• Jasonsmith.com
  • Jon-Henri Damski

When time passes and committees take over from founders, awards have been known to drift away from their original purposes. That has not happened to the award Lori Cannon established in 1998 to honor her late friend Jon-Henri Damski, a gay activist, writer, and singular personality. Damski’s last column, published a few days before he died on November 1 the year before, was a paean to sex.

As Cannon recalls, Damski’s slow death from melanoma involved many trips to the hospital. Cannon went with him. She recalls a social worker asking him routine questions. Do you have a wife? And Damski bellowed—there was an element of ritual in the bellowing—Gay people aren’t allowed to marry! Military service? Gay people aren’t allowed to serve in the military!

“At the end,” Cannon remembers, “he said, ‘Thanks for being my hospital wife.’ I said. ‘It was my complete pleasure.'”