“I thought I was going to die,” Ann Northrop looks back on ACT UP’s infamous Stop The Church protest.

“Michael Petrelis got up on a pew and started screaming at the Cardinal, ‘You're a murderer, you're a murderer.’ And the entire place erupted in screaming and yelling and people throwing things at us…I thought I was going to die.”

Ann Northrop had been a part of the early feminist and antiwar movements, protesting against inequality and the Vietnam War, so when she walked into her first ACT UP meeting in 1988, she felt immediately at home. "Oh my god, these are my people," she remembers thinking. "These are the cranky individualists who are really too weird to be part of normal society and they're here doing civil disobedience and direct action."

Having worked in national news, Ann quickly began training members on how to work with members of the media to best publicize their work.

“I taught activists how to flatter journalists, how to interview them before they interview you to find out who else they're talking to, to try to guide them to different sources. I taught them not to worry about their own soundbites, but to worry about the story as a whole...really what you should be doing is helping the reporter understand the story in the way you want them to understand it.”

Ann was also one of the members of ACT UP that was inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral during their infamous Stop The Church protest in 1989. In a recent LGBTQ&A interview, ACT UP historian and author of Let The Record Show, Sarah Schulman describes how the Stop The Church protest was ultimately a greater success than anyone could have predicted. (You can listen to her explain why it was such a game-changer in the episode here.)

On this week’s LGBTQ&A podcast, Ann Northrop talks about being inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral as the action spun out of control, “I thought I was going to die,” and why for the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community today, the AIDS crisis is ongoing.

You can listen to the full LGBTQ&A interview on Apple Podcasts.

LGBTQ&A is a weekly LGBTQ+ interview podcast hosted by Jeffrey Masters. Past guests include Pete Buttigieg, Laverne Cox, Roxane Gay, and Trixie Mattel.

New episodes come out every Tuesday.