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Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon

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Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin

Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin

© Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Who are Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon?:

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon are early American lesbian activists. Del Martin was born as Dorothy Taliaferro in 1921 in San Francisco. She was married for four years and had one daughter before coming out. She studied journalism and human sexuality.

Phyllis Lyon was born in 1924 in Oklahoma. She was a writer and reporter for several different newspapers in her career.

Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon: How they Met:

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon met in 1950 in Seattle, where they both worked for the same publication. They began a relationship in 1952 and in 1953, they moved to San Francisco.

Lesbian Activist Couple:

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin became active in a group called San Francisco politics and in the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, which was formed in the 1960s to stop police harassment of gay bars.

Both Del and Phyllis were active in the National Organization for Women (NOW). Del Martin was the first openly lesbian woman to be elected to a post within NOW in 1967.

The two also spoke out against sexism in the gay male community and helped educate both lesbians and gay men about male dominance, heterosexism and sexism. They also fought homophobia in the feminist movement.

Daughters of Bilitis:

Del and Phyllis are perhaps best known for being part of a group of women who formed Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization in the United States in 1955.

Writers Together and Apart:

  • Together Phyllis Lyon and and Del Martin wrote Lesbian/Woman (1972) and Lesbian Love and Liberation (1973), books about lesbian life in America.
  • In 1979, Del Martin wrote Battered Wives, a book about domestic violence.
  • Both contributed to The Ladder the magazine of Daughters of Bilitis

A Legacy in their name:

The Lyon Martin Health Clinic was formed in San Francisco in 1979, the first of its kind, to fill a need for lesbians who were not accessing the health care system due to possible homophobia, ignorance, discrimination or intimidation. It was named after lesbian health pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

No Secret Anymore:

In 2004, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon's life was featured in the documentary film, "No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon" by filmmaker Joan E. Biren (JEB).

First Married Couple in San Francisco:

Del and Phyllis were the first couple married in San Francisco on February 12, 2004. When their marriage was declared void in August of that year, Phyllis Lyon said, "Del is 83 years old and I am 79. After being together for more than 50 years, it is a terrible blow to have the rights and protections of marriage taken away from us. At our age, we do not have the luxury of time."

Together For Life:

Del and Phyllis lived together in the San Francisco Bay area until Del's death in 2008. They were together more than 50 years.

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