In my recent conversation with Lynn Greer, who still expresses amazement that she can now call her partner, Stevie Walton, her wife, it is readily evident to me just how far we have come in gaining acceptance and equality for the members of the LGBTQ community. It is because of pioneering activists like Lynn that we have come so far in a very short time.
Lynn is a fourth-generation Columbus native who grew up in Upper Arlington. She attended The Ohio State University, where she played on the women’s golf team. From there, her career as a player in the LPGA spanned the years 1978-1988 (in fact, she was the first female in the PGA, selected in 1978). She recently served as the co-chair of the Leadership Council of the 2014 Gay Games, where she also participated as a competitor. Both Lynn and her partner Stevie’s golfing achievements at the legendary Firestone Country Club were awarded with medals—Lynn taking the bronze, and Stevie the gold!
In this LGBTQ history month issue, we focus on Lynn’s longtime devotion to activism in our community. Her brother, Michael,
was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS early in the plague, and in a matter of months succumbed to the disease. In those dark days, when everyone who was diagnosed with AIDS was dying, Lynn remembers it as being a period where there was “no light at
the end of the tunnel for many of us.” Rather than AIDS tearing apart the family, Michael’s death led both Lynn and her mother, the late Sue Greer, to become leaders in the fight to combat the disease and to provide treatment for those who were suffering. In fact, Sue became the “mom to all of the boys who were kicked out of their homes.”
Lynn’s devotion to activism was sparked when she attended the 1987 March on Washington, which she describes as “absolutely life-changing.” This was the first major march for LGBTQ rights after the onset of the AIDS crisis, and it was also the first time that the NAMES Project - AIDS Memorial Quilt was unveiled for the world to see. Lynn promptly quit her job and took a position as a low-paid intern with the Human Rights Campaign’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 1991; she served as the co-chair of the founding board of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, now known as the Victory Fund, an organization which has helped thousands of openly LGBTQ candidates get elected to local, state and federal offices.
While some activist organizations, such as ACT-UP, chose to take more dramatic means to bring attention to their plight, Lynn and her colleagues were working behind the scenes. Rather than creating roadblocks at the entrances of government agencies, they attended charity events and mingled with the straight community to win them over as supporters, and their hard work was rewarded when Ohio passed a comprehensive AIDS bill in 1990. Lynn cites Ohio State Senator and later U.S. Congressman David Hobson—a Republican, no less—as a true champion and lifelong friend of our community. Mr. Hobson felt that, first and foremost, public health policy was of utmost importance.
While great accomplishments have been made, there is more work to be done. As Lynn said to me, “We’re at a crossroads in our history where almost everybody (from the pioneer activists) is gone.” Lynn and Stevie now spend much of their time in the Lake Tahoe region of Nevada, but Lynn remains devoted to activism, even declaring her beliefs on her vehicle tag. Lynn also remains a strong supporter of Columbus, a city which has become the great place to live because of the work of dedicated people like Lynn Greer.