Kendall Lovett (L) and Mannie De Saxe (R) holding the Lesbian and Gay Solidarity banner at an ‘Out of Iraq’ rally for peace, Melbourne, 2005.
Photo by John Story, courtesy Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

Vale Kendall Lovett
6.10.1922 – 21.10.2020
A life of activism for social justice
We are sad to report that a few weeks after turning 98, 78er Kendall Lovett has passed away. Ken is survived by his partner of 27 years, Mannie De Saxe.

Ken was a tireless activist and campaigner for LGBTIQ, refugee and human rights. Every demo from the late ’70s onwards had Ken’s placards, banners, slogan vests or people-shaped placards – all in his distinctive calligraphy.

Ken was a lovely supportive colleague in the Gay Solidarity Group, which organised the first Mardi Gras and coordinated the massive Drop the Charges campaign that followed.

Ken joined GSG after the first Mardi Gras in 1978, and was arrested in the August demonstration in Taylor Square. Often during Mardi Gras parades and demonstrations, Kendall was waiting on alert with bail money ready. Ken stayed active in GSG, later renamed Lesbian and Gay Solidarity into the 2000s, after he and Mannie moved to Melbourne. 

Ken had been active in Gay Liberation after he returned to Sydney from the UK in the late 1960s, where he was part of the move for homosexual law reform. He took part in the 1972 demonstration outside St Clement’s Anglican Church at Mosman after they had dismissed Peter Bonsall-Boone from staff. Kendall’s main political activism prior to GSG in 1978 was in a resident action group saving Woolloomooloo from developers, with the support of the Builders’ Labourers Federation Green Bans in the early 1970s.

Ken was very active at the time of the nationalist bicentenary in 1988, helping organise a big queer contingent in the First Nations mobilisation, around the slogan “200 years of oppression and bad taste.” He was involved in Enola Gay, the peace and antinuclear activist group, and founded “Inside Out” a network supporting gay and lesbian prisoners. Ken was one of the people in GSG who was very involved with international solidarity. He sustained a long correspondence with anti-Apartheid gay activist Simon Nkoli when he was in prison in South Africa on treason charges.

In the early 1980s Ken and GSG were active in organising around inclusion of homosexuality in the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, in demanding removal of the anti-buggery law and in responding to the rise of the Christian Right. Just prior to American Jerry Falwell’s visit in 1982, Kendall and Leigh Raymond registered the name, Moral Majority, and used it to campaign against Fred Nile and Falwell.  

Ken also supported the Gaywaves radio program on 2SER FM over many years. He provided a weekly news bulletin – GRINS (Gay Radio Information News Service) – sometimes as a collective effort, but mainly as a one-man band, week in and week out.  This was circulated to other lesbian and gay media across the country.

Ken was a key member of the Sydney collective of Gay Community News (1980-82) and the organising body for the Sixth National Conference of Lesbians and Homosexual Men in Sydney (1980). He was also a correspondent to gay newspapers overseas and the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).

In October 1982 Ken and GSG supported Roberta Perkins and the Australian Transsexual Association (ATA), in staging the first transgender protest in Australia, in Manly. The protest was held to challenge a judgement against two transwomen, who a Magistrate had ruled were men. In response the NSW Attorney-General said that ‘Attorneys-General of the six states had committed to new legislation to recognise the validity of sex changes’.

In 1985 the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence canonised him, in recognition of his extensive gay activism, as St Kendall the Constant.

Kendall formed a relationship with Mannie De Saxe, a revolutionary socialist and Jewish anti-Zionist activist from South Africa, after they met in GSG. Both of them remained active in lesbian and gay, and other social justice, causes. They volunteered to help people with AIDS, and founded SPAIDS, which planted a memorial grove of trees in Sydney Park.

After retiring from his job at Choice magazine, Ken moved to Newcastle. Twenty years ago, Ken and Mannie moved to live together in Melbourne and in recent years had practical home support from other activists and friends.

Ken and Mannie have been very engaged in the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. They have made big contributions to the struggle to improve services for older lesbian, transgender and gay people. Ken and Mannie were featured in the “2 of Us” in Good Weekend magazine on 10 March 2007. But they were very angry in 2009 when Social Security, as part of a path to marriage equality, decided they were a couple and cut their pensions, even though they had been independent tax payers.

Ken and his long-term support for LGBTIQ and other social change struggles will be sadly missed. Our condolences to Mannie and to Ken’s many friends.