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social sciences

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Vincenz, Lilli (b. 1937)  
page: 1  2  

In psychology Vincenz had found her vocation. She stated to Nichols, "The real joy has been working with gay and bisexual women and men and several gay-friendly people. . . . I find it a privilege to work with gay people, who are, in general, so much more courageous, innovative, and open to new ideas than the average straight person.

"Many of their wounds have been sustained in the pursuit of and validation of who they are and of not wanting to hide their identities or settle for less. I am grateful to be able to help and to witness their empowerment."

Sponsor Message.

As an extension of her practice, Vincenz, along with her partner, Nancy Ruth Davis, founded the Community for Creative Self-Development (CCSD) in 1992. The CCSD offered classes, workshops, and conferences to help glbtq people and allies achieve their potential creatively, psychologically, and spiritually.

Of her own spirituality Vincenz stated to Nichols, "My approach to religion has always been a positive one, although a somewhat unorthodox one. Baptized a Lutheran, I was confirmed in the Christian Community, an offshoot of anthroposophy and an eclectic mix of Eastern and Western religions."

She noted that, although she no longer attends church, spirituality remains important to her. "The spirituality my partner and I practice is based on our individual relationships with God, work with guardian angels, past lives, spirit release, and practical applications of wisdom from a higher reality that is prudently considered."

The CCSD ceased operations in 2004, but Vincenz and Davis have maintained contact and held reunions with participants.

Vincenz and Davis met in 1984 after Vincenz placed a personal ad in the Washingtonian. Davis sensed a kindred spirit and responded.

The two were united in a commitment ceremony in Key West, Florida on December 27, 1986. Vincenz and Davis have yet to be able to marry in Virginia, where they reside.

Vincenz has remained engaged in the struggle for glbtq rights. In May 2009 she attended the National Equality Rally in Philadelphia, the site of some of her own earliest efforts as an activist. On that occasion she told Kathy Matheson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that she was encouraged by the dedication of a new group of young people to work for equality, stating, "I just feel ecstatic about the younger generation and what they're doing. There's a groundswell of people who finally feel empowered, that they can make a difference."

Vincenz's continuing support of glbtq rights brought her full-circle to the beginnings of her participation in the movement, as she became involved in projects documenting its history.

In 1968 she made a seven-minute film, The Second Largest Minority, with footage that she had shot at a Philadelphia demonstration. She also made an eleven-and-a-half-minute film showing images from New York's first gay pride parade in 1970. Her recordings were later incorporated into the documentary films Before Stonewall (1984, directed by Robert Rosenberg and Greta Schiller), After Stonewall (1999, directed by John Scagliotti), Out of the Past (1998, directed by Jeff Dupre), and Gay Pioneers (2004, directed by Glenn Holstein).

In 2013 Vincenz continued her commitment to documenting the history of the glbtq rights movement by donating an important collection to the Library of Congress. The gift filled twelve boxes.

Among the items that she contributed were films, which delighted Mike Mashon, the head of the moving images department at the Library of Congress, who stated to Monica Hesse of the Washington Post that "any films from the beginnings of the gay rights movement are really precious to us. This is not something that was well documented on film." The library had not previously had any other film records of the events in their collection.

Vincenz's donation consisted of about 10,000 items, including photographs, pamphlets, reports of research, correspondence, and her diaries.

Hesse commented that "[t]here is something poignant about one woman collecting the ephemera of a movement whose members were often avoiding documentation. In the 1960s, being gay was thought by some to be a moral offense, as well as grounds for being fired. People who had the same artifacts as she did might have thrown them out for fear of being exposed."

As to why she kept the records, Vincenz told Hesse, "It's just that I knew I had to do this. I had to. It was so important to me." This echoes her response to Lotozo about why she became active in the movement for glbtq rights in the first place: "Sometime you are the only person who can do something at a certain time. It's the old question, 'If not I, who?'"

Because of the work of Vincenz and other pioneers for glbtq rights, a vibrant community has evolved. Because of her documentation of those early days, generations to come will know of the hardships, the exhilaration, and the truth of the struggle.

Linda Rapp

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Belge, Kathy. "Lilli Vincenz-Gay Rights Pioneer Lilli Vincenz." About (2008):

Hesse, Monica. "In Lilli Vincenz's Papers, a Trove of Gay Rights History." Washington Post (July 23, 2013):

Lotozo, Eils. "For Early Gay-Rights Activists, a Chance to Recall Hard Work." Philadelphia Inquirer (May 2, 2001): A1.

Nichols, Jack. "Lilli Vincenz: A Lesbian Pioneer." Gay Today (August 30, 1999):

Streitmatter, Roger. Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America. Winchester, Mass.: Faber and Faber, 1995.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Vincenz, Lilli  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2013  
    Date Last Updated October 23, 2013  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2013 glbtq, Inc.  


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