Connect with us

Obituary

Co-founder of D.C. LGBTQ Adventuring group Warren Potas dies at 73

Avid outdoorsman organized gay hiking, canoeing, bicycling trips beginning in 1979

Published

on

Warren Potas died Sept. 5 at age 73.

Warren Potas, a D.C. area-based computer engineer who designed mainframe computer software for some of the nation’s leading tech companies, including IBM and Unisys, and the co-founder in 1979 of D.C.’s then gay and lesbian wilderness and outdoor group called Adventuring died on Sept. 5. He was 73.

The cause of death was not disclosed by the Budd Funeral Home of Woodbury, N.J., which organized funeral arrangements and released a detailed write-up on Potas’s life that it says Potas himself prepared.

Potas, who was retired at the time of his passing, had divided his time in recent years between D.C. and his hometown of Wenonah, N.J., which is close to Philadelphia, according to Jennifer Budd, the funeral home’s director.

“Warren regarded wilderness/outdoors as the touchstone of his spirit,” the write-up released by the funeral home says. “Additionally, he enjoyed interacting with people, savoring insights that come from the melding of experience, intuition and reasoning, celebrating the joys of the senses, and appreciating and learning from the world of nature,” the write-up says.

It says Potas, who referred to himself as Adventure Man, received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees with a major in computer science and minor in economics magna cum laude from Brown University in Providence, R.I. It says he completed his master’s degree in 1971.

“Over time, the bulk of his earnings were derived from mainframe computer software design and development stints at companies including IBM, Unisys, EDS, Calvert Mutual Fund Group, Systems and Applied Science Corporation, and U.S. government agencies, including Naval Research Laboratory, Indian Health Service, and National Institute of Mental Health,” the write-up says.

“He enjoyed applying a creative, design-oriented approach to problem-solving and was eager to encourage the talent of others,” it says.

The write-up says that an interest in the world of finance, including the stock market, began during Potas’s early teens and continued during his years in college and later years.

“He spent an aggregate handful of years in the ‘70s and ‘80s trading futures markets with substantial success, though failing to break into large fortune,” the write-up says. 

It says one of his early and most memorable outdoor endeavors took place in 1974

In a “late winter cross-country skiing and backpack trek through Yellowstone Park from the South Entrance to the West Entrance.”

The write-up says other major wilderness outings included “bicycle-packing (the Natchez Trace ’75), a month long 1,200-mile ride through the highlands and island of Northwestern Scotland (’76), the Canadian Rockies (’79), and river activities ranging from canoeing the quiet intimate streams of the New Jersey Pine Barrens to operating rafts through major white water on the Salmon (Middle Fork and Main), various stretches of the Green River and the California Sierra rivers.”

The write-up says Potas regarded his co-founding of the D.C. Adventuring group and its ongoing success as his greatest lifetime accomplishment.

D.C. area resident Pete Kostik, the other co-founder of the Adventuring group, noted that the group “is still going strong” and celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019. Kostik said Potas told him he would not be able to attend an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the group because he was at his family residence in New Jersey caring for his ailing mother, who died one year later.

Kostik said at least for Adventuring’s first 10 years, Potas played an active role in helping to organize trips to various locations both locally and across the country.

“Before long the group narrowed its focus to outdoor activity such as hiking, bicycling, canoeing, white water rafting, and the like,” Kostik said. Under Potas’s leadership, the group arranged for trip leaders to organize what Kostik called “elaborate” trips. “There was one down the Grand Canyon. There were bicycling trips out west. And ones closer to home and in other states,” he said.

Kostik said it was Potas’s vision, along with his, during the group’s early years that it would broaden the scope of places for gay people to meet beyond that of the gay bars. “It really filled a need at the time we started,” Kostik said.

The write-up on Potas says he became involved in many other local LGBTQ groups both around the time he helped found the Adventuring group and in later years. Among them were Chesapeake Bay Bears, Lambda Soleil, Four Seasons Garden Club, Ushers, Prodigay, and SigMa.

“From 1979-1982, Warren helped launch and sustain the first independent gay community center in D.C. (GCC/DC) as both a volunteer and board member,” the write-up says.

Funeral director Jennifer Budd said Warren Potas was predeceased by his parents Anthony and Blanche Potas. She said he was an only child. The write-up says funeral services were to be private. There was no suggested organization to support with a contribution in lieu of flowers.

But the write-up on Potas’ life concludes by saying he was a “fiercely committed card-carrying supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union.”

