Perhaps I say this every year, but it seems we lost an extraordinary number of major figures who contributed significantly to the GLBT community in 2006—people who made a difference in the advancement of gay and lesbian rights, others who created the works of art and literature that illuminate our lives. They will all be sorely missed.
Sarah Aldridge, the pseudonym of Andya Marchant, died on January 11, 2006, at the age of 94 at her Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, home. She was a founder of Naiad Press in 1972, serving as its president for two decades. She also founded A&M Books in 1995. Trained as a lawyer, she practiced in Virginia and Washington, D.C., and as a law student had been an assistant to women’s rights pioneer Alice Paul. Her first book, The Latecomer (Naiad, 1974), was published after she retired as an attorney at the World Bank, and she went on to write thirteen more novels. She is survived by Muriel Crawford, her partner of 57 years.
Betty Berzon died of cancer on January 24, 2006, at the age of 78. A founder and board member of many gay and lesbian organizations, especially in her home state of California, she was a practicing psychotherapist for a quarter-century and wrote eight books, most recently Surviving Madness: A Therapist’s Own Story (University of Wisconsin Press, 2002). Well known for her leadership in the areas of self-esteem, group therapy, and the human potential movement, she promoted quality mental health care and was arguably the first openly gay psychotherapist. She is survived by her partner of 33 years, Teresa DeCrescenzo.
Stanley H. Biber died in Colorado at the age of 82 on January 16, 2006, of pneumonia. He was among the first American surgeons to perform sex change operations, beginning in 1969, helping the town of Trinidad, Colorado, to earn its title of “sex-change capital of the world.” He had taken a job in a United Mine Workers clinic there just after his Army service in a MASH unit in Korea, and began the surgery for which he became famous after a transsexual social worker, who had admired his surgical skills in repairing childhood facial deformities, asked if he would perform sex reassignment surgery for her. It turned out to be the first of over 4,000 operations that he would perform during his career. Biber is survived by his wife and many children.
Vern Bullough, eminent historian and pioneering sexologist, died on June 21, 2006 at the age of 77. The November-December 2006 issue of this journal carried an appreciation of his life.
Octavia Butler died February 24, 2006, at her home in Seattle following complications from a fall, at the age of 58. A reclusive woman, considered by many to be a lesbian, she was the first African-American woman to become known for her science fiction, and the only science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” Her breakthrough novel Kindred (Doubleday, 1979) was reprinted in 1988 and 2003. Though she suffered severe writer’s block, she published about twenty books and short stories. She is survived by several cousins.
Alan Brady Conrath died on July 26, 2006, in Boston, thirteen months after receiving a lung transplant to treat pulmonary fibrosis, a degenerative lung disease. Alan had special importance for this journal as our CPA for many years, as an occasional contributor of both poetry and prose to the magazine, and as a personal friend to its editors. While making his living as an accountant, Alan held a doctorate in philosophy (from Vanderbilt) and had an almost Faustian desire to know everything that he could, delving into ancient history, modern literature, poetry of all ages, and so on. His most recent contribution to the G&LR was an essay on novelist Mary Renault. He left behind a poetry cycle on the Holocaust. He is survived by one brother.
Tee A. Corinne (originally named Linda Tee Cutchin) died August 27, 2006, of cancer at her home in Oregon, at the age of 62. Trained as an artist, she began to work at the San Francisco Sex Information Switchboard after the breakup of her marriage in 1972, and by the mid-1970’s her artwork was frequently found in the lesbian and feminist press. She created over fifty book covers for Naiad Press, which also published several books of her own work. She began to write erotica in 1983 and edited several anthologies, the most recent of which was Dreams of the Woman Who Loved Sex: An Erotic Collection: Prose, Poetry and Photo Act (New Victoria Publishers, 1999, first published in 1987.) Her partner of sixteen years, Beverly Anne Brown, predeceased her.
Joel Dorius died February 14, 2006 of cancer at his home in San Francisco, at the age of 87. In 1960, he was caught up in a gay porn scandal at Smith College, recounted in Barry Werth’s The Scarlet Professor (Nan A. Talese, 2001), when the home of his colleague, English professor Newton Arvin, was raided, and diaries and magazines were found. Dorius, a Shakespeare scholar, was later exonerated and went on to teach at a number of colleges, most recently San Francisco State University. Dorius’ article about his ordeal was published in the March-April 2003 issue of this journal, and his online memoir “My Four Lives” appears at www.affirmation.org/memorial/jd.shtml.
