The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
August 27, 2008

Farewell to Del Martin, SF activist for whom the personal and political were no different.


This post has nothing to do with plastic but everything to do with personal activism and the power of each individual to make change in the world, if she or he simply tries.

When I first moved to San Francisco in 1989, I struggled to get by financially and relied on the services of the Lyon & Martin women’s clinic for my healthcare. It was a place that operated on a sliding scale and made all women feel safe, regardless of issues of income, race, size, sexuality or gender issues. You know what? They put cute little oven mitts over the metal stirrups to keep our feet from getting cold during those less than pleasant female medical exams.

Eventually, I learned that the clinic was named after two San Francisco pioneers of the gay and lesbian movement, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, who had fought all their lives for the rights of women, lesbians, and later seniors. Lyon and Martin were together for nearly 60 years and were the very first gay couple to get married this past June in SF after the California Supreme Court found the state ban on same-sex marriage to be illegal. And it was fitting that they should be first, as they had been part of the legal case that brought about the landmark ruling.

Del Martin passed away today. My friend Red called to tell me the news this morning, and we both cried on the phone. Not so much because of the death. Del was, after all, 87 years old and her health had been failing for some time, but because of the enormity of the impact that she had during her stay on this earth. For Lyon and Martin, there was no difference between what they worked for in the outer world and the personal lives they led. And for me, Del Martin represents the best that each of us can achieve if we believe in the power of our individual daily acts.


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In a statement to the press, Phyllis Lyon says:

Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn’t be by my side…. I am so lucky to have known her, loved her and been her partner in all things. I also never imagined there would be a day that we would actually be able to get married…. I am devastated, but I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed.

You don’t have to be a member of the gay/lesbian/bi/trans community to feel the beauty of these words and to be inspired by the perseverance of these remarkable women. Whatever your cause, whatever motivates you to act, whatever is important to you in this world, don’t be afraid to let your light shine. Each of our actions does matter. Each of us can make a difference. And now, more than ever, we are needed.

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4 Comments on "Farewell to Del Martin, SF activist for whom the personal and political were no different."

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8 years 1 month ago

She accomplished so much in her time. A true candle in the wind.

8 years 1 month ago

WOW! I am so glad they got to be married before she passed. Neat lady!

8 years 1 month ago

Wow, what a beautiful life she lived. I hope to accomplish that much in mine too!

That picture of Del and Phyllis has to be one of the sweetest photos ever taken.

Anarres Natural Health
8 years 1 month ago

Dear Beth,

Your post brought tears to my eyes! What a beautiful life well lived, for herself, her wife and ultimately for all of us!

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey