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Kay Lahusen, LGBTQ equality rights pioneer has died at 91

Kay was the first out LGBTQ photo journalist, an author and partner of her beloved Barbara Gittings. They were pioneers in LGBTQ activism

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Kay and Barbara at 25th anniversary of Stonewall (Photograph by Karen Ocamb)

By Mark Segal | PHILADELPHIA, PA – Kay Lahusen, 91, died in gentle hospice care at Chester County Hospital on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, after a brief illness.  She was born in Cincinnati in January 1930 and as an infant was adopted and raised by her grandparents.  After graduating from Ohio State University, she moved to Boston, where she met her lifelong partner Barbara Gittings at a Daughters of Bilitis picnic in 1961.  

Kay and Barbara lived variously in New York, Philadelphia and Wilmington DE. They were gay activists from the early days of the Gay Rights movement in the US, marching openly in picket lines in Washington DC and Philadelphia in the early 1960s.  Kay became known as the first openly gay photojournalist. Her photos documenting these and many later activities were printed in various gay publications including Gay (a national weekly) and The Ladder.  Her photos are archived in the New York Public Library, which drew upon them for the 2019 book, Love and Resistance; out of the closet into the Stonewall era.

Kay researched and wrote the book Gay Crusaders (1972), which was published under her pseudonym Kay Tobin and with the addition of a male “co-author” (her friend, Randy Wicker) to help with its public acceptance.  The original research materials for that book are also archived at the New York Public Library.

Kay and Barbara remained activists throughout their lives.  Shortly before Barbara’s death in 2007, they moved to Kendal at Longwood, Kennett Square PA.  After Barbara’s death Kay continued to contribute to Gay history, giving many interviews, especially about their work with the American Psychiatric Association and the American Library Association.  She collaborated in 2015 with Tracy Baim to produce Barbara Gittings, gay pioneer, a biography of Barbara which used many of Kay’s photos.  She decorated her room at Kendal with dozens of photographs, and she would talk about her experiences as a gay activist at the drop of a hat, even regaling the nurses at Chester County Hospital with her story days before her death.

Kay is survived by Trusted Friends: Judith Armstrong of Hockessin DE, John Cunningham of Philadelphia, Ada Bello of Philadelphia, and James Oakes of Secane PA, and by the many, many friends, acquaintances, and admirers — too numerous to name here — who made up her chosen family.

Kay’s remains will rest in the Congressional Cemetery, Washington DC, along with her partner’s in a bench designed to express their love for each other and their dedication to showing that Gay is Good.  Due to COVID-19, a public memorial will be postponed.  In lieu of flowers, Kay would welcome your contributions to William Way LGBT Community Center,  1315 Spruce St, Philadelphia PA 19107  or to Kennett Area Community Service, P.O.Box 1025, Kennett Square PA 19348 for their local food cupboard.

Condolences may be left at foundsfuneralhome.com.

In December of 2019, the Philadelphia Gay News ran a profile on the 90th birthday celebration of Lahusen. She was asked, So visibility is one of the hallmarks of your life? 

In answer she noted; “Oh, absolutely. I enjoyed working on “The Ladder.” I tried to put wonderful women on the covers. That was very important, because before then we only had drawings on covers. We went against the American Psychiatric Association and succeeded in removing homosexuality from the mental illness allegation. I wasn’t at Stonewall, but I certainly admired it. I had a lot to say about it and write about it. I’ve had a terrific life. I think gay couples, getting back to that question, should get involved, and give it all they’ve got. It’s so much fun. Don’t you agree?”

You can read the entire interview here: https://epgn.com/2019/12/27/activist-kay-lahusen-celebrates-90th-birthday/

Mark Allan Segal is an American journalist. He participated in the Stonewall riots and was one of the original founders of the Gay Liberation Front where he created its Gay Youth program. He was the founder and former president of the National Gay Newspaper Guild and the founder and publisher of Philadelphia Gay News.

