GO is saddened to report the loss of two lesbian legends this week. One was the first lesbian photojournalist, the other a raunchy comic years ahead of her time.
Kay Lahusen, photographer, activist and life partner of Barbara Gittings, died in hospice care in West Chester County Hospital in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, according to an obituary notice posted by Founds Funeral Home in West Chester. She was 91.
Lahusen, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1930, met Gittings in Boston at a Daughters of Bilitis event (Gittings was the founder of the group’s New York chapter, and died in 2007). The two went on to participate in the gay rights movement, with Lahusen photographically documenting the activities, marches, and protests. Her work appeared in prominent gay publications such as The Ladder and the national weekly, Gay. She also wrote the book, “Gay Crusaders” in 1972, which she published under the name Kay Tobin and that of a male friend, Randy Wicker, to help its acceptance prospects.
The obituary notes that in her later life, Lahusen had decorated her room at the Kendal at Longwood retirement community “with dozens of photographs.” She would also “talk about her experiences as a gay activist at the drop of a hat, regaling the nurses at Chester County Hospital with her story days before her death.”
Written tributes to Lahusen are being posted to the tribute wall set up by the Founds Funeral Home. “Thank you, Kay, for your lifetime of service to our community,” one mourner wrote. “Be one with Barbara now. We will carry the torch from here.”
The Advocate reports that less is known about the death of comedian Rusty Warren, 91, other than that it was reported on the website, “The Laugh Button.” Born in 1930 in New York City, Warren was adopted by a family in Milton, Massachusetts, where she subsequently grew up. She studied classical piano at the New England Conservatory (which awarded her a B.A — “Bawdy Arts” degree, she joked on her website) and first launched her career as a nightclub singer before winding her way into comedy.
Her bawdy comedy tackled sexuality from a woman’s perspective, and encouraged women to open up about and accept their own sexual experience. She became known as the “Knockers Up Gal” after the success of her comedy album, “Knockers Up.” She also earned the moniker, “Mother of the Sexual Revolution” because of sexual liberation songs like “Bounce Your Boobies.”
Although she remained in the closet for the early part of her life on account of her career, she came out later and performed on lesbian cruises throughout the 1990s, The Advocate reports.