Gay rights pioneer and photojournalist Kay Tobin Lahusen dies at 91
Kay Tobin Lahusen, a gay rights pioneer who recounted the early days of the movement through her photographs and writings, has died. She was 91 years old.
Known as America’s first openly gay photojournalist, Lahusen died in Chester County Hospital near Philadelphia on Wednesday following a brief illness.
Along with his partner, late activist Barbara Gittings, Lahusen advocated for gay civil rights years before the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 in New York City helped usher in the modern LGBTQ era. She captured widely published footage of some of the country’s earliest protests.
Lahusen “was the first photojournalist in our community,” said Mark Segal, a friend over 50 and founder and editor of the Philadelphia Gay News. “Virtually all of the photos we have from this era are from Kay.”
Lahusen photographed a series of gay rights protests outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall every July 4 from 1965 to 1969 – and was herself a walker, carrying signs that read “First Class Citizenship for Gay People” and “Put end to the official persecution of homosexuals ”. She documented the gay rights protests in the White House and the Pentagon.
“Everything the Founding Fathers envisioned as the rights and privileges of our citizens, we also wanted for ourselves,” she told WHYY at a commemoration in 2015. “Someone had to come out and come out and do it. show your face in public, proclaim things and be aggressive. “
Lahusen’s life partner, Gittings, was one of the nation’s foremost lesbian activists and co-organizer of the “annual recall” pickets in Philadelphia.
They had met in 1961 at a picnic hosted by Daughters of Bilitis, the first known lesbian organization in the United States whose East Coast chapter had founded Gittings. Lahusen was an art writer and took groundbreaking cover photos of gay women for the group’s national publication, The Ladder, which Gittings edited.
Lahusen was also a founding member of the Gay Activists Alliance and photographed the protests of this group, called “zaps”. She was there for the first Philadelphia Gay Pride March in 1972. Under the pseudonym Kay Tobin, she co-authored a 1972 book, “The Gay Crusaders,” which featured the early leaders of the movement.
Lahusen and Gittings were also part of the campaign that led to the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to drop homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
Lahusen and Gittings were a couple for 46 years. After the death of Gittings in 2007, Lahusen spent her final years at a nursing home in Kennett Square, where she gave interviews, helped maintain the legacy of Gittings and kept the history of the Gittings movement alive. civil rights of the first gays.
“Stonewall wasn’t the first thing, that’s what she would tell you,” said her friend, Judith Armstrong. “The story is there and the story she absolutely wanted to be preserved. … She wanted the story to be there.
The New York Public Library houses an extensive collection of papers and photographs by Gittings and Lahusen.
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