Jinx Beers — a pioneering feminist and lesbian activist who founded The Lesbian News, the longest running lesbian newspaper in the U.S., — died today. She was 84.
Beers had been in stage 5 renal failure for several months and entered hospice care in late August. Beers passed away at Nazareth House Los Angeles, a senior living facility near the Cheviot Hills area, long-time friend Wendy Averill told Q Vice News.
“At a time when our community needed a voice, Jinx was there,” Averill said in a statement. “She created the Lesbian News at a time when our community was not organized and needed someone, something to help us rally.
“Jinx was never a part of our history for her own gain. She did it for our community,” Averill said. “She kept such a low personal profile that some people thought she didn’t really exist.”
LESBIAN NEWS A LIFELINE
Last year, Beers was inducted to the LGBTQ Journalists Hall of Fame in Philadelphia for her work with the Lesbian News.
“When we needed to mobilize, the LN was there, ALWAYS by the first of the month, and readers stood in line to pick it up at its various distribution points,” Averill said.
The Lesbian News started as a volunteer organization and grew from four mimeographed, stapled pages to 62 pages.
It years before cell phones and social media, the Lesbian News was a lifeline for many lesbians, Averill said.
“If you wanted to know where there was going to be a demonstration, how to find a therapist, locate a partner or job and a myriad of other opportunities, the LN was there,” she said.
Also, per Beers insistence, the publication was always free.
“Jinx paid for it entirely by herself,” Averill said.
JOINING THE MILITARY
The youngest of five children, Beers was born and raised in Pasadena in a lower middle-class family during the Great Depression.
Her birth name is Clara Jean, but her older sister, Virginia, gave her the name Jinx. Years later, Beers legally changed her name to Jinx.
In 1951, at the age of 18, Beers enlisted in the U. S. Air Force and was stationed in Germany. Four years later, she returned to Los Angeles and spent 12 years in the Air Force reserves before quitting.
Beers was out as a lesbian in the Air Force, but never told her commanding officers.
Beers left the service not only as a way to protest the United States’ invasion of Vietnam, but also to become more active in the lesbian community.
“I couldn’t support the military because I didn’t believe in why we were in Vietnam,” Beers said in a recent interview. “I also knew it was just a matter of time before someone would connect the dots about my being a lesbian. I didn’t want to be dishonorably discharged.”
Until a federal law was implemented in 2010 allowing gay and lesbian military personnel to serve openly in the armed forces, the military routinely dishonorably discharged them.
Beers earned a psychology degree from UCLA and then spent several years working in the university’s Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering. In 1970, she also taught a class called the Lesbian Experience, which lead to her joining Lesbians Activists, LA NOW and the Lesbian Rights Task Force.
LAUNCHING LESBIAN NEWS
In 1975, after a local lesbian publication refused to publish an ad from the Lesbian Activists, Beers launched the Lesbian News. It started as four-page monthly newsletter, but grew into a tabloid-sized magazine that covered Southern California from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
“I never planned to have a publication. I had to learn everything along the way,” Beers said. “My point of view was it would be open to anyone in the lesbian community, and it would be free.”
In 2009, at the age of 75, Beers published her book, “Memories of an Old Dyke.”
For a time after she launched Lesbian News, Beers wasn’t allowed to bring the publication into bars. Instead, she left it on the windshields of cars in lesbian bar parking lots.
Beers also had to shorten the publication’s name.
“I couldn’t get a post office box or phone number for the Lesbian News, so I had to use LN,” Beers said. “We couldn’t say Lesbian News in the real world.”