April 20, 2020 at 6:02 pm PDT | by Karen Ocamb
Phyllis Lyon gives a happy middle finger to the Lavender Scare

                                               Phyllis Lyon (Photo courtesy Kate Kendell)

“Phyllis Lyon is not afraid of the L-word, whether it be lesbian or liberal – or even lipstick. In fact, L-words best describe her life,” writes Del Martin, Lyon’s partner of 58 years, in their friend Vern L. Bullough’s 2002 book,“ Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context.

“‘I am a single Lyon,’ she protests when people persist in adding an ‘s’ to her name,” Martin continues. “She has the largess, pride, and roar of a lion. She is distinguished by her laughter. She loves light and bare windows. She is loquacious, but she also listens. She is loving, loyal, learned, logical. She loves literature and she is an avid reader. She is a lover, a leader, a liaison. She lives up to her ideals. She also likes to live it up. Her concerns are limitless, as are her talents. She hopes to win the lottery so she can support all her causes more lavishly,”

Del Martin died on Aug. 27, 2008, ten weeks after she and Phyllis Lyon made headlines and history as the iconic lesbian couple legally married by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on June 16, 2008. Lyon was at Martin’s side when she died at age 87.

Lyon died of natural causes on April 9 at their hilltop home in San Francisco, surrounded by loving friends. She was 95.

Now-California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had become personally close with Lyon over the years, broke from his daily coronavirus briefing to commemorate the passing of his friend and hero. He featured their wedding when he announced his run for governor and a video clip still plays at the top of his Facebook page.

“I had the privilege of being involved in a marriage ceremony between Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin,” Newsom told the Los Angeles Blade during the live-streamed news conference watched by more than 9.5 thousand people. “The couple had been together for almost a half a century – the manifestation of faith, love and devotion, and yet they were denied on the basis of their sexual orientation the right to say two extraordinary words: ‘I do.’ The power and potency of those two words is profoundly significant.”

                   Joyce Newstat with Phyllis Lyon (Photo courtesy Newstat)

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were unquestionably the couple to be the “face” of marriage equality, says Joyce Newstat, Policy Director for then-Mayor Newsom who helped plan that first history-making marriage on Valentine’s Day 2004, their 51st anniversary, after which 4,000 other couples lined up around City Hall seeking marriage licenses.

“We were already standing on their shoulders and now this would be yet another act of courage on their part,” Newstat tells the Los Angeles Blade. “We knew that they also would be symbolic of love enduring between two people — and that was to be the face of marriage equality. How would you be scared or how could you possibly be so vehemently against these two lovely wonderful, powerful women who’d been together for 50 years being able to declare their love for each other in front of family and friends and then the world and having the same legal rights as other couples, men and women?”

But what does “standing on their shoulders” actually mean?

Most of the tributes to lesbian icon Phyllis Lyon focus on her historic symbolic (2004) and legal (2008) marriages to Del Martin. But in fact, their lives are even more profound, having both resisted the Lavender Scare and forged a new definition of equality in defiance of inculcated gender and societal stereotypes. They were pioneers of self-acceptance.

Phyllis Ann Lyon was born to a Republican traveling salesman and a Southern Democrat homemaker on Nov.10, 1924 in Tulsa, Oklahoma just before the Great Depression. The family moved to Northern California in the early 1940s. Lyon graduated from Sacramento Senior High School in 1943 during the paranoia of World War II nearby. For three months in 1942, the Pinedale Assembly Center located just north of Fresno served as a Japanese internment camp for 4,823 people.

Lyon attended the University of California/Berkeley where she served as a reporter and editor for the student newspaper, the Daily Californian, and wrote a scathing editorial about the internment camps, Martin reported in Before Stonewall.

Lyon graduated in 1946 with a BA in Journalism, emerging into an America struggling to return to pre-war society but pulsing with young people enthralled with freedom.

World War II especially liberated women who were recruited — most notably through the Rosie the Riveter campaign — to join the war effort and take up jobs in the wide-ranging defense industry. By war’s end in 1945, one out of every four married women worked outside the home; more than seven million women had joined eleven million other women who were already in the work force.

