Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Del Martin, pioneering LGBT activist, dead at 87.


Coming to terms with one's sexual identity can often be confusing as hell. When I was twenty years old and starting to struggle with my own sexual identity - indeed, it would be several more years at least before I would feel comfortable enough to embrace it fully - there were two books that changed my life, two books that really helped clarify things for me, gave me reassurance that I wasn't the only woman who'd ever had the kinds of feelings I'd been experiencing, and that it was really okay. The first book was Annie On My Mind, the now-classic YA novel by Nancy Garden. The second was the groundbreaking collection of essays Lesbian/Woman by San Francisco-based lesbian activists - and life partners - Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, a book that Publishers Weekly in 1992 named one of the twenty most influential women's books of the past twenty years.

Del Martin passed away this afternoon, after having spent more than half a century as an activist on behalf of the LGBT community. She is survived by her partner of fifty-eight years, Phyllis Lyon, who continues the fight against legalized homophobia .

The photograph below was taken on June 16 of this year, when they became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in the state of California. This coming October, I'll be flying back to San Francisco to attend the wedding of my little brother Craig and his longtime partner Jack, a wedding that would not have been possible without the work of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

If you'd like to honor honor Del Martin's life, her family has suggested that donations be made through the National Center for Lesbian Rights to the No On 8 PAC campaign, to help defeat the California marriage ban.

Rest in peace, Del. You are already missed.

15 comments:

Mags said...

Wow. My sympathies to everyone she touched, and particularly to Phyllis Lyon.

How remarkable that these women lived to culminate their fifty-eight years together in a marriage, and that the first time that was possible coincided with very end of Del Martin's life.

What a heart lifting, heart breaking story. Peace.

TerriRainer said...

The emotion in that picture speaks volumes.

I recently got into an argument w/ my MIL after she referred to Ellen DeGeneres as "Ellen Degenerate". When I tried to correct her, she started ranting about her (Ellen) being gay, wanting to get married (I'm totally straight and even I think Portia de Rossi is HOT), and how it made her want to vomit.

This from a "Christian" woman.

Talk about wanting to vomit...I don't speak to her, don't want her feeding my children full of her venom, and I say good riddance.

This picture is a reminder of just how ignorant and WRONG some people can be. My prayers go out to Del Martin's family and to her wife.

:( Terri

Ingrid said...

What a remarkable, remarkable woman. My thoughts and prayers go out to Phyllis as she holds tight and cherishes 58 wonderful years of memories.

Thanks Del, for being and affecting and making change possible.

C. Taylor said...

My sympathies go out to Phyllis Lyon, their families and the entire LGB community.

It's sad that in this day and age, people still have to try and define other people's love for each other, rather than accept that love is just that -- love.

I'm glad they had so many wonderful years together, and that they didn't let other's asinine prejudices get in their way.

sheri said...

what sad news. my sympathies go out to Ms. Lyon, may she find peace in the life they shared together and the doors they opened for people everywhere.

pauljessup said...

such sad news- and they look so happy in that second photograph (was that from their wedding dance?)

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

I was deeply saddened when I saw the news on Jezebel and I almost tore up. I was so happy when she and her long-time partner got married earlier this summer. May she rest in peace.

I don't consider myself gay or bisexual but I consider myself "queer" in the sense of refusing gender norms. She was a true inspiration to all in the LGBTQ community.

her relationship with her partner is a true example of everlasting love. How about that for all the hateful homophobes out there who constantly get cheated on and get divorced?

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I'm so glad they could be married before she passed away. I could only hope my relationship with my husband lasts so long...


deaf brown trash punk--thanks for putting words to how I've always felt.

Sheila said...

You'd think, having witnessed the atrocities brought on by bigotry, that we would have evolved beyond blanket hatred of people who are different.

The picture of their wedding makes me cry, it is so touching. If I were there, I'd be the woman in the brown suit.

I'm so glad prop 8 is trailing in the polls. Thanks for posting this.

ccallicotte said...

The photo of their wedding brought tears to my eyes the first time I saw it, and again, here. What a remarkable pair.

My heart goes out to Phyllis Lyon. I hope their relationship can serve to show that beautiful love comes in many different forms.

Elissa M said...

I wanted to post something, but words fail me. Wouldn't it be nice if, someday, people aren't noted for their lifetime of activism, because the activism is no longer needed?

S. E. Ward said...

Oh, no. Poor Phyllis. I know she's got a whole community behind her right now, but I have to wonder how she's holding up right now. It just doesn't seem fair for Del to die two months after they got married For Good.

Querying Off said...

For me one of those books was Curious Wine by Katherine Forrest. I was holed up in my room with it a month before graduating from boarding school, and it was the beginning of the very long process of learning there was nothing wrong with me.

I think all of us - LGBT or otherwise - had those books, and those people who wrote them, that made the road, whatever it was, smoother and more familiar. One of many, many reasons Del will be missed.

Tarot By Arwen said...

I'm so very glad Del and Phyllis got to be legally married. I got to meet them once and was a babbling idiot, I'm sure. They were very gracious to this crazy woman when all they wanted to do was buy a record (yes record, it was that long ago) at the booth I was working.

cindy said...

what an inspiring story--yet, so heartbreaking she passes so soon after finally gaining the right to legally married. but i'm glad she lived to see the day.

when will it be a federal right in this country?