Steven Phillip Berman was born August 21, 1946 in Illinois and grew up in the greater Chicago area. After graduation from high school, Berman obtained a B.A. in psychology from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1970. Relocating later that year, Berman began work on his M.A. in psychology at California State University, Long Beach. While at CSULB, Berman founded the Gay Students Union and the Gay Students Council of Southern California, often speaking at local colleges and universities. As a graduate student, Berman focused his studies on personality and ability testing, working with prominent lesbian psychologist Betty Berzon. In 1973, prior to completion of his degree, Berman underwent neurosurgery for removal of an arteriovenous malformation. This surgery left Berman with seizures and other neurological conditions that would plague him the rest of his life.
During his schooling and for some time after, Berman worked for several Southern California agencies involved with general mental health and gay support services, including the newly founded Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center where he worked with parolees reentering the workforce. Berman moved to the San Francisco Bay area around 1981, continuing his social services work and becoming increasingly involved with Jewish organizations and congregations. As a member of Jews for Social Responsibility and later the Jewish Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights, Berman lobbied the San Francisco community for increased awareness of Middle East conflicts and for greater rights for lesbians and gays in the Bay Area.
Berman’s most notable work was as a case manager for North of Market Multipurpose Senior Services in the early 1980s. Berman worked with gay seniors, frequently referencing them to gay and lesbian organizations in the area for specialized attention and support. He also worked with San Francisco City Hall to clarify policy for city employees, seeking (and winning) grievance rights for same-sex partners of city and county employees.
Berman died on July 17, 1983, collapsing after completing a race to raise funds for HIV/AIDS research.
Steve Berman Papers, Coll2012-141, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California