Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Del Martin

For those of you who somehow missed hearing or reading about Del Martin, here's a synopsis of her remarkable life.

"Del Martin, a lesbian rights pioneer who took part in one of California's first same-sex weddings, died today in San Francisco after a long period of declining health. She was 87." read more

This amazing woman and her partner Phyllis had a very large impact on my life. It started with my grandmother's sister who was a Lesbian in Italy. She was born somewhere before the turn of the century in Yugoslavia. I can't imagine how difficult it was to have anything like a normal life in that part of the world at that time. And yet she did, and lived with her partner until death parted them. I know that my grandmother didn't really know until she was at least in her 70's and 80's and even then it was something impossible for her to wrap her brain around. It was easier for my mother to understand and accept. Recently, one of my cousins is trying to track down the her partner's family because through our grandmothers, we are connected and that needs to be acknowledged, their love and commitment for each other needs to be acknowledged.

It was for my grandmother and also one of my cousins that I am grateful for Del Martin's responsibility for getting the American Psychiatric Association to stop classifying homosexuality as a mental illness.

I also owe her for being one of the fortunate few who broke the chain of domestic violence in our relationships. My mother was often severely beaten and abused. Del Martin's work to publicize domestic violence opened the door to women like me being able to walk away from a relationship that had the potential for violence. Through her I knew I deserved better than the hell my mother endured. And through her courage in speaking out to all women in similar situation I was able to break that chain.

As one of the many people who attended far too many memorial services in the 80's for friends who died of AIDS, I saw my share of life partners denied those precious final moments at the bedside of those they loved before they passed away. Del Martin's work to change this horrible tragedy allowed life partners to share in all aspects of their loved one's lives and deaths. It allowed them to marry in California and the day it became legal to do so, she and Phyllis married as did many of my friends who live in the Bay area.

So thank you Del Martin from this straight woman who owes you so much. You will be sorely missed, but what you leave behind will continue to heal and inspire people for generations to come.Technorati Tags: , , , ,


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