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Queer Pioneers Gone Too Soon

In Memoriam: Four Queer Pioneers

A great many important voices went silent in 2020.

The end of 2020 saw the loss of four important voices who left a lasting impact on the LGBTQ+ community: writers Deb Price and Kim Chernin, photographer-filmmaker-archivist Lenn Keller, and deacon and HIV activist Ken Jones. While we grieve their loss, we also pay homage to their memory and legacy.

In Memoriam: Deb Price

Deb Price, who wrote the first column on LGBTQ+ issues to be nationally syndicated in mainstream U.S. newspapers, died November 20 at age 62 in Hong Kong, where she was senior business editor for the South China Morning Post. The cause was interstitial pneumonitis, an autoimmune disease.

Price began writing her column in 1992 for The Detroit News while working in the paper's Washington, D.C., bureau, and continued it for 18 years, giving many readers their first view of LGBTQ+ people. She also wrote several books, two with wife Joyce Murdoch, a fellow journalist: And Say Hi to Joyce: America's First Gay Column Comes Out and Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court.--Trudy Ring

In Memoriam: Lenn Keller

Lenn Keller was founder of the Bay Area Lesbian Archives, a collection of memorabilia relating to lesbians' experience in the San Francisco Bay Area. She began gathering materials in 2014; the collection is in storage as the archives' staff seeks a permanent home for it. She was also a filmmaker and photographer who documented Pride parades and other LGBTQ+ events. She died of cancer December 16 at age 69 at her home in Oakland.--TR

In Memoriam: Kim Chernin

Kim Chernin (above right with her wife, writer Renate Stendhal) was known for writing about female body image in The Obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness and about her life as the daughter of Rose Chernin, a labor organizer and Communist Party leader, in In My Mother's House. Kim Chernin collaborated with Stendhal on Lesbian Marriage: A Love & Sex Forever Kit, and other books. Chernin died of COVID-19 December 17 at a hospital in Marin County, Calif. She was 80.--TR

In Memoriam: Ken Jones

Ken Jones was a pioneering Black gay activist, who worked for decades to desegregate the LGBTQ+ movement. Jones served three tours in Vietnam before being stationed in San Francisco, where he became a lifelong LGBTQ+ and HIV activist, volunteering with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and becoming the first African-American chair of San Francisco Pride, where he worked to elevate the voices of marginalized people.

Jones's story was featured in When We Rise, Dustin Lance Black's 2017 ABC miniseries about the LGBTQ+ movement. He died of cancer in January at age 70 at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.--Daniel Reynolds

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