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Obituary

Longtime LGBTQ activist, DC schools official Clark Ray dies

Arkansas native passed away at home on Saturday

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Clark Ray, gay news, gay politics dc
Clark Ray (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Clark Ray, a longtime LGBTQ rights advocate who worked for four D.C. mayors and most recently served as executive director of the District of Columbia State Athletics Association, died at his home on Saturday, June 5, of unknown causes.

His husband, Aubrey Dubra, said Ray passed away in his sleep and the D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office, under standard procedures for unexplained deaths, conducted an autopsy and the results were still pending.

News of Ray’s passing, which first surfaced in Facebook postings on Saturday, drew dozens of messages of sympathy from friends and political associates who have known Ray through his more than 20 years of political and local government involvement in D.C.

Former Mayor Vincent Gray appointed Ray in 2012 as executive director for the then newly created District of Columbia State Athletics Association, an arm of the D.C. public school system that jointly works with D.C. charter schools and private parochial schools to coordinate school athletics programs, including high school sports competition in soccer, football, cross country track and other team sports.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser retained him for that position when she took office in 2015, and Ray held the position at the time of his passing.

In a statement released on Saturday, Bowser praised Ray for taking “extraordinary measures” during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the city’s student athletes and help the school athletics programs return to a safe place.

“We are heartbroken over the passing of Clark Ray,” Bowser said in her statement. “Clark was a loving father, husband, and friend who impacted so many lives and will be missed greatly,” the mayor said.

“For more than two decades, he served in a number of roles advancing recreation and athletics to build a sense of community,” the mayor’s statement says. “Serving four mayors, Clark’s legacy will include his tireless work to establish the D.C. State Athletic Association as well as the DCSAA Hall of Fame.”

Dubra told the Blade he and Ray had four adopted sons between the ages of nine and 21. The couple and their family lived in the 16th Street Heights neighborhood in Northwest D.C.

Ray’s LinkedIn page shows his earlier work includes service from 2007-2009 as director of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation and from 2006-2008 as senior director of strategy for the Greater Washington Sports Alliance. He served as director of external affairs for the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission from 2004 to 2007.

His LinkedIn page says he served from 2000 to 2004 as an official with the Office of Neighborhood Services in the Executive Office of then-D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams.

Gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and longtime Shaw neighborhood activist Alex Padro said he got to know Ray at that time in Ray’s role as Williams’ Ward 2 coordinator.

“Clark was result-oriented, always looking for a way to get something done quickly and efficiently,” said Padro, who called Ray one of the best appointments Mayor Williams made.

Former D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who headed the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, said Ray served as a Reserve Police Officer assigned to then Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit from 2003 to 2008.

“He was a friend, colleague, and mentor to all of us and made a huge difference in the lives of more people than he will ever know,” Parson said in a statement.

In 2010, Ray ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council against then incumbent Phil Mendelson in the September Democratic primary.

A native of Arkansas, Ray worked in the administration of President Bill Clinton as director of strategic scheduling and advance for Tipper Gore, wife of Vice President Al Gore, in the Office of the Vice President, from 1997-1999.

Ray later served as chief of staff to Tipper Gore as part of the Al Gore for President Campaign from 1999 through the 2000 presidential election.

Ray graduated from Smackover High School in Smackover, Ark., in 1982, before receiving a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1986. He received a master’s degree in Education and Sports Administration Management at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1988.

His LinkedIn page shows that his long involvement in the field of sports and recreation began during his studies at Temple when he served as a graduate assistant at the university’s Sports Medicine Department and worked for the Philadelphia Phillies and Philadelphia Eagles professional sports teams.

“Clark was the love of my life and a terrific father to our four children,” said Dubra. “He believed in adoption of D.C. children, not an international adoption,” Dubra said. “He was an advocate for making sure that D.C. kids had homes. And that was one of his big things that he wanted to support,” Dubra said. “And I supported him in that process as well because we have four wonderful boys. And they’re all doing very well. And we’ve been very, very fortunate to be able to share our home and our lives with them.”

