On June 6, 2010 Phyllis Lyon and I came together for an NPR StoryCorp program and, as always, our conversation shifted effortlessly between the personal and the political. We talked about The Daughters of Bilitis and The Ladder magazine, their revolutionary book, Lesbian/Woman, gay marriage, activist burn-out, changing one’s mind. Throughout our discussion, Phyllis framed her activist impulses in a no-nonsense version of inclusive intersectionality.
While we were at it, we shared our “origin stories” with each other. Phyl’s recollections of her first encounters with Del Martin, the love of her life and comrade-in-arms, are vintage Lesbiana. That’s just the first ten minutes of our conversation!
Our friendship evolved over thirty-five years, in the context of our shared commitment to progressive feminist activism. It’s all here with laughter, reminiscences, moments of deep mutual appreciation, and occasional commentary that is now historical rather than current reality (it was 2010, after all… before the Windsor decision!).
For three decades, Del and Phyllis brought their visionary activism as I brought my woman-loving music and commentary to women’s conferences, festivals and conventions across America. We sought each other out at these gatherings, stood next to each other at political receptions, sat next to each other at group dinners in noisy restaurants. I grew up and grew old with them.
As Phyllis navigated the last years of her life, I was fortunate to be a part of a sweet circle of us who came together and held her close. I’ll tell you this: her “smarty pants” humor never left her. Neither did her edgy defiance and fierce insistence on autonomy. Phyllis Lyon was a force to be reckoned with.
Visit my website blog if you’re interested in knowing more about my dear lesbian mother, Phyllis Lyon, and our friendship.