Pictured: Jeanne Cordova, Karin Quimby, Yolanda Retter at the Queer Frontiers Conference, USC, 1996
Today, we mourn the loss of LGBT pioneer Jeanne Cordova.
A lesbian-feminist activist and author, Cordova founded not one, but four lesbian conferences and for decades stood at the forefront of the LGBT movement on the West Coast.
I was fortunate to have met and worked with Jeanne Cordova in the mid-1990s in Los Angeles. I was a graduate student at the University of Southern California and was swept up in the new academic revolution of queer theory and planning one of the first queer graduate student conferences in the country. We wanted to recognize those pioneers who had broken down the walls—real and theoretical—that enabled us even to conceive of the theoretical concept of queer.
Cordova, who was Chicana, received a Masters degree in community organizing from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1972. She won several awards and recognitions for her memoir, When We Were Outlaws: a Memoir of Love and Revolution. In addition to being a community organizer, she was a journalist, entrepreneur and author who strived throughout her life to raise awareness and support for her community.
Jeanne’s legacy lives on in the countless people she mentored along the way. Our thoughts go to Lynn Ballen, Jeanne’s spouse for over 25 years, and to the other chosen and dear family and friends that sustained Jeanne throughout her life.