Photo: Twitter [@DrMarkSchlissel]

Jim Toy has tragically passed away at the age of 91 after reportedly being the first person to come out in Michigan more than 50 years ago.

According to a statement from Jason Morgan, the Candidate for State Representative in Michican’s 23rd district, Toy passed away on 1 January 2022.

“Jim Toy was and will always be a champion for LGBTQ rights and [for] our community,” he wrote on Twitter on 2 January. “He was a mentor, friend and someone I admired. I am honored to have known Jim. He passed away on New Years Day, 2022.”

It is believed that the LGBTQ+ activist was the first to publicly come out in Michigan when he announced his sexuality on 15 April 1970 at a rally against the Vietnam War.

He was instantly catapulted into the public eye and went on to spend his life being an advocate for the community.

“I am committed to making as much trouble as I can to create and maintain justice,” Toy explained to NPR in 2020.

In 1971, he established and directed what went on to become the Human Sexuality Office and then the Spectrum Center at the University of Michigan – something which has fought to support LGBTQ+ staff and students on campus for more than 50 years.

Toy also used his life to advocate for all aspects of the community, such as successfully fighting for the protection of gender identity, gender expression and sexuality under the aforementioned university’s non-discrimination bylaw.

“Jim is thought to be the first person to publicly come out in Michigan,” Morgan continued in a follow-up tweet. “He helped us pass #LGBTQ protections throughout Washtenaw County, founded the first LGBTQ campus resource center (@UMSpectrumCtr), was the namesake of our @JimToyCenter & more. Thank you for being you, Jim.”

Toy was widely considered a trailblazer when it came to LGBTQ+ activism, making it impossible to list everything he achieved during his lifetime.

As well as his previously mentioned efforts, Toy was a trained clinical social worker, founded the Ann Arbor Gay Hotline in 1972 and regularly attended rallies.

Dr. Mark Schlissel, President of the University of Michigan, tweeted his condolences after Toy’s death.

He wrote: “I’m saddened to hear of the death of Jim Toy, national social justice advocate, life-long champion of LGBTQ+ rights, pioneer of the @UMSpectrumCtr & 2021 @UMich honorary degree recipient. May we all honor his legacy by offering our support to all who experience discrimination.”