Rest in peace, Del Martin*

del

…and the rest of us, let’s not rest until we finish the job in her name.

Del Martin, lesbian civil rights pioneer, died in San Francisco today at the age of 87. She is survived by her partner of 55 years, and legal spouse of 71 days, Phyllis Lyon.

I hope you will read many tributes to her. You might start with this one, from Kate Kendall, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.  She includes a link to Del’s obituary here.

I know for a fact that I have been able to become as fully myself as I am, thanks to the work she either did, or inspired, or cleared the way for.  And that goes for all of you lesbian women out there.  Hell, since none of us are free ’til all of us are free, I’m going to say that, by making more space for LGBT people, she has made more space for our hetero friends and family to be truly themselves as well.  Which winds up meaning: she has touched all of us.

Her wishes were that in lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to the  No On 8 campaign, to honor Del’s life and commitment and to defeat the California  marriage ban.

[Added later]: Tributes to Del, on Pam’s House Blend. I see Barack Obama released a statement, for which I am grateful.  Pam also notes that Jim Burroway, of Box Turtle Bulletin, reposted a 1956 essay of Martin’s, which explains the founding of the first lesbian civil rights organization, Daughters of Bilitis.  The essay appeared in the first issue of the historic newsletter The Ladder.   Here are just the last three paragraphs:

Women have taken a beating through the centuries. It has been only in this 20th, through the courageous crusade of the Suffragettes and the influx of women into the business world, that woman has become an independent entity, an individual with the right to vote and the right to a job and economic security. But it took women with foresight and determination to attain this heritage which is now ours.

And what will be the lot of the future lesbian? Fear? Scorn? This need not be — IF lethargy is supplanted by an energized constructive program, if cowardice gives way to the solidarity of a cooperative front, if the “let Georgia do it” attitude is replaced by the realization of individual responsibility in thwarting the evils of ignorance, superstition, prejudice and bigotry.

Nothing was ever accomplished by hiding in a dark corner. Why not discard the hermitage for the heritage that awaits any red-blooded American woman who dares to claim it?

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