Their mass firing with new patriotic orders to return home to serve their husbands or become “pretty little things” whose sole job was to look for a husband created a subterranean rancor to the reactionary Cold War conformity.  Freudian psychiatry experienced a boom. “Freud gave Victorian antifeminism the appearance of scientific standing. His theory of penis envy not only took for granted the inferiority of women but provided an ideological rationalization of it. Psychoanalysis thus reinforces the dependence and subordination of women,” some feminists said later

This was the climate in which young journalist Phyllis Lyon sought a job. “I was determined I was not going to be a society writer,” Lyon told David Mixner and Dennis Bailey for Brave Journeys: Profile in Gay and Lesbian Courage.  She relented after a corporate job led to abject boredom. Fortuitously, that position was taken at The Chico Enterprise and she gladly accepted the position of general reporter. She covered the police beat and city hall, competitively trying to out-scoop her rivals at The Chico-Record. She also covered stories “on rural Chico’s underbelly” – bar brawls and domestic quarrels.

One assignment was particularly meaningful — interviewing former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt at a train “whistle stop” in the nearby town of Durham. After the death of her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President Harry Truman appointed her as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in Dec. 1945. She soon became the first chairperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights, where she later led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Eleanor Roosevelt was “the most wonderful woman I had ever heard of,” Lyon told Dianna Lee Johnson in Nov. 2010 for the scholar’s Masters Theses. “Women didn’t do a lot of things like she did in those days.”

When Roosevelt stepped off the train, Lyon froze.

“I should have begun to ask her questions if it hadn’t been that she was my absolute heroine and I was so excited about getting to even meet her that I didn’t realize what was going to happen when I did. And I just froze.” The staff photographer got a shot of Lyon’s back as Roosevelt smiled down on her.

“Graciously, Mrs. Roosevelt conducted the interview herself,” Martin wrote. It was a story Lyon told often, laughing at her big rookie mistake.

                  Phyllis Lyon (screen grab from “No Secret Anymore)

Chico was too small after Eleanor Roosevelt and in 1949 Lyon moved to Seattle, first writing “man on the street” articles for a naval outlet then getting an editorial staff position at two building trades magazines published by Pacific Builder and Engineer. Unaware of her sexuality, Lyon dated married men, reflecting to Mixner and Bailey later that “it was safer.” At one point she was engaged to an older single man, but broke it off over his “penchant for jealousy.”

And then Lyon met Martin, a “gay divorcee” who had moved to Seattle from San Francisco to serve as editor of Daily Construction Reports, owned by the same publisher.

Lyon was mesmerized. “She had on pumps and then a little green gaberdine suit and she was carrying a briefcase. And never before had I seen a woman carrying a briefcase,” Lyon tells JEB (Joan E. Biren) for her documentary “No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon. “I had a party at my apartment for her and invited all the folks from work. She spent most of her time in the kitchen with the guys who were trying to teach her how to tie a tie and smoking cigars. She said I was her good, straight friend. But she always accused me of flirting with her, too.”

“You flirted with everybody,” says Martin.

“Well, she made sort of a half-a-pass at me and I made a pass back so we kind of got together in bed. But we didn’t make any commitment. So, I quit the job and got back to the Bay Area. I was writing letters to her and she was writing back and about the time she decided it was hopeless, I wrote and said she should come down. And that was in 1953. She came down on Valentine’s Day. Got in about 11:00 at night but it was still Valentine’s Day,” says Lyon.

“That way you can’t forget your anniversary,” says Martin.

Martin had already discovered that she was a lesbian by reading The Well of Loneliness, though subsequent research into library books revealed the prevalent label for those feelings were “sick” and “perverted,” with no cure except lobotomy or forced behavioral conversion therapy. But when Martin shared her secret with Lyon and co-workers during a discussion about homosexuality, Lyon was so impressed, she called all their friends. She had no idea that outing Martin was dangerous.

“[A]fter the war a concern began to grow throughout the nation that American morality was in a state of decline. Publication of the Kinsey report fed these fears, particularly Kinsey’s statistics that suggested widespread homosexual behavior,” David K. Johnson, author of The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, said in a 2004 interview with the University of Chicago press.

Congress was on high alert as Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings charged that communists and homosexuals had infiltrated the federal government to undermine the nation’s morality and security.

