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Accept Yourself

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Love is in the air: Del Martin (l) and Phyllis Lyon in 1998.

‘No Secret Anymore’ shares the legacy of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon
by Nancy Ford

Del and Phyllis. Their ever-conjoined names roll off the collective tongue of the legions of their admirers in singular cascade. They are DelandPhyllis.

Dellis.

It’s hard to remember which is which. In No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, we become acquainted with the two women who are almost single-handedly responsible for the freedom that many LGBT individuals—especially the L’s— enjoy today. Not quite. But almost.

Together they laid out a set of footprints that millions of lesbians and gay men have traced pace-by-pace on the way to full equality. Already living as an openly lesbian couple n 1955, they launched Daughters of Bilitis, the first public organization for lesbians in America when conformity was the not just the norm, it was practically the law. In the 1960s, they wrote, mimeographed, and distributed The Ladder, the country’s first lesbian publication. In the 1970s, they successfully lobbied the National Organization of Women to welcome gay women to the greater feminist table. In the 1980s, Lyon-Martin Women’s Health Services in San Francisco was named for them, due to their unfailing support of women’s health and domestic abuse issues. In the 1990s, they were delegates to the White House Conference on Aging, providing expertise on seniors’ sexual orientation. They were the very first same-gender to couple to be legally married when California (first) legalized it. In 2004, prior to Del’s death in 2008, the two were joined in marriage to the cheers of hundreds of gays and lesbian couples who were—that day, literally—waiting to follow in their footprints.

Lyon (l) and Martin in 1954.

In the film, former assistant to President Bill Clinton, Virginia Apuzzo, summed up Dellis’ impact on the generations that followed them. “Young lesbians don’t have to fight for their right to be,” she said. “They already pushed the door open. We came in behind them. They’re at that spot precisely because of people like Phyllis
and Del.”

Where did they get their drive, their resolve, their courage in the face of overwhelming societal pressure? Phyllis herself puts it succinctly: “Ultimately it gets down to self acceptance. When you accept yourself, you don’t give a damn what anybody else thinks.”

Or maybe that was Del.

Bonus extras include an extended interview with Nancy Pelosi, footage of Del and Phyllis at the Castro premiere of the film, and more. Joan E. “JEB” Biren, no stranger to lesbian activism herself, directs. 2003. Frameline (frameline.org).

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