IN KEEPING with our annual tradition, we remember some of the many LGBT people who made a difference and who passed away last year. They were artists, writers, activists, educators, and performers whose time on this planet ranged from 41 to 95 years. Unless otherwise noted, all deaths occurred in 2018.
Jinx Beers (born Clara Jean Beers), publisher and activist, died on October 6th at age 84. Born in Pasadena, California, she entered the military after high school but left after a dozen years to protest the Vietnam War and to become an openly lesbian activist. She went on to graduate from UCLA and, in 1975, founded Lesbian News. She initially distributed it under the windshield wipers of cars parked near lesbian bars. It became a national magazine, published both in print and on-line, and is now North America’s longest-running lesbian publication. She was inducted into the Lgbtq Journalists Hall of Fame in Philadelphia in 2017. Her Memoirs of an Old Dyke was published in 2008.
Thomas P. “Tom” Gallagher, statesman, died of a staph infection and heart condition on July 8th at age 77. Born in Manhattan, he graduated from Monmouth University. In 1975, after participating at a Gay Activists Alliance conference, he became the first Foreign Service officer to come out publicly. He left the Foreign Service in 1976 to avoid renewing his security clearance, spending almost two decades as a social worker and counselor in L.A. and San Francisco during the worst years of the AIDS crisis. He was eventually able to go back to government work in 1994. He is survived by Amin Dulkumoni, to whom he was married.
Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, lifelong activist and writer, died of Parkinson’s disease on July 10th at age 72. Born in Brooklyn, she received her doctorate from Berkeley and taught the first women’s studies class while there. Politically conscious from her teenage years, she developed new ways of looking at the intersections of race, class, gender, and Judaism. In the 1980s, she was the co-editor of the lesbian quarterly Sinister Wisdom. She was an essayist, poet, and author of dozens of articles and books, including the semi-autobiographical short story collection, My Jewish Face & Other Stories (1990). She is survived by her longtime partner, activist and organizer Leslie Cagan.
Connie Kurtz, who successfully sued the New York City Board of Education for domestic partner benefits in the late 1980s, died at age 81 on May 27th. Born in Brooklyn, she moved to Israel in 1970 with her husband and family, left after four years, and met up with her old friend Ruth Berman, also married to a man. They fell in love, married, and were the subject of the award-winning 2002 documentary Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House. She is survived by Ruth and by a large extended family.
Dick Leitsch, activist, died of cancer on June 22nd at age 83. President of the Mattachine Society in the 1960s, he organized “sip-ins” in 1966 to protest New York state’s ban on serving alcohol to openly gay people in bars. The ban was later overturned. Originally from Kentucky, where he knew that he was gay from his earliest years, he arrived in New York in 1959. So important were his organizing efforts that one historian stated: “Without Dick Leitsch, there would have been no Stonewall.” His partner, Timothy Scoffield, died of AIDS-related causes in 1989.
Marcia J. Lipetz, activist, died of cancer in early September at the age of 71. Born into a socially conscious family in Louisville, Kentucky, she received her doctorate from Northwestern University, and began her career teaching at Chicago-area universities. She was the first full-time executive director of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and helped establish the Center on Halsted, the Midwest’s largest social service agency for the LGBT community. She is survived by Lynda Crawford, to whom she was married.
Timothy McCarthy, activist and video historian, died on October 19th at the age of 61, as a result of an automobile accident. His death was called a “catastrophic loss for the arts community” in Provincetown. He was known to many in the Boston-Provincetown area for his work in ACT UP in the 1980s and 90s. As a film documentarian, he was a constant presence at public and artistic events in Provincetown and made a film documentary, Meth + Murder in P-town (2007). He worked with Sexual Minorities Uganda, using the power of film to “empower the repressed and oppressed to speak for themselves.”
Donna Red Wing, lifelong activist, died of cancer on April 16th at the age of 67. Originally from Massachusetts, she held leadership roles at the Gill Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and worked in progressive politics and organizations throughout her life. Most recently, she was executive director of One Iowa, where she launched a summit for LGBT seniors. She was featured in the Sundance Award-winning documentary Ballot Measure 9 (2017) about the 1992 struggle against Oregon’s anti-LGBT campaign. She is survived by Sumitra Red Wing, to whom she was married.
Charles Shively, activist and writer, died on October 6th at age 79. He was remembered in the January-February 2018 issue.
Gerald K. “Jerry” Weller, activist and long-term survivor of AIDS, died on July 8th, at the age of 69. Born in Pittsburgh, he later settled in Oregon, where he founded one of the first gay organizations to receive tax-exempt status. In the mid-1980s, he was executive director of the Gay Rights National Lobby, predecessor to the Human Rights Campaign Fund. In his retirement he edited City Week, an Oregon newspaper focusing on LGBT issues.
Robert Wood, activist and United Church of Christ minister, died on August 19th at the age of 95. Born in Youngstown, Ohio, he served in World War II and received a theology degree from Oberlin. While a minister in upstate New York in 1956, he wrote an article, “Spiritual Exercises,” for a gay physique magazine that addressed the dilemma of being Christian and gay. Four years later, he self-published the groundbreaking Christ and the Homosexual: Some Observations, urging Protestant theologians to rethink their anti-gay positions. He lived with his partner Hugh Coulter, who predeceased him.