Monday, September 01, 2008

Tribute to Del Martin, Lesbian Pioneer Activist

After Mina and I came back from out trip to Alberta, Canada, we learned that Del Martin, our beloved sister in spirit, has died.
Del Martin and her wife/spouse, Phyllis Lyon were married recently in a poignant ceremony that took place in the city of SF with many officials and friends and others looking on. Mina and I have known Del and Phyllis for many years, since the beginning of our own journey into Feminist, Lesbian and Gay activism in the early seventies. I can't say we were close to either one of them, but we always felt a special bond with Del and Phyll and whenever we met them along the way usually when we went up to SF but also sometimes down here in LA., both made us feel very special as if we were part of their great adventure and we always felt respected for what we had in common though separated by a generation or so the what was the desire to make great changes especially as they affected Lesbians. Mina and I recruited Del and Phyll early on (the early eighties) into our work in the area of Lesbian and Gay aging. Back then both of them though chronologically over 60, neither really identified with being in old age.

As time passed though, they both realized the importance of working for the rights of Old Lesbians and when OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change) was created in 89-91 , both quickly joined. We were too young to join OLOC but were very pleased at this development. I remember when Del and Phyll participated in the White House Conference on Aging. they were the first along with a few others to push for the recognition of Lesbians in this austere congregation of activists and professionals in the aging field. It was quite a feat they both pulled off, getting Old Lesbians and Gay men on the agenda. It was actually under the Clinton administration as I remember it but the emphasis was on intergenerational issues and minority issues were being de-emphasized. The first Bush administration didn't even have a White House Conference on Aging. Lisa Hamburger, a lesbian and gay housing specialist was one witness to that White House experience. She kept me up to date on what was happeing at the time as it took political clout to even be able to attend that convention. I was eventually invited but turned the invite down as I could not imagine getting anything done among the conservative forces in power at the time but Del and Phyll refused to give up on us and they made a difference I will never forget. I did feel as though Mina and I had laid the groundwork for what eventually transpired and so looking back I realize what a good team we really were in this regard. Del and Phyll had tremendous political clout and Mina and Sharon knew where we needed to go re the field of aging as it related to Lesbians and Gay men.

The last time Mina and I saw Del was at Jeanne Adelman's, the lesbian feminist therapist, last birthday party up in Oakland or was it down here in LA at some other event. Not sure which. Del and Phyll once again reached out to us and once again we felt reinforced and supported by our brave leaders which is how I regard the two of them. I also liked their coupleness. Del and Phyll fought to be recognized as a couple by NOW, as feminists which meant they only had to pay dues as a couple. Something most feminist and activist organizations still do not do because there is a general feeling of dis-ease around long time couples as though we are somehow less than, frightens "strong" feminists around the issues of togetherness. I read this fact in one of the obituaries for Del and I thought this is something Mina and I have to fight against too.

Of course, Del and Phyll are known for being the first Lesbians to organize a Lesbian organization, DOB, Daughters of Belitis, which operated in groups all over the country. DOB was started way back in 1954 if I am remembering right. They began their careers as writers and journalists and their talent at writing helped to produce a number of significant books i.e Lesbian/Woman which was widely hailed as a breakthrough discussion and description of who we were, what our situations were, and why we needed to have our civil rights. Later Del wrote a book on wife abuse and there were a series of articles
and other works that came out written by Martin and Lyon. The articles we read by Del and Phlyy were important guideposts for us in our movement work as both Del and Phyll had experienced the homophile movement and had gone through many of the same trials and episodic problems with sexism and lesbophobia that we were experiencing a later date but new and relevant to our time in the movement. We learned by their example and found many similarities in our thinking. We never though of ourselves as another Del and Phyll as no one can be them. Both were and Phyll still is bigger than life and also very part of mainstream politics. They get/got things done on a big scale while we plod along on a thinner more left and sometimes a fantasy type of terrain.

Years ago, Mina and I were very honored to receive free tickets to a very prestigious event in LA that Del and Phyllis were invited to attend. They asked us to go and be there in a sense for them. We were blown away and felt in awe at the prospect.
At the time we knew Del and Phyllis knew we worked as movement activist, sometimes on the same wave length and sometimes on the same project. Both always treated us like equals. We will never forget the casual way they related to us and allowed us to be our own natural selves toward them. They never saw themselves as higher than, or more important than. I found Del and Phyll to be true Lesbian activists without any subterfuge or false agendas. Del was unassuming, had a good sense of humor, and always kept her feet on the ground but when you looked straight in her eyes you saw intensity and true knowledge of where she wanted to go from here. I also saw love for others.

To Phyllis I say I am so sorry for your loss. It is unimaginable, after at least 50 plus years of "wedded" bliss. Goodbye Del. I salute you. And salute you again and again as long as I have memory of who you are. Your memory will live on long past my time. You were the first and the best role model anyone could ever have had. Rest in Peace. Fond Adieu.

Sharon Raphael

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Our Honeymoon at Lake Louise in Canada (pics)

Mina and I just came back from our honeymoon at The Chateau at Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada. We enjoyed exploring this area close to the province British Columbia and located in the province Alberta Canada about 2 1/2 hrs. from Calgary. The drive from Calgary to Lake Louise was very scenic. More pics to follow soon. Will also include wedding pics as soon as I get them.

Sharon Raphael

My Walk Around the Lake

Sharon at Lake Louise

Mina & Sharon at Lake Louise

The Lake and Glacier behind The Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise