Queens PFLAG President Anne Quashen Dies at 88

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LGBTQ activist Oscar Escobar and Anne Quashen before the Queens Pride Parade kick-off in Jackson Heights last year.
Courtesy of Councilmember Daniel Dromm

Anne Quashen, the president of the Queens chapter of PFLAG, a group dedicated to the families, friends, and allies of LGBTQ people, died of natural causes on April 10 at the age of 88.

Quashen was deeply respected in her borough’s LGBTQ community after she spent more than two decades as an advocate for queer folks and their family members. She emerged as a local leader in the movement after her son, Jeffrey, came out during the early 1990s, prompting her to get involved. In her leadership capacity with PFLAG, Quashen also served as chair of the annual PFLAG Queens Award Luncheon.

Jamie Curtis, who serves as director of chapter engagement for PFLAG National, responded to Quashen’s death by paying respect to the late activist’s role in carrying the borough’s PFLAG operations.

“For nearly 30 years, Anne carried the PFLAG banner,” Curtis said. “In her role as president, Anne established PFLAG Queens as the heart of the PFLAG chapter network, where our founder Jeanne Manford started the first PFLAG chapter. As an ally and an advocate, Anne worked closely within every aspect of the community in Queens to ensure LGBTQ+ people could live their best lives. Her work established a legacy for PFLAG which will continue to grow, thanks to her efforts.”

Out Rockaway, an LGBTQ neighborhood group in Queens, described Quashen’s passing on Twitter as “more sad news” at a difficult time for New York City.

“She was a friend of @OutRockaway & we will miss her deeply,” the group’s tweet noted.

Out gay Councilmember Daniel Dromm recalled Quashen as a “model LGBTQ activist” who was like a family member to him. He recalled her pivotal role in helping members of the Queens LGBTQ community and their families, pointing to her work overseeing monthly PFLAG meetings at the Reform Temple of Forest Hills.

“I am deeply saddened by the death of Anne Quashen, the president of the Queens Chapter of PFLAG,” Dromm said in a written statement. “Anne dedicated 25 years of her life to providing emotional support and other resources to family members of LGBTQ people who chose to live their lives openly at a time when it was not popular to do so. She also helped many young people with their coming out process… Anne embraced her gay son at a time when it was common to hear about LGBTQ children being kicked out of the home or physically attacked for living their lives openly… She will be sorely missed.”

Queens Pride organizers underscored Quashen’s involvement in both PFLAG Queens and the borough’s annual Pride festivities. Andrew Ronan, former co-chair of Queens Pride, said in a written statement provided by the organization that Quashen’s “tremendous contributions” are “immeasurable and will not be forgotten.”

“We will miss her dearly and will carry on her work making sure families and supporters of the LGBTQIA+ community have the resources they need to continue making Queens a safe and welcoming place for all,” Ronan said.

The Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens also offered kind words about Quashen and encouraged others to follow in her footsteps.

“We mourn the loss of Anne Quashen, long-time PFLAG Queens Chapter president,” the club wrote in a Twitter post. “She was always there to support LGBTQ young people and their families during their most difficult times. May she RIP and may her life’s work serve as an example to us all.”

Quashen was predeceased by her son Jeffrey.

Though Quashen’s death was not attributed to the coronavirus outbreak in the New York, it comes at a time when the city’s LGBTQ community is alreading suffering grievous losses from the pandemic. Tarlach Mac Niallais, a 57-year-old LGBTQ activist and disability rights advocate for more than three decades, passed away on April 1 from complications of the coronavirus, while Queens-based transgender activist and community leader Lorena Borjas also fell victim to coronavirus, on March 30 after treatments in several local hospitals. Both MacNiallais and Borjas were leaders in the Queens LGBTQ community.

Kious Kelly, a 48-year-old nurse at Mount Sinai who cared for patients despite lacking personal protective equipment, died of coronavirus March 24. On the same day, Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally — who married his husband, Tom Kirdahy, outside City Hall just hours after the US Supreme Court legalized marriage equality — also passed away due to coronavirus. On April 3, Gay City News’ former copy editor, Dean Wrzeszcz, a writer and actor, succumbed to the coronavirus.

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