The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is honored to announce that the estate of influential lesbian activist Jeanne Córdova will donate $2 million to further their grantmaking endeavors. A Lambda Literary Award winner and former founder of the Gay & Lesbian Community Yellow Pages, Córdova has served the LGBTQI community through literature and organizing for over forty years. Astraea is the only lesbian-specific grant-giving charity in the world; Córdova’s is the largest estate gift the Foundation has ever received.
As a deeply involved activist in her late twenties, Córdova, whose entrepreneurial parents practiced philanthropy, made a personal vow: she would donate half of what she made in her lifetime to her movement in order to strengthen it. While Córdova spent most of her life as an activist who did not anticipate such a large gift, this changed when she created the wildly successful Community Yellow Pages at the dawn of the 1980s. The directory linked then-hidden LGBT consumers with businesses and establishments of their own identities and brought out many donors to lesbian and gay civil rights issues. This vow comes in the form of a monumental gift to Astraea. Cordova’s gift will be actualized through her Living Trust upon her death. She now has stage IV metastasized cancer.
The Jeanne R. Córdova Fund of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice will offer financial support to national and international organizations focusing on movement-building and human rights; journalism; and promoting our culture. It will specifically go to Latina lesbians from South/Latin America and South African women; lesbians, feminists, lesbian feminists, butch and masculine gender nonconforming communities. Cordova is a Chicana-identified, feminist butch woman. She honors both her Irish mother and Mexican father’s heritage by sometimes calling herself a “Leprachicana.”
Córdova has continually witnessed her generation break free from heteronormative modes of thinking in every aspect of life. Lesbian feminists have “gone against the grain and rethought everything,” she said. “So I feel strongly that we should not think heterosexually [about wealth], like ‘I’ll give it to some random relative that I’ve never met,'” stated Córdova. “We need to think about giving to our gay or lesbian youth and institutions like Astraea or other lesbian organizations. They’re the ones who are nurturing our real daughters right now, around the world.”
Noting how much ‘the movement’ has changed since the early 70s, Córdova suggests lesbians and gays get ready for more vast changes to the face of women’s roles. She said, “None of us can do more than guess at the unique issues and challenges our community will face in the future. I am proud to be able to give to a LGBT charity now, and specifically a lesbian one. It’s important that we boomers look to sustaining ourselves, just like Bill Gates or David Geffen.”
As a pioneer in the early gay and lesbian radical movements seeking deeper change such as queers inventing a lifestyle—rather than just marriage—Córdova is also the former founder of The Lesbian Tide, the newspaper of record for the lesbian feminist decade of the 1970s. She has devoted her life to activism on behalf of the LGBTQI community: as a key organizer of four national lesbian conferences, a leading activist on statewide California initiatives, President of the Stonewall Democratic Club and author of several books including the award-winning When We Were Outlaws (2011), a lesbian history memoir.
She and radio talk show host Lynn Ballen have been life partners for 25 years. Together, they have curated dozens of community spaces, from the Genderplay in Lesbian Culture exhibit at ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives to The Palapa Society in Todos Santos, Mexico. As veteran activists, the couple has a unique understanding of those who enact social change and their needs; the definition of family extends far beyond the realm of biological relatives; it includes those who have taken up the baton for justice.
“The next generation aren’t necessarily our biological children,” Lynn explained, speaking of younger queer activists today. Córdova will not only foster the movement’s heirs with this generous allocation but also with her astounding legacy of grassroots work, as well.
In directing this gift to Astraea Lesbian Foundation, Córdova will further the feminist activism that the organization has supported for almost 40 years, both internationally and domestically. From the Lesbian Writers Fund to the Audre Lorde Project, Astraea is committed to uplifting the work of lesbian individuals and organizations working to create sustainable change within their communities.
Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is the only philanthropic organization working exclusively to advance LGBTQI human rights around the globe. We support brilliant and brave grantee partners in the U.S. and internationally who challenge oppression and seed social change. We work for racial, economic, social, and gender justice, because we all deserve to live our lives freely, without fear, and with dignity.