Kay Tobin Lahusen, a gay rights activist who pioneered the organization's early days through photography and writing, has died. He was 91 years old.
Known as the first American gay gay journalist, Lahusen died Wednesday in a Chester County hospital outside Philadelphia, following a short illness.
Together with her partner, the late activist Barbara Gittings, Lahusen advocated for gay rights before the 1969 years of Stonewall in New York helped launch the modern LGBTQ era. He took widely published photos of some of the nation's first protests.
Kay Lahusen, right, with other protesters carrying signs calling for protection against homosexuality in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1967. John F. Urwiller / AP
Lahusen was "the first photographer in our society," said Mark Segal, a friend of over 50 years and the founder and publisher of Philadelphia Gay News. "Almost all the pictures we have of that time come from Kay."
Lahusen filmed a series of gay rights demonstrations held in front of Philadelphia's Independence Hall every July 4 from 1965 to 1969 - and marched in person, carrying signs such as "Homosexual Homeland Security" and "End Legalized Homosexual Persecution." He has documented gay rights protests in the White House and the Pentagon.
"Whatever the Founders saw as the rights and rights of our citizens, we also wanted them for ourselves," he told WHYY at the 2015 memorial. "One has to go out and show one's face in public and declare things and be aggressive."
Kay Tobin Lahusen holds a photo of his late partner, Barbara Gittings, in 2012.
Kay Tobin Lahusen holds a photo of his late partner, Barbara Gittings, in 2012. Matt Rourke / AP file
Lahusen's colleague, Gittings, was one of the leading female activists and was the coordinator of the "Year of the Year" picket pickers in Philadelphia.
They met in 1961 for a picnic held by Daughters of Bilitis, the first organization known as women in the U.S. Founded in the East Coast Gittings chapter. Lahusen was an art editor and shot the gruesome cover images of gay women to be published in the national group, The Ladder, edited by Gittings.
Lahusen was also a founding member of the Gay Activists Alliance and filmed the group's protests, dubbed "zaps." He was present at the first homosexual march to Philadelphia in 1972. Under the pseudonym Kay Tobin, he wrote the 1972 letter, "The Gay Crusaders," which described the first leaders of the movement.
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Lahusen and Gittings also participated in the campaign that led to the American Psychiatric Association's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from their list of mental disorders.
Lahusen and Gittings had been married for 46 years. After Gittings 'death in 2007, Lahusen spent his past years at a retirement home in Kennett Square, where he gave talks, helped preserve Gittings' legacy and ended up living the history of a gay civil rights organization.
"Stonewall wasn't the first thing, that's what he was going to tell you," said his friend, Judith Armstrong. “History is there and history definitely wanted to preserve it. ... He wanted the story to be there. ”
New York Public Library has a collection of papers and photographs of Gittings and Lahusen.