The Lavender Scare helped fan the flames of the Red Scare. In popular discourse, communists and homosexuals were often conflated. Both groups were perceived as hidden subcultures with their own meeting places, literature, cultural codes, and bonds of loyalty. Both groups were thought to recruit to their ranks the psychologically weak or disturbed. And both groups were considered immoral and godless. Many people believed that the two groups were working together to undermine the government.”

A true understanding of the dangerous and harmful Red Scare requires also an equal understanding of the Lavender Scare, Johnson argued.

“A survey of McCarthy’s mail suggests that his supporters were more concerned about allegations that the federal government was harboring sexual deviants than they were about political deviants. President Truman’s aides also thought the homosexuals-in-government issue posed a more dangerous political weapon than the communists-in-government issue,” he said.

McCarthy, whose chief aide was unscrupulous closeted attorney Roy Cohen, seemed focused on the power he derived from thundering about threats of communist infiltration. So ferreting out homosexuals fell to Senators Styles Bridges and Kenneth Wherry.

Their rationale, Johnson said, “wasn’t that homosexuals were communists but that they could be used by communists.” But after months of investigation, they found “no evidence that even a single gay or lesbian American civil servant had ever been blackmailed into revealing state secrets.”

Nonetheless, their final report “emphatically” stated that “homosexuals posed a threat to national security,” said Johnson. Meanwhile tabloids reported that “communists promoted ‘sex perversion’ among American youth as a way to weaken the country and clear the path for a communist takeover.” Homosexuals “acted as a fifth column, by preventing family formation and fostering moral decay.”

The number of gays and lesbians whose lives were ruined from 1947 to 1954 during the Red Scare and the Lavender Scare may never be known,” said Johnson. “As the nation’s largest employer, the federal government set the tone for employment practices in many industries, and its anti-gay policies were widely copied by the private sector.”

Brad Sears, Nan Hunter and Christy Mallory concurred in 2017 in Documenting Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in State Employment published by The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

“To identify homosexuals in public employment, the FBI sought out state and local police officers to supply arrest records on morals charges, regardless of whether there were convictions; data on gay bars; lists of other places frequented by homosexuals; and press articles on the largely subterranean gay world. Even friendship with a known homosexual subjected individuals to investigation,” the scholars wrote. “[A]nti-homosexual policies had spread from the federal government to nearly all levels of employment in the United States.”

But there was resistance: Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles in 1950; ONE Inc was founded in 1952; and the Daughters of Bilitius was founded in 1955 by Lyon and Martin and six others.

Lyon and Martin didn’t start out wanting to change the world — they just wanted to meet other lesbians.

On Valentine’s Day in 1953, when they moved in together in San Francisco’s working class Castro district, change was in the air. UCLA professor Evelyn Hooker, who received a grant to study the difference between gay and straight men, recruited homophiles from the Mattachine Society.   Conducting her research in a small study on her spacious Saltair Avenue estate in Los Angeles, she found no significant difference. Two decades later, that research helped declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.

At the same time, gay poet and war veteran Lawrence Ferlinghetti opened City Lights Books in North Beach, the nation’s first all-paperback bookstore that helped launch the “Beat Generation” in San Francisco. He featured Greenwich Village gay and bisexual transplants Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady  and Charles Bukowski.

And thanks to a 1951 landmark ruling that Black Cat bar owner Sol Stouman could serve alcohol to homosexuals, North Beach was dotted with gay and lots of lesbian bars. The decision meant that gay people could congregate – but it was still illegal for homosexuals to touch or dress in clothes of the opposite gender.  The irony of the bar raids and public arrests was that gay people learned that there were others like them.

But what did that mean?

“Who knew about ‘homosexual’? Even ‘lesbian,’ we didn’t know those terms. So here you are feeling this, whatever it is, but you don’t know even how to define it,” Martin, then-68, told Eric Marcus on July 27, 1989 for his audio series “Making Gay History!” “Everybody thought, ‘I am the only one.’”

Through books, said Lyon, then-64, lesbians found out “that you were illegal, immoral, and sick.”

“I think the things that we were working on in the ‘50s, in the Daughters of Bilitis anyway, was trying to build our self-esteem,” said Martin.  “I mean, begin to say that we were okay in spite of being faced with, as Phyllis said, being immoral, illegal, and sick. I mean that’s heavy duty for a lot of people.”

