Chuck Panozzo: "I'm Finally Home" 

Friday, July 27, 2001

WASHINGTON Rock musician and Chicago native Chuck Panozzo will celebrate a special homecoming tomorrow as he comes out as a gay man living with HIV at the Human Rights Campaign's annual Chicago dinner. Panozzo, founding member and bass player of the rock group Styx, said he elected to go public to help make the world "a better place for the next generation." 

"Coming out has touched my life in so many positive ways and really has set my spirit free," said Panozzo. "I'm in a better place than I've ever been in my life, and it's all because I acknowledged who I am and said 'I want to live my life as an openly gay man.'" 

At the event tomorrow, it will be announced that Panozzo will become an HRC spokesperson for the group's National Coming Out Project. 

"I've lived in Chicago my entire life," said Panozzo. "But speaking to my gay brothers and sisters about coming out means I am finally home." 

"We're pleased to have Chuck as a spokesperson and think he will reach a lot of people with his inspirational and hopeful message," said HRC National Coming Out Project Manager Candace Gingrich. "Chuck's story shows that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are friends, family, neighbors co-workers and even rock stars. We think he will have a significant impact on those who are still struggling with coming out." National Coming Out Day is Oct. 11. 

In the '70s and '80s Styx was one of the most popular American bands. They were wildly successful, selling four consecutive quadruple platinum albums. In 1979, they received the People's Choice Award recognizing them as the number one group in America. Today, they continue as a successful road band, just completing a 40-city tour. 

But while the band was rocketing to fame and topping the charts, Panozzo's personal life was in constant turmoil as he dealt with being a closeted gay man in the often-homophobic world of rock-n-roll. 

In 1991, Panozzo tested positive for HIV and in 1999, he was diagnosed with advanced AIDS. Two years of aggressive therapy and the passing of his long-time friend from AIDS helped convince him to go public with his disease. 

"With HRC, I feel I can help with equal rights, stand against hate violence and do everything I can to make this a better world for the next generation. Coming out is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I wish I had done it years earlier." 

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

Source: Human Rights Campaign