Class of 1976
Michele Forsten was a public relations professional, freelance journalist, editor, essayist and playwright who went on to become director of communications at the New York City College of Technology, part of the City University of New York. Forsten was named to the City Tech post in 2000 and over the ensuing years published hundreds of stories celebrating the achievements of the school’s students, faculty, staff and alumni.
She also held top communications posts at Lehman College and Long Island University, but the bulk of her work was as an advocate and spokeswoman for gay causes and for a relatively invisible group of people living with cancer — lesbians. Forsten herself survived one bout with cancer before succumbing on Oct. 22, 2013 at the age of 59. The City Tech Foundation established a memorial fund in her name. A personal account of her own battle with the disease was chronicled in the 2009 book “Lives Inspired: Portraits of Breast Cancer Survivors.” In 2004, Forsten founded the New York City Lesbian Cancer Support Consortium. It was a direct response to not being able to find a support group specifically for gay women when she was recovering from her own surgery in 2002.
She told Gay City News in a 2005 interview that the isolation she often felt as a lesbian cancer survivor was comparable to being silent about her sexual orientation years earlier. “You feel like you’re in the closet all over again,” she said.
Forsten was born in 1954 and raised in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. As a student at City College, she was a reporter for The Campus and for Observation Post. After graduating in 1976, she worked on trade magazines, where she polished her reporting skills, then moved into public relations. She holds a master’s degree in media studies from The New School for Social Research.
Her essays and other articles have been published in such publications as Mamm magazine, The Advocate, The New York Times and The New York Daily News, and aired on WNYC’s “All Things Considered.” In 1993, she co-produced the award-winning documentary “Homoteens,” in which five teenagers talk about homophobia. Her essay, “Improv at the Altar,” was included in the 2010 anthology “A Cup of Comfort for Couples: Stories That Celebrate What It Means to Be in Love.” Of the 48 essays in the book, hers is the only one by a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender writer. She was with her life partner, Barbara Schroder, for some 30 years. It was also in 2010 that Forsten published “Barbara Stonecipher: Drawings and Paintings,” a portrait of the artist who became a neighbor and friend.
Her short plays, “Winning?” and “Dinosaur Doc,” have been performed in New York; Boston; San Francisco; Provincetown, Mass.; Brewster, N.Y.; and Madison, Wis. “Winning?” was included in Smith & Kraus’s “Best Stage Scenes of 2000” and in the “Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly.”
|Michele Forsten (left) at her induction into the CAG Hall of
Fame, 2012, seated with her life partner, Barbara Schroder
Forsten’s full-length play, “Be My Baby!” was a semi-finalist in Playwright’s Circle National New Play Festival in Palm Springs, Calif., where it received a staged reading. The play was also a finalist in the Pittsburgh New Play Festival and a semi-finalist in the Moondance International Festival Stage Play Competition and in the London Borough of Newham’s Lesbian & Gay Stage Play Competition. A monolog from “Be My Baby!” was published in Smith & Kraus’s “Best Women’s Stage Monologues of 2000.” In 2004, Forsten was presented with the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association’s Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for Excellence for a series of articles on breast cancer.
Her blog, essays and excerpts from her plays can be found at www.micheleforsten.com.
Surrounded by friends and family, Michele Forsten passed away October 22, 2013 following a short illness.