                   Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon (Screen grab from “No Secret Anymore”)

What about the dynamic of their own relationship, which Marcus understood was “the classic butch/femme relationship.”

“Well, I don’t know about the ‘classic’” Lyon said. “It didn’t work for us no matter how we tried. It was true that Del tended to light my cigarettes, okay? But that was as butch as she got sometimes. She doesn’t drive, and I did. You know, she didn’t drive the nails in and I did. She didn’t do any of these butch things.”

I’m not at all mechanical,” Martin added

But wasn’t a butch/femme relationship “the relationship you thought you were supposed to have?” Marcus asked.

Yeah, right. I remember thinking, well, now, let’s see, I’ve got to get Del’s breakfast every morning because that’s what mother did for dad. So, I did that for a week,” Lyon said. “Forget it. None of these things really worked for us and I suspect that was true for most couples.”

They had no lesbian role models.

“I didn’t know really much of anything. I mean, I just had met this person three-and-a-half years before and she said she was a lesbian, and I thought that was the most fascinating thing I’d ever heard,” said Lyon, noting that explained her own feelings. “But I didn’t really have a clue as to what that was all about.”

They knew about the bars in North Beach. But “we were very shy. And so, we sort of were more like tourists. Going to the bars and watching everybody and wondering how we fit in,” said Martin.

             Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin (Photo from “Last Call at Maud’s”)

That first year in the Castro was difficult. Though they’d been close friends for three years, living together was another matter as Lyon and Martin tried to figure out their power differential based on heterosexual norms. Later they said a kitten given to them by a friend kept them together since they couldn’t figure out how to divide the pet.

Finally, they realized that they didn’t need to follow anyone else’s prescription.  They were equals with strengths and weaknesses and they could just be themselves as women instead of caricatures.

      Illustration by Charles Hefling, originally published in The Gay & Lesbian Review. Used with permission.

That was a radically new concept for American women. What was it to be a woman, independent of a man instead of Adam’s rib?

It was a question in the air as a second wave of feminism wafted across Europe. “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” wrote existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex, published in 1949.

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were living in the question.

“Our only tie with the gay world was our sense of ‘belonging’ to each other,” they wrote in Lesbian/Woman. “We needed to relate to gay people who would understand the subtle differences between heterosexual and homosexual relationships. We needed to know more about the gay life and how to manage in a straight society. Above all, we needed a sense of community with others like ourselves—the feeling of security and respect that a homogenous group affords its members.”

In 1955, the couple moved into a house atop a steep hill in Noe Valley with a great view overlooking downtown San Francisco. They paid $10,000, using a down payment from Lyon’s stash of war bonds.

They befriended a gay couple who lived around the corner. “They were in a butch/femme relationship,” Lyon told Eric Marcus.

Jerry was a bartender and “Ricky was very effeminate. He used to dress in drag. He and I used to dress alike sometimes, to go out, Halloween and stuff like that,” said Lyon. He stayed home and took care of the cats.

Jerry introduced them to lesbian Rose Bamberger who called to see if they wanted to start a secret club for lesbians as a safe alternative to the bars.

“We are erroneously given credit as the founders of the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco in 1955,” Lyon wrote in “Lesbian Liberation Begins” in the Nov. 1, 2012 issue of the Gay & Lesbian Review.

“It wasn’t even our idea. A young Filipina immigrant envisioned a club for lesbians here in the States that would give us an opportunity to meet and socialize (and especially to dance) outside of the gay bars that were frequently raided by police. Meeting in each others’ homes provided us with privacy and a sense of safety from the police and gawking tourists in the bars,” she wrote.

“There were eight of us in the beginning: four couples, four blue-collar and four white-collar workers, two lesbian mothers, and two women of color,” she added.

They named the new secret club the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) “to sound like just another women’s lodge. Bilitis (pronounced Bil-E-tis) came from The Songs of Bilitis by Pierre Louÿs, a long narrative love poem in which Bilitis was cast as a contemporary of Sappho on the Isle of Lesbos. Presumably lesbians would know what the name meant. If anyone else asked, we could say we belonged to a Greek poetry club,” Lyon wrote.

