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Stuart Timmons — author of ‘Gay L.A.’, LGBTQ history expert — dies

Stuart Timmons, an award-winning writer, activist and expert on the history of Los Angeles’ LGBTQ community, has died. For decades, Timmons asserted that the City of Angels — which had been overshadowed by San Francisco and New York as flashpoints of early LGBTQ activism — deserved more credit for its pioneering role that helped lead to the dawning of the LGBTQ liberation movement. Photo: ThePrideLA.

HOLLYWOOD — Stuart Timmons, an award-winning writer, activist and expert on the history of Los Angeles’ LGBTQ community, has died.

Timmons, who was openly gay, is perhaps best known as the author of two important books.

WRITING LGBTQ HISTORY

Timmons’ debut book was “The Trouble With Harry Hay,” a 1990 biography of the founder of the Mattachine Society, one of the nation’s first gay rights groups that was founded in Los Angeles in 1950.

Timmons and Lillian Faderman co-wrote “Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians.” The 2006 book — which won two Lambda Literary Awards — chronicles more than 200 years of LGBTQ life in Los Angeles, beginning with Spanish missionaries’ encounters in the late 1700s with two-spirited Native Americans.

Timmons suffered a debilitating stroke in 2008, but was still active in the community.  Timmons died at the Serrano North Convalescent Hospital in Hollywood from cardiac arrest on January 28, said Timmons’ sister, Gay Timmons, the Los Angeles Times reports. Timmons was 60 years old.

FROM MINNESOTA TO CALIFORNIA

Timmons was born Jan. 14, 1957, in Minneapolis, and grew up in Santa Barbara. He graduated from UCLA with a journalism degree in the mid-1970s and remained in Los Angeles the rest of his life.

For decades, Timmons asserted that the City of Angels — which had been overshadowed by San Francisco and New York as flashpoints of early LGBTQ activism — deserved more credit for its pioneering role that helped lead to the dawning of the LGBTQ liberation movement.

LGBTQ HISTORY LESSONS

In their “Gay L.A.” book, Faderman and Timmons documented how Los Angeles was home to many firsts in U.S. LGBTQ history:

  • The largest LGBTQ-friendly church, the Metropolitan Community Church, which was founded in 1968
  • The nation’s first lesbian magazine, Vice Versa in 1947
  • First gay uprising in modern times at Cooper’s Donuts in 1959 — Some gay and transgender patrons were being harassed by Los Angeles police and resisted by throwing cups, coffee pots, donuts, trash at the officers who fled the coffee shop. That event took place 10 years before the well-publicized Stonewall Riots in New York.

“To put it in a word,” Timmons told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007, “without Los Angeles, we wouldn’t have institutions. We wouldn’t have the institutional press and we wouldn’t have the institutional church.”

Besides his sister, Timmons is survived by his father, Samuel; a second sister, Emily Theobald; and four nieces, Kaitlin and Madeleine Franklin and Emilia and Mariah Theobald.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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