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This month we have experienced the passing of two members of the queer and queer women’s community. Jeanne "JR" Cordova and Ellie Conant. While both of these women lived and worked on opposite ends of country, Jeanne in Los Angeles and Ellie in New York, they shared a passion for community organizing and upliftment.
Pioneering Chicana-lesbian feminist, Jeanne Cordova was an integral part of the LGBT community in California where she organized the first national lesbian conference held at UCLA in the 1970s. She created and published a national lesbian publications, “The Lesbian Tide” and invented the “Gay & Lesbian Community Yellow Pages”. In 2010 Jeanne was an organizer of Butch Voices Los Angeles a Conference which gathered an intergenerational group of variously identifying masculine of center individuals.
Jeanne was advocate and practioner of queer activism, and continues to be so into her death. She bequeathed 2 million dollars of her estate to the Astraea Foundation, to continue the work of supporting lesbians, feminists, and nonconforming communities. Jeanne's wishes were made known in an open letter published on various LGBT outlets. Jeanne passed away on Sunday January 10th after years long battle with cancer. Donations can be made to The Jeanne R. Córdova Fund, on the Astraea Foundation website.
Ellie Conant, was a beloved member of the New York City queer scene, where she made nightlife happen. Ellie was known to her many friends as a person of indelible charm, good humor, and especially kindness, making her the nightlife magnet that she became. There are a generation of queer women that will think fondly of their days and nights dancing and maybe even canoodling in a corner of one of the venues Ellie’s party Choice Cu*ts inhabited. As one friend put it “Ellie didn't create parties; she created safe spaces for LGBT people to gather and share experiences.”
Ellie also succumbed to cancer on Thursday January 1st, at the age of 38. In the short year between diagnosis and her death, Ellie thought about what she wanted her legacy to be and like Jeanne, turned to the Astraea Foundation to help implement this vision. Ellie was of “Hapa” Korean decent, and knew that she wanted to support young people at the intersection of Korean and LGBT culture. As Ellie did for so many of us during her life, she hoped her legacy would be to create safe spaces for LGBTQ youth.
If you would like to donate to The Ellie Conant Memorial fund please follow this link and mark your donation, "In Memory of Ellie Conant."