In a 1992 interview with Terry Gross of NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Martin joked that, “It was supposed to be a secret, and we have spent many, many years now trying to explain the name.”

“The Daughters began in a climate of fear, rejection, and oppression,” Lyon wrote.  “There was no sense of community as exists today. Lesbians were isolated and separated—and scared.”

In 1956, DOB discovered the Mattachine Society in San Francisco and ONE, Inc. in Los Angeles, both of which welcomed lesbians into their “homophile” movement but chided them for being separatists and not welcoming to gay men. It was a constant source of friction, though Lyon and Martin did become friends with some gay men, such as Jim Kepner, who wrote for ONE Magazine. He was an “honorary” DOB, he told this reporter, but as a SOB, Son of Bilitis. SOB was also a source of amusement, given it’s more mainstream use to mean “son of a bitch.”

“Along with parties and discussion groups, the early days involved a great deal of peer counseling to help overcome the stigma of being branded illegal, immoral, and sick by a hostile society,” Lyon wrote in GLReview.

Since outreach was difficult, DOB, with Lyon as editor, started publishing The Ladder in October 1956. “It included the four-fold purpose of DOB: 1) education of the variant to enable her to understand herself and make her adjustment to society; 2) education of the public to break down erroneous conceptions, taboos, and prejudices; 3) participation in research projects to further knowledge about the homosexual; 4) investigation of the penal code and promotion of changes through state legislatures,” Lyon wrote.

Under their mandate, DOB held “public” forums that allowed, Lyon wrote, “lesbians and some gay and transgendered men to attend without committing themselves. Professional speakers included attorneys who explained the law and told us what our rights were and what to do in case of arrest. Those in the mental health professions refuted the sickness theory and promoted self-acceptance. Our contention was that once you accepted yourself, regardless of what others had to say, you could cope better in a hostile society. The professionals who were among society’s decision makers gave us the validation we needed then.”

                    Phyllis Lyon (Screen grab from “No Secret Anymore,”1974, by Al Lopp, Bloomington Gay Alliance)

In Feb. 1957, DOB became a legal non-profit corporation.

At a Mattachine Society convention in Denver in 1959, Lyon and Martin squared off with homophiles who “assumed that whatever was said about homosexuality included lesbians, just like the generic term ‘he,’” Martin said “Lesbians are not satisfied to be auxiliary members or second-class homosexuals. …One of Mattachine’s aims is that of sexual equality. May I suggest that you start with the lesbian?’”

It’s a question still being asked today.

By 1968, DOB had evolved into from a strictly secret social club into an organization taking on persistent anti-LGBTQ issues. DOB’s research director, Florence Conrad (née Jaffy), thought it was important to survey the attitudes of professional psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists. She gained the cooperation of Dr. Joel Fort, director of the Center for Special Problems at San Francisco’s Public Health Department, who developed a DOB-sponsored questionnaire with Claude M. Steiner that was distributed randomly to 153 Bay Area mental health professionals: 147 responded, 88 percent of whom were in private practice and had gay clients.

“The results,” Lyon wrote in GL Review, “were startling: 99 percent opposed laws treating homosexual acts between consenting adults as criminal,” a law that remained on California’s books until 1975. “So pro-homosexual were the results that it took almost three years to find a publisher (Psychological Reports in October 1971).”

The results “vindicated DOB and played a role in the eventual removal of homosexuality per se from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual,” Lyon wrote.

But by 1972, DOB and The Ladder had faded from view. Lyon and Martin, however, persisted, politically supporting Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi, among many others.

On June 25, 1989, the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin served as grand marshals of San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade.

We were trying to help lesbians find themselves,” Lyon told Eric Marcus. “I mean, you can’t have a movement if you don’t have people that see that they’re worthwhile.”

Despite the darkness, fear and struggle, Lyon and Martin shouldered the burden and forged a new path to equality. Their impact as guides and role models continues to have powerful ripple effects.

                    Robin Tyler, Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon, Diane Olson (Photo courtesy Robin Tyler)

“In 1959, when I was 17 years old, I got a crush on another girl at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Canada. I ran down to the bookstore and found a booklet called ‘The Ladder.’ In it was written: ‘If you are a woman and you love another woman, what you are is a lesbian. Everybody can tell you it is wrong, but if it feels right to you, it is right,’” longtime lesbian and marriage equality activist Robin Tyler tells the Los Angeles Blade. “Because of them, I was not in the closet for one minute after that.”

