LGBT activist Sharley McLean passes away, is remembered for her work

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Radical lesbian feminist and campaigner Sharley McLean, remembered for her efforts in achieving recognition for LGBT Holocaust victims, participants in the armed forces, and veterans, passed away over the weekend. She was 90-years-old. 

She was born Lotte Reyersbach in Germany in 1923, daughter to a socialist father and Jewish mother who both died during the Holocaust. Fleeing to Britain in 1939 as a refugee from Nazi Germany, she worked at Lewisham Hospital during the war where she became involved in working with unions. It’s also where she experienced her first lesbian crush.

“I can remember one woman in particular I had a tremendous crush on. She was a cancer patient,” McLean remembered in “Inventing Ourselves: Lesbian Life Stories.”

“I was told off for being too emotionally involved when she died…one of the orderlies used to say to me, ‘Oh, you are one of us.'”

In the mid-80s McLean helped remove the ban on pink triangle wreaths at the Cenotaph, in remembrance of LGBT victims of fascism and service people who fought to defeat Nazism.

In the 90s, she helped challenge the Royal British Legion’s refusal to allow an LGBT war veterans contingent to march in the official Remembrance Day march. She spoke at the Victory in Europe Day commemorations at the Cenotaph in 1980 and a decade later at the OutRage! Queer Remembrance Day vigils.

“Sharley was a long-time activist in the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, and was a volunteer with the Terrence Higgins Trust in the 1980s. She was a passionate supporter of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association,” wrote Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell in his tribute to McLean.

“She will be long remembered with admiration and appreciation.”

429Magazine

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