(Aug. 31, 1949-May 14, 1991). A native of Garrett, Indiana, Berg moved to Indianapolis at age 14. He graduated from Indiana University in 1971 and spent most of the 1970s working in the insurance industry.

In June 1977, Berg opened “The Body Works,” a gay men’s health club. The bathhouse, which would later become known simply as “The Works,” provided health programming and a safe place for gay men to gather and socialize with one another.

In October 1981, at the time that AIDS was emerging as a new deadly disease across the country, Berg launched a gay magazine, using the name of his health club as its title. The Works provided public health statistics related to the HIV crisis, sexual health safety information, and information about government policies and LGBTQ social outings. He established the publication with the goal of generating unity in the Indianapolis LGBTQ community.

Along with Kathy Sarris of Justice, Inc. and leaders of other Indianapolis gay and lesbian groups, Berg became a founder of the Indianapolis Gay/Lesbian Coalition (IGLC) in 1982. He and other members of the IGLC worked to get recognition of the need for gay and lesbian rights. During an October 1983 meeting with IGLC leaders, Mayor William H. Hudnut Iii confessed that he had never focused on these issues before. He agreed to consider creating advisory roles for gays and lesbians within his administration and to amend a city executive order on city-county employment to include measures against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The mayor even expressed interest in making the third week in June “Pride Week,” although it would take several more years for this to come to fruition.

In summer 1984, Berg helped organize the Gay Knights protests on Monument Circle. At the time, the gay and lesbian community used the Circle as a social gathering place, and the false idea that the community gathered there to troll for sexual partners circulated through the city’s political leadership. In response, the Indianapolis Police Department (IPD) created the Special “Circle” Unit. A string of cases in which members of the IPD misused their authority to harass gays and lesbians surfaced. Berg and other ILGC members organized rallies to protest the IPD harassment. Starting on Friday, July 20, 1984, hundreds of gay and lesbian Hoosiers participated in these protests weekly. In the pages of The Works, the protesters became known as “Gay Knights.” The last protest occurred on August 31, during which Berg read from a letter written by Mayor Hudnut that declared his commitment to “an absence of anti-gay bias in all police matters.”

A large group of people sit and stand around the steps of Monument Circle.
Gay Knights on the Circle, 1984 Credit: Chris Gonzalez GLBT Archives View Source

Berg continued his advocacy on behalf of the Indianapolis LGBTQ community until his death. His publications, The Works and its successor The New Works News, remained important organs advocating for HIV awareness and the rights of queer Indianapolis citizens. In 1990, Hudnut approached Berg to help him craft language for a public statement to welcome gay and lesbian visitors to the city for the “Celebration on the Circle,” the first public observance of Pride Week in Indianapolis.

Revised December 2022

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