Lesbian activist Phyllis Lyon still strong at 95
Phyllis Lyon, the pioneering lesbian and civil rights activist, celebrated her 95th birthday last November 10 and showed that she’s still going on strong.
Lyon was one-half of the dynamic duo that was her and Del Martin, both well known for founding the Daughters of Bilitis, the first social and political organization for lesbians in the US.
Celebrating Phyllis Lyon’s days until her birthday
Lyon spent the past days leading to her birthday with friends and community leaders befitting her stature as a legend and beloved figure in the LGBTQ community.
On November 10, Kate Kendell– former Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights– drove Lyon and Rocket Science Associates CEO Joyce Newstat to the beach and a meal.
Kendell said: “We drove, ate, laughed, talked. And felt grateful every second.”
Prior to that, Lyon was with her family and friends last November 2 to watch the play, The Daughters, by playwright Patricia Cotter and director Jessica Holt at the San Francisco Playhouse.
The play focused on the 60-year journey of a community of women– from the first lesbian social club in San Francisco to the closing night of the last lesbian bar.
Ensuring Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon’s legacy
Also with Lyon was Del Martin’s daughter, Kendra Mon. Mon told the San Francisco Bay Times: “The play was a smash hit as far as we were concerned: nostalgic, educational, funny, sad, and more.”
Mon also said the papers of the couple have been donated to the GLBT Historical Society and its Dr. John P. De Cecco Archives & Special Collections.
This collection is among the largest and most extensive holdings in the world of materials focusing on the LGBTQ community.
Mon said she, Lyon, and others want the papers be accessible to the public. She also called on members of the public to donate their own memorabilia that document the LGBTQ community’s evolution and history.
Tributes to Phyllis Lyon pour in
Many greeted Lyon on her birthday. Among them was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who said Lyon “is an icon of San Francisco, a trailblazer in our nation’s fight for civil rights, and my dear friend.”
Pelosi, who represents the 12th district of California, also said: “On behalf of the US Congress, it is a joy to wish Phyllis a wonderful 95th birthday.”
Meanwhile, California Governor Gavin Newsom said: “Happy birthday to the one and only Phyllis Lyon, who wrote more than a few chapters in the story of our journey towards full equality for the LGBTQ community.”
Newsom had presided over Lyon and Martin’s wedding while serving as the 42nd mayor of San Francisco in 2004.
Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris also sent her greetings: “She is a tireless advocate for women and girls and for the principle that everybody, no matter who they love, is worthy of dignity and equality.”
Greeting Lyon as well were activist-writer Jewelle Gomez and Executive Director Diane Sabin of the UCSF Lesbian Health & Research Center, and Reverend Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani of the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church.
Likewise, Newstat and Susan Lowenberg, president of the Lowenberg Corporation, as well as Donna Hitchens, who founded the Lesbian Rights Project and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sent their warm greetings.