Hanns Ebensten died in Key West on July 24, 2006, of pneumonia, at the age of 82. A pioneer in gay travel and a winner of a number of gay travel awards, he was also the author of eight books, most recently Egypt in My Blood (Professional Press, 2006), though his best-known book is probably Volleyball with the Cuna Indians and Other Gay Travel Adventures (Viking, 1993). His 1972 Grand Canyon rafting trip was the first of many successful tours in which travelers could be entirely non-closeted. He was predeceased by Brian Kenney, his partner of over forty years.
Lisa King died at the age of 45 on February 13, 2006, of a heart attack at her home near Boston. Part of a Boston team that won the 1993 National Poetry Slam, she also won and hosted numerous competitions and in 1995 helped produce the first National Queer Slam at OutWrite. Her chapbook Eyes Blinking Backward was published in 1996.
Fritz Klein (originally Fred Klein) died on May 24, 2006, at the age of 73 at his home in San Diego, of a heart attack. A psychiatrist and sex researcher who started a foundation to promote bisexual culture, he wrote a number of books, including The Bisexual Option: A Concept of One-Hundred Percent Intimacy (Arbor House, 1978) and most recently Life, Sex, and the Pursuit of Happiness (Harrington Park Press, 2005). In the 1970’s he devised the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, similar to the Kinsey Scale. Klein was a founder of the American Institute of Bisexuality and was an editor of the Journal of Bisexuality. He is survived by his partner, Tom Reise.
Elizabeth Maguire died of cancer on April 4, 2006, at the age of 47. She was the vice-president and publisher at Basic Books, which she joined in 2000 after having worked at a number of other publishing houses, including Oxford University Press. Her first novel was Thinner, Blonder, Whiter (Carroll & Graf, 2002) and at the time of her death she was working on a novel about 19th-century American novelist Constance Fenimore Woolson, who was a friend of Henry James. She is survived by her partner Karen Wolny.
Andrew Michael Mattison died in San Diego of cancer on December 29, 2005, at the age of 57. A professor of psychiatry at U.C.-San Diego, he co-wrote The Male Couple (Prentice-Hall, 1984), based on interviews with gay couples. It was one of the first books to document the longevity and variety of gay male relationships. He was also president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. He is survived by his partner, David McWhirter, with whom he co-wrote many scientific papers on counseling gay couples and on the impact of HIV.
Eric Rofes died of a heart attack in Provincetown at the age of 51 on June 26, 2006. An associate professor of education at Humboldt State University in California, he was one of the founders of the Gay Community News (GCN) in Boston in the 1970’s, and of the Boston Lesbian and Gay Political Alliance. After moving to California, he became executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center and later held the same position at the Shanti Project in San Francisco. He was a provocative and controversial activist, and was also author or editor of a dozen books, most recently, A Radical Rethinking of Sexuality and Schooling: Status Quo or Status Queer? (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005). He is survived by Crispin Hollings, his partner of sixteen years, to whom he was married.
Gerry Studds, the first openly gay member of Congress, died in Boston on October 14, 2006, at the age of 69. An appreciation of his life by Lewis Gannett appears in this issue.
Jeffrey Tennyson died August 18, 2006, in Palm Springs, California, at the age of 54, of complications of HIV. He was the art director at After Dark and Christopher Street magazines in New York, and in the 1990’s moved to California where he was a design consultant. He was the author of Hamburger Heaven: The Illustrated History of the Hamburger (Hyperion, 1993) and had an extensive collection of burger memorabilia.
Ric Weiland died in Seattle at the age of 53 on June 24, 2006, by his own hand. One of Microsoft’s first employees, he retired in 1988 and devoted himself to philanthropy, with one source stating that his total donations approached $100 million. Recipients included GLSEN, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, Lambda Legal Foundation, GLAAD, and many other GLBT and AIDS organizations. He is survived by partner, Mike Schaefer.
John Wilson died at his New York home on August 25, 2006, of heart disease, at the age of 56. He was a founding member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and came out at the Miami Herald in the early 1980’s. He was an editor at a variety of newspapers, including Detroit News, where he inspired young gay journalists. At the time of his death he was the assistant science editor at The New York Times. He is survived by his partner, Richard Poirier.
SOURCES: The Advocate; Bay Windows; The Boston Globe; www.gay.com; www.guardian.co.uk; In Newsweekly; Lambda Literary Foundation press releases; Lesbian Connection; The New York Times; www.seattlepi.nwsource.com.