Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Del Martin R.I.P.

Del Marin died 8/27/8 and her partner Phyllis Lyon lives on. They were among the first out lesbians and spent a lifetime seeking justice and freedom not only for lesbians but also for all homosexual persons, women and minorities. Del was 83 and in poor health for a number of years.

I met them in the early 1960’s when I was on Bishop Pike’s staff. He asked me to represent him and attend a meeting of clergy and homosexuals at the Ralston White Retreat Center in Mill Valley, CA. We sat and told our stories and Del told her story as a young woman, who married, had a child and then divorced, realized she was a lesbian and became partners with Phyllis Lyon.

Del – and almost everything I have to say about her includes Phyllis – helped found San Francisco’s Council on Religion and the Homosexual. We tried to influence politicians and church people to face the injustices of society perpetrated on homosexual in our culture in the 1960’s.

Del called me one day in 1965 and invited me to a meeting of the Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian rights organization. I went to their home atop Castro Street and found myself in a group of twenty lesbian women. I was a little frightened, as I had no idea what to expect. I noticed some of the women were very attractive, well dressed and very intelligent. I talked about the negative attitudes of the church toward homosexual and how that would have to change. We listened to each other and I heard some of the horror stories these women told - sex, jobs, housing, marriage, divorce, child custody etc. I enjoyed myself very much and felt very much at home with the women and Phyllis and Del.

We saw each there at meeting of CRH, rallies and events in SF. I remember onetime being invited to a luncheon honoring Del and Phyllis in the 70’s. They had founded a clinic. Realizing that lesbians were often discriminated against in medical care; the Lyon-Martin clinic was established to give better medical attention to those women. Rita Mae Brown was the speaker. I told Del that if Rita Mae ever turned straight, I’d like to know about it. I don’t think they were amused, sexist pig that I am sometimes.

I read their books and was particularly proud of Del when she protested when the National Organization of Women (NOW) and Betty Freidan tried to marginalize lesbians from that movement.

I also saw them shopping in the Bell Market on 24th Street where we all shopped for groceries. Phyllis worked around the corner from Trinity at the National Sex Forum so I would see her in the lunch and coffee places in that neighborhood.

There was a gigantic celebration of Phyllis and Del’s fiftieth anniversary of their relationship at the Castro Theater and I was able to give Del a little hello while she sat in her wheel chair.

Del was a mighty woman, strong, compassionate, eloquent, daring and aggressive when that was needed.

I my book In God’s Image: the need for justice for gays and lesbians in the eyes of the church, I acknowledged their importance in my life in changing and developing my attitudes toward homosexuals.


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