Lesbian/Woman also impacted many lives.

“The year is 1972. I’m standing in the checkout line of a typical large grocery store in the South Bay contemplating whether I’m going to ever be able to openly love a woman when I look up and in the paperback book by Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin named Lesbian Woman.  That paperback book changed my life.  It gave me the courage to leave my husband, fight to keep my children and learn to say, ‘I am a lesbian,’” longtime political activist Diane Abbitt tells the Los Angeles Blade.

In an Aug. 2008 interview, then- Mayor Gavin Newsom, who was being honored by Equality California, reflected on the significance of marriage in the face of Prop 8:

“I just got married last week – and I felt we were together a long time and it’s a year and a half. I couldn’t wait to get married. I could only imagine couples that have been together for decades and the struggle and the despair. And the resignation, almost – that you just never imagine it would happen in your life – so there’s not even the expectation that it could. And now all that’s changed and that’s what’s so important about November. What’s at stake is so much more palpable than we could have ever intellectualized it six months ago or even three months ago.”

Politico Bob Burke, San Fransisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and attorney and EQCA board co-chair Diane Abbitt in Los Angeles August 2008 (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Asked about the marriages of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, Newsom said:

Ah, come on. That was as good as it gets. The whole thing started with them. In 2004 it was all about putting a human face on discrimination and no greater narrative, no greater love story than theirs and to be able to do it then, to go through the travail of the nullification, and then to come back four years later, I got to tell you candidly – never thought I would have that opportunity in my life, certainly not as mayor still and it was liberating, it was glorious, it was extraordinary.

And it wasn’t just Phil and Del – it was their family, it was their friends and I understand this now better than ever because our wedding was about our families – it wasn’t just about Jen and I.

And that’s also something that’s so important to communicate in the next few months – that it’s not just about the LGBTQ community. This is about all of us. This is about our families and friends. This is about people coming together across their differences. And that’s something that I think is very unifying and so fundamental.

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin married in 2004 as Kate Kendell, Roberta Achtenberg, and Joyce Newstat (Photo Liz Mangelsdorf courtesy Kendell)

“Phyllis was a light in my life and in the life of our community,” says Roberta Achtenberg, who became the first highest ranking out person in the federal government during the Clinton Administration. “She and Del were the mothers of our movement. They gave us so much—and asked very little— except that we continue the struggle until we prevail.”

               Phyllis Lyon and Kate Kendell (Photo courtesy Kate Kendell)

Lyon’s death has been hard for Kate Kendell, former executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights who conspired with Newsom and Newstat to create that 2004 marriage.

“I am living the duel reality of this is exactly what I would have wished for her – to be 95, to be able to die at home with care givers who have been part of her life and family for several years now. Getting phone calls from close friends who just told her stories. And being able to be comforted, not in pain, and then walk through the door to whatever is next. And thinking that I won’t have Phyllis,” says Kendell, pausing to recall her last visit.

“She just took my hand and said, ‘You are a real sweetie.’ And I said, ‘Well, Phyllis, I love you.’ “And I love you, too, sweetie,’’ Kendell says. “I’m going to miss her every day.”

LGBTQ PIONEERS attend 1998 memorial for Jim Kepner in Los Angeles. First row from left Lisa Ben, Harry Hay, John Burnside, Jose Sarria, Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon; (second row) Fred Frisbie, Bob Basker, Frank Kameny, Florence Fleischman, Hal Call, Robin Tyler; (third row) Philip Johnson, Eddie Sandifer, Vern Bullough, Malcolm Boyd; (fourth row) Barbara Gittings, Kay Tobin Lahusen, Jack Nichols, Mark Segal, unidentified; (fifth row) Cliff Anchor, Leo Laurence, Eldon Murray, John O’Brien, and Jerome Stevens. (Photo courtesy Robin Tyler; photo IDs thanks to Michael Bedwell)

                   Phyllis Lyon looking out over downtown San Fransisco (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

© Copyright Los Angeles Blade, LLC. 2020. All rights reserved.