Ray is survived by his husband, Aubrey Dubra and his sons Rahmeer, 21; Tajon, 18; Jamar,12; and Richard or Ricky, age 9.

Dubra said that to highlight Ray’s dedication to athletics and its positive impact on the city’s young people, he accepted an offer to hold Ray’s funeral service and viewing at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center in Anacostia at 700 Mississippi Ave., S.E. on Saturday, June 12.

He said a public viewing will take place at the center from 9-11 a.m., at which time a service in celebration of Ray’s life will begin.

Dubra said plans for a burial were still being worked out as of late Monday. He said he and others close to Ray were also working on plans for establishing a foundation in Ray’s name to support foster care and adoption programs in Washington, D.C.

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Kay Lahusen, LGBTQ equality rights pioneer has died at 91

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Kay Lahusen, gay news, Washington Blade
Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen at the 25th anniversary of Stonewall. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Kay Lahusen, 91, died in gentle hospice care at Chester County Hospital on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, after a brief illness. She was born in Cincinnati in January 1930 and as an infant was adopted and raised by her grandparents. After graduating from Ohio State University, she moved to Boston, where she met her lifelong partner Barbara Gittings at a Daughters of Bilitis picnic in 1961.

Kay and Barbara lived variously in New York, Philadelphia and Wilmington DE. They were gay activists from the early days of the Gay Rights movement in the US, marching openly in picket lines in Washington DC and Philadelphia in the early 1960s. Kay became known as the first openly gay photojournalist. Her photos documenting these and many later activities were printed in various gay publications including Gay (a national weekly) and The Ladder. Her photos are archived in the New York Public Library, which drew upon them for the 2019 book, Love and Resistance; out of the closet into the Stonewall era.

Kay researched and wrote the book Gay Crusaders (1972), which was published under her pseudonym Kay Tobin and with the addition of a male “co-author” (her friend, Randy Wicker) to help with its public acceptance.  The original research materials for that book are also archived at the New York Public Library.

Kay and Barbara remained activists throughout their lives. Shortly before Barbara’s death in 2007, they moved to Kendal at Longwood, Kennett Square PA. After Barbara’s death Kay continued to contribute to Gay history, giving many interviews, especially about their work with the American Psychiatric Association and the American Library Association. She collaborated in 2015 with Tracy Baim to produce Barbara Gittings, gay pioneer, a biography of Barbara which used many of Kay’s photos. She decorated her room at Kendal with dozens of photographs, and she would talk about her experiences as a gay activist at the drop of a hat, even regaling the nurses at Chester County Hospital with her story days before her death.

Kay is survived by Trusted Friends: Judith Armstrong of Hockessin DE, John Cunningham of Philadelphia, Ada Bello of Philadelphia, and James Oakes of Secane PA, and by the many, many friends, acquaintances, and admirers — too numerous to name here — who made up her chosen family.

Kay’s remains will rest in the Congressional Cemetery, Washington DC, along with her partner’s in a bench designed to express their love for each other and their dedication to showing that Gay is Good.  Due to COVID-19, a public memorial will be postponed.  In lieu of flowers, Kay would welcome your contributions to William Way LGBT Community Center,  1315 Spruce St, Philadelphia PA 19107  or to Kennett Area Community Service, P.O.Box 1025, Kennett Square PA 19348 for their local food cupboard.

Condolences may be left at foundsfuneralhome.com.

In December of 2019, the Philadelphia Gay News ran a profile on the 90th birthday celebration of Lahusen. She was asked, So visibility is one of the hallmarks of your life? 

