought they weren't going to get out of this alive," Baim said.

Some gay men told CBS 2's Brad Edwards that in the 80s, the Windy City Times was the place to get information about where to get treatment, and the Windy City Times saved lives.

"All these publications, in a pre-Internet era, saved lives," Baim said.

And with her Pentax Film camera, she became an archivist of faces not to be forgotten, including Robert Ford, a popular publisher; Dr. Ron Sable, who came within votes of becoming the city's first openly gay public official when he ran for alderman of the 44th Ward; playwright Scott McPherson. Soon after Baim clicked their photos, they were all gone due to AIDS.

Baim was bold enough to use her real name in her byline.

"I knew that my career was going to be limited no matter what," she said.

A laborious couple of decades later, with gay marriage and an openly gay mayor, in September 2020, on its 35th anniversary, the Windy City Times did its last print edition.

A laborious couple decades later -- with gay marriage, an openly gay mayor -- in September 2020, on it's 35th anniversary, the Windy City Times did it's last print edition.

Defining pride is not easy for Baim, who used the question, like her paper, to teach, to outreach.

"Pride isn't about the outside world," she said. "It's about the inside. The homophobia we face in our families does the most damage to our lives. When some pastor calls me out as being a dyke, it doesn't hurt me, but if I had grown up in a family that doesn't accept me, I would be a different person.

Chicago is lucky her story started right.

The Windy City Times continues online and is an occasionally printed insert in the Chicago Reader.

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