Warren Potas
Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Obituary

Pioneering transgender computer scientist Lynn Conway dies at 86

Early supercomputers pioneer fired after she transitioned

Published

on

Lynn Conway (University of Michigan faculty headshot by Charles Rogers and Xerox photo by Margaret Moulton)

BY ERIN REED | Tuesday, news broke that transgender woman and computer pioneer Lynn Conway passed away at the age of 86. Her story is nothing short of remarkable.

Conway helped pioneer early supercomputers at IBM but was fired after she transitioned. She went “stealth” and had to rebuild her career from the ground up, starting as a contract programmer at Xerox with “no experience.”

Then, she did it all over again, pioneering VLSI — a groundbreaking technology that allowed for microchips to be made small enough to fit in your pocket, paving the way for smartphones and personal computers. In 1999, she broke stealth, becoming an outspoken advocate for transgender people.

Conway first attempted to transition at MIT in 1957 at 19-years-old. At the time, the environment was not accepting enough for trans people to do so. She would have faced enormous barriers to medical transition, as few doctors were knowledgeable enough to prescribe hormone therapy a the time. Like many trans people seeing enormous barriers to care, she spent the following years closeted.

Eventually, she was hired by IBM where she helped develop the world’s fastest supercomputer at the time on the Advanced Computing System (ACS) project. The computer would become the first to use a “superscalar” design, which made it capable of performing several tasks at once, dramatically improving its performance and making it much faster than previous computers. Despite her pivotal role in the project, she was fired when she informed her employer that she wanted to transition.

What she did next is nothing short of remarkable. Realizing that as an openly trans woman in 1968, few companies would hire her, she went “stealth” and pretended she had no significant prior experience in computers.

She quickly advanced through the ranks and was hired by Xerox, where she famously developed VLSI, or Very Large Scale Integration. This groundbreaking technology allowed for thousands of transistors to be packed onto a single chip, revolutionizing electronics by making cell phones and modern computers possible through miniaturization and increased processing power.

Conway didn’t stop there. After gaining fame for her computer innovations, she came out in 1999 to advocate for trans people. She was among the early critics of Dr. Kenneth Zucker, an anti-trans researcher still cited today by those working to ban gender-affirming care.

Conway slammed Zucker for practicing “reparative therapy,” a euphemism for conversion therapy. Notably, Zucker’s research continues to make false claims that “80 percent of transgender kids desist from being trans,” numbers based on his clinic’s practices, which closely mirrored gay conversion therapy. That clinic has since been shut down over those practices.

Often, those opposed to trans people paint a picture of gender transition as something new, unique, or unsustainable. Similarly, many who transition are told they cannot be successful as trans individuals.

Such claims are often weaponized by anti-trans activists like Matt Walsh, who once mockingly asked, “What exactly have ‘transgender Americans’ contributed?” Conway’s life was a resounding rebuke to these attacks. She attempted to transition at a young age in the 1950s, revolutionized computing twice from scratch, and made the cell phone Walsh likely used to post such a question possible.

Perhaps more importantly, Conway’s life gave trans people another gift: A visible example that we can grow old, and a reminder that we have always been here. In a world where so many of us have had to hide in silence or stealth, where representation has been denied, and where we are told that our lives will be too dangerous to live, Conway proved that one can be trans and live a long, fulfilling, and proud life.

******************************************************************************************

Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

******************************************************************************************

The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

Continue Reading

Obituary

Joe Lieberman dies at 82

Former senator, vice presidential nominee championed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal

Published

on

Then-U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) being interviewed in his Hart Senate Office Building suite in February 2012. (YouTube screenshot)

Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who had served first as a longtime Democratic senator and then declared himself an independent winning reelection in 2006, died Wednesday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital due to complications from a fall. He was 82 years old.

The announcement of his death was released by Lieberman’s family and noted “his beloved wife, Hadassah, and members of his family were with him as he passed. Senator Lieberman’s love of God, his family and America endured throughout his life of service in the public interest.” 

Lieberman, who nearly won the vice presidency on the Democratic ticket with former Vice President Al Gore in the disputed 2000 election and who almost became Republican John McCain’s running mate eight years later, viewed himself as a centrist Democrat, solidly in his party’s mainstream with his support of abortion rights, environmental protection, gay rights and gun control, the Washington Post reported.

The Post added that Lieberman was also unafraid to stray from Democratic orthodoxy, most notably in his consistently hawkish stands on foreign policy.

Lieberman was first elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 1988. He was also the first person of Jewish background or faith to run on a major party presidential ticket.

In 2009 he supported the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was passed as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 on Oct. 22, 2009, and then was signed into law on the afternoon of Oct. 28 by then-President Barack Obama.