In answer she noted; “Oh, absolutely. I enjoyed working on “The Ladder.” I tried to put wonderful women on the covers. That was very important, because before then we only had drawings on covers. We went against the American Psychiatric Association and succeeded in removing homosexuality from the mental illness allegation. I wasn’t at Stonewall, but I certainly admired it. I had a lot to say about it and write about it. I’ve had a terrific life. I think gay couples, getting back to that question, should get involved, and give it all they’ve got. It’s so much fun. Don’t you agree?”

You can read the entire interview here: https://epgn.com/2019/12/27/activist-kay-lahusen-celebrates-90th-birthday/

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Md. trans activist, businesswoman Sharon Brackett dies at 59

Co-founded Gender Rights Maryland

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Sharon Brackett died this week due to ‘chronic illnesses that manifested themselves in cardiac arrest.’ (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sharon Brackett, a Maryland businesswoman and transgender rights advocate who played a lead role in the successful effort to persuade the Maryland Legislature to pass transgender rights legislation in 2014, died on May 24 at her Baltimore home. She was 59.

Her son, Steven Brackett, told the Baltimore Sun she had “chronic illnesses that manifested themselves in cardiac arrest.”

Brackett’s LinkedIn page says she helped to start five companies over the past 20 years and was named by the Maryland Department of Commerce in 2016 as one of Maryland’s Top Women in Tech.

With a degree in computer engineering from Syracuse University in New York, Brackett served as president and CEO for the Laurel, Md., based tech company Tiresias Technologies, Inc. from 2011 to 2019. She served from 2019 to 2021 as founder of Baltimore Design Works, Inc., an engineering and design company, according to her LinkedIn page.

In a YouTube interview in March of this year conducted by a student intern, Brackett said that after encountering what she considered discrimination in the business world as a transgender woman she joined other trans activists in 2011 as co-founder of Gender Rights Maryland, a statewide group that advocates for transgender rights. Bracket served as chair of the group’s board from 2011 to the time of her passing this week.

LGBTQ activists in Maryland have said Brackett also became involved in the broader LGBTQ rights movement. She served as co-chair for the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference in Baltimore in 2012. She also served on the boards of the Point Foundation, a national LGBTQ scholarship organization; and OutServe-SLDN, an advocacy group for LGBTQ people in the military.

As if that were not enough, Brackett co-founded Trans Parent Day and served as a volunteer co-moderator for a gender identity support group of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore. In prior years, she served as a mentor for high school students interested in tech-related projects and was a scout master in the Boy Scouts of America.

In 2018, Brackett won election to the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee, becoming the first transgender person to be elected to any political office in Maryland. She was later named as chair of the LGBTQ+ Diversity Leadership Council of the Maryland Democratic Party.

Brackett appeared to sum up her career as a businesswoman and her role as an activist in a campaign website post when she ran as a candidate for the Democratic committee position.

“Yes, I am an Engineer, Entrepreneur, Corporate Executive, Roboticist, Rocketeer, Maker, and sometimes Activist,” her campaign write-up says. “I also just happen to be trans. If that’s a showstopper for you then I’m probably not your candidate,” she stated.

“But if you consider my challenges and experience. My support of diversity and inclusion. My on the ground experience in Annapolis. I think you will find I’ve honed all the tools for this job and then some,” she stated.

“Sharon was a dedicated champion of equality for all and gave much of her time, heart and soul to the fight for equality for all Marylanders,” said College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn, who’s gay. “Her passing is a true loss for the whole LGBTQ+ community,” Wojahn said.

Sara Law, Brackett’s partner for the past seven years, was the first to announce Brackett had passed away in a Facebook posting.

“She left this world so much better than she found it,” Law wrote. “That was one of her goals, and she met it many times over – be it Boy Scouts, or gender rights, or robotics, or local politics.”

The Baltimore Sun reported Brackett was born in Batavia, N.Y., and lived in Laurel, Md., before settling in Baltimore.

Survivors include her partner, Sara Law; her son, Steven Brackett; and daughter, Jess Brackett. No immediate plans were announced for funeral or memorial services.

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