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Remembering Lesbian Activist And Educator Sally Miller Gearhart

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Sally Miller Gearhart was raised in Virginia and began her teaching career in Texas. She lived her life in the closet until the beginning of the modern gay rights movement brought her to San Francisco.

She became the first out lesbian to receive a tenure track position at San Francisco State University, where she would teach speech, and later women’s studies. Gearhart stepped into activism in 1978 to fight against the Briggs Initiative. The proposition aimed to ban gay teachers in California. It didn’t pass.

Throughout her life Gearhart marched alongside gay men for equal rights, but she believed that gays and lesbians were different, telling KGO-TV in 1981, “And I am far more like a heterosexual woman — in both the way that I live and in the political battles that I fight — than I am like my gay brothers who are really more like straight men in many of those regards.”

Sally Miller Gearhart died Wednesday. She was 90 years old.