Trans Organist Desiree Hines Dies of Cancer

The gifted musician was a staple in Philly's LGBTQ community.

Photo by Neal Santos

It breaks my heart to write this, but Desiree Hines, a friend to many in Philly’s LGBTQ community, passed away this week after battling neuroendocrine cancer. In the past year, she had been living in Kansas City, Mo., where she was playing the organ at Grace and Holy Trinity Church. In an email, a friend from Kansas wrote that Desiree “was at peace before she passed. … Since her first diagnosis in March she continued to march forward and be positive.”

That’s the Desiree I knew. Before moving to Kansas City, she was a tireless fixture in Philly’s gay community. She sat on the board for the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucas, was the resident organist at Traverse Arts Project, where she also worked to organize the GLBT Arts Festival in 2009, and she played the hell out of the organ at all kinds of churches and events around town, including the annual Nosferatu screening at the First Unitarian Church. I was always so touched by her passion for playing the organ; she was constantly dreaming about that next big step in her life.

On a personal level, I knew Desiree as a lady with an enormous, giving heart. She grew up in Mississippi and I was raised in Kentucky, so we shared a common affinity for most things Southern. When we got together, we’d throw on our accents and carry on like a bunch of Miss Scarletts. When we’d meet for lunch, she’d always want to go for BBQ — and believe you me, that girl could put away a plate of ribs like nobody’s business.

Another one of our lunch buddies, Carolyn Huckabay (full disclosure: a former colleague and good friend of mine), wrote a fantastic piece in the Philadelphia City Paper about Desiree’s life as a transgender woman, and the work she was doing to accomplish her dreams to become a world famous organist. It’s a must read. She was also included in G Philly‘s New Who’s Who of Philly’s Gay Community and, more recently, KCTV in Kansas City did this report on her battle with cancer and her involvement with Grace and Holy Trinity Church. In the video below, I chat with her about the work she was doing for SafeGuard at 2010’s Gayborhood Block Party.

RIP, Miss Girl. Your spirit and talent will be missed.