Jeff Robinson, an iconic leader in Fresno’s LGBTQ+ community and longtime host of a pioneering radio program on KFCF, died at the age of 60 last month. He was widely respected for his enduring service to the entire Valley community. Robinson was called the “Gay Mayor of Fresno,” and it was a title that fit him perfectly.
Robinson was a respected and beloved activist, organizer and inspirational force in Fresno’s LGBTQ+ community. His groundbreaking work and activism helped make historic and hard-won changes in Fresno’s social and cultural scene. His pioneering radio program on KFCF, It’s a Queer Thing, has been on the air for 32 years. It became the center of gravity for LGBTQ+ information, entertainment and activism.
That activism went back to when he was a Fresno State student in 1987. Veteran journalist Peter Robertson got to know Robinson as a fellow student and recalls Robinson’s relentless activism while combatting a hateful atmosphere toward gay people on campus in those days, such as the burning of the United Student Pride booth.
“Jeff was there throughout many incidents, such as this. When times got rough and friends couldn’t be found, Jeff was our bridge over troubled waters,” noted Robertson.
“He inspired my social justice activism, which remains to this day. Jeff was a humble and quiet leader whose tireless leadership touched the lives of so many in our community.”
KFCF General Manager Rych Withers, a longtime friend and radio colleague of Robinson, touched on some of Robinson’s numerous accomplishments.
“Jeff was very involved in a lot of the activities and a leader of the LGBTQ community here. He was involved in Act Up when the county did not want to fund any medical or nursing positions for AIDS. That was the first time I met him, and then he got a radio show on KFCF.
“Also, in the ensuing 30 years [he] started Gay Pride in Fresno. He started the Pride film series, youth groups and senior groups for LGBTQ people, and a number of things like a community center.”
Withers recalls first meeting Robinson at a Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting when Robinson led a cohort of Act Up protesters to demand funds for medical support for AIDS patients that the politicians wanted to eliminate.
Robinson evoked the negative social atmosphere back in those days in a 2018 interview.
“You know, the whole reason we got involved with KFCF back in the early days was that we were battling one of the radio stations here that was a hard rock radio station that had a segment called ‘Manly Man.’ And they were really gay-baiting and really getting out there and encouraging the listeners to go to one of the local bars that was a gay bar and to go show those queers what manly men were.”
Robinson’s life was celebrated at a community gathering held on March 12 in the Tower District. He was fondly remembered by many friends and loved ones including Tracy Cisneros, who is the volunteer coordinator for the Rainbow Pride Parade that Robinson inspired, “Activist leader, mentor, hero, friend, papa. One of my favorite quotes from him is that ‘the world has gotten a bit darker, but the heaven’s a bit sassier.’”
She said from the first time she met Robinson, she knew that he was a man on a mission. “His mission really didn’t have anything to do with the parade or a festival or really a celebration of any kind. It was clear his mission was to encourage, inspire and grow the activists and leaders of the future.”
Jeff Robinson will be sorely missed and long remembered.