Lieberman, who served in the Senate for more than two decades, alongside with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), were the original co-sponsors of the legislation in the successful effort to repeal the Pentagon policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which barred open service by gay and lesbian servicemembers in 2011.

Lieberman said the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in Congress was one of the most satisfying and thrilling experiences he’s had as a senator.

“In our time, I think the front line of the civil rights movement is to protect people in our country from discrimination based on sexual orientation — all the more so when it comes to the United States military, whose mission is to protect our security so we can continue to enjoy the freedom and equal opportunity under law,” Lieberman said.

In an statement to the Washington Blade on Wednesday, Human Rights Campaign Vice President for Government Affairs David Stacy said:

“Senator Lieberman was not simply the lead Senate sponsor of the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — he was its champion, working tirelessly to allow lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to serve in the military as their authentic selves. The nation’s first Jewish vice presidential nominee, Lieberman had a historic career and his unwavering support for lesbian, gay and bisexual military servicemembers is a powerful legacy. Our hearts go out to his family and friends as they grieve a tremendous loss.”

In September 2011, during a press conference marking the repeal of the Pentagon policy, questions emerged about how to extend greater benefits to LGBTQ service members.

In addition to the legislation that would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” reporters asked lawmakers about legislation in the Senate known as the Respect for Marriage Act which was aimed at the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited same-sex marriage. Collins and Lieberman weren’t co-sponsors of that legislation.

Collins had left the news conference at the start of the question-and-answer period. In response to a question from the Blade, Lieberman offered qualified support for the Respect for Marriage Act.

The Connecticut senator said he had issues with the “full faith and credit” portion of the Respect for Marriage Act enabling federal benefits to flow to married gay couples even if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

“I do support it in part — I think we’ve got to celebrate what we’ve done today — I certainly support it in regard to discrimination in federal law based on sexual orientation,” Lieberman said.

That issue became a mute point after June 26, 2015, when in a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, Obergefell v. Hodges, justices ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Lieberman by that time however, had retired from the U.S. Senate. He announced he would not seek another term on Dec. 12, 2012, and left the Senate the following year. He was succeeded by Democratic Congressman Chris Murphy.

Following his retirement from the Senate, Lieberman moved to Riverdale in the Bronx and registered to vote in New York as a Democrat. 

In 2024 Lieberman was leading the search to find a presidential candidate for the third-party group No Labels to run against former President Donald Trump and incumbent President Joe Biden, with whom he had served with in the Senate. 

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) former President Barack Obama paid tribute to Lieberman:

“Joe Lieberman and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but he had an extraordinary career in public service, including four decades spent fighting for the people of Connecticut. He also worked hard to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and helped us pass the Affordable Care Act. In both cases the politics were difficult, but he stuck to his principles because he knew it was the right thing to do. Michelle and I extend our deepest condolences to Hadassah and the Lieberman family.”

Lieberman’s funeral will be held on Friday at Congregation Agudath Sholom in his hometown of Stamford, Conn. An additional memorial service will be announced at a later date.

Continue Reading

Obituary

William Troy dies at 69

Longtime D.C. resident worked on the Hill and in antiques

Published

on

William Troy (Photo courtesy family)

William Joseph “Bill” Troy passed away peacefully on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, at Cayuga Medical Center with his family at his bedside, from recent medical issues after living an active and robust life, according to a statement released by family. He was 69.

Troy was born April 15, 1955, in Elmira, N.Y. to William and Shirley Troy. He attended school in Ithaca and left to attend college at the University of Rochester. He worked at the university at various positions to help pay his way through, and he graduated in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in history. He continued working at the university and living in Rochester until he accepted an internship in the federal offices of Congressman Matt McHugh of the NY 28th District from 1978-1983. 

Troy was a life-long collector of various things, starting with coins and comics as a youngster, but in the 1980s he moved on to Art Deco lamps, disco records, antique furnishings, Arts & Crafts pottery, and a multitude of similar objects. He followed his passion of seeking antiques and used furnishings in Washington where he met many like-minded people and formed friendships with collectors and dealers.

Troy lived with his friend and partner Kirk Palmatier in Washington until December 2022 when he moved to Newark, N.Y., Palmatier’s hometown. He also wanted to enjoy his Ithaca  family more by living nearer to them.

Troy is survived by five loving sisters and two loving brothers and several nieces and nephews. His death was preceded by that of his parents, William and Shirley Troy. Troy is also survived by his friend and partner Kirk Palmatier of Newark, N.Y., and a number of D.C.-area friends and business associates from over the past years. Arrangements to memorialize Troy will be with his family at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to your favorite cancer or hospice organization. 

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular