Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Beloved LGBT Rights Leader Del Martin Dies at 87


Today, COLAGE Joins the LGBT community in mourning
the loss of beloved Civil rights leader Del Martin, 87

Today, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)del and phyllis community lost an iconic leader and a beloved friend. Del
Martin, 87, passed away in San Francisco with Phyllis Lyon,
her lifelong partner and spouse, by her side. COLAGE
celebrates the lifetime of activism of a hero of our community and expresses our gratitude to Del and Phyllis for their long-
time support of COLAGE.

Martin was one of the nation's first and most visible lesbian rights activists who dedicated her life to combating
homophobia, sexism, violence, and racism. She is survived by spouse Phyllis Lyon, daughter Kendra Mon, son-in-law Eugene Lane, granddaughter Lorraine Mon, grandson Kevin Mon, sister-in-law Patricia Lyon and a vast, loving and grateful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family.

"Today the LGBT movement has lost a true community treasure and role model," reflected Beth Teper, COLAGE Executive Director. "I am reminded of the amazing chutzpah of Del and Phyllis. From an early age they recognized their right to love freely, to organize their community and to advocate for their rights. I have always appreciated Del and Phyllis' long-time moral, emotional and material support of COLAGE and their recognition of the importance of youth and adults with LGBT parents in our movement. Our thoughts are with Phyllis and Kendra during this time of grieving and with the entire community as we reflect on Del's amazing contributions to social justice and LGBT rights."

Martin began working as an activist after receiving her degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley. While working on a newspaper in Seattle, Martin met her partner Phyllis Lyon and the two began working on behalf of lesbians in their community. Martin and Lyon have devoted their lives to working towards LGBT equality, healthcare access, advocacy on behalf of battered women, and issues facing elderly Americans. Their many contributions over the past five decades helped shape the modern LGBT movement.

In 1955, Lyon and Martin were among the founders of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian rights organization. In 1956, they launched "The Ladder," the first lesbian newsletter, which became a lifeline for hundreds of women isolated and silenced by the restrictions of the era. Del Martin was the first openly lesbian woman elected to the board of the National Organization of Women (NOW), and in 1971, encouraged the board to pass a resolution stating that lesbian issues were feminist issues. In 1995, Martin and Lyon were named delegates to the White House Conference on Aging by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. In 2004, Lyon and Martin became the first same-sex couple to be married in the state of California, and subsequently became plaintiffs in the California marriage case, helping to ensure that the fundamental right to marry under the California Constitution belongs to all couples, including same-sex couples.

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were married in California on June 16, 2008 after 55 years together.

"Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn't be by my side. I am so lucky to have known her, loved her, and been her partner in all things," Lyon said. "I also never imagined there would be day that we would actually be able to get married. I am devastated, but I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed."

Gifts in lieu of flowers can be made to honor Del's life and commitment and to marriage equality through NCLR's No On 8 PAC.

You can learn more about Del Martin's powerful legacy through the film No Secret Anymore: The Life and Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Trans Fashion

Perhaps it is a measure of how far our popular culture has shifted, when hot transgender people are popping up in the fashion and entertainment world. I recently caught an episode of I Want to Work for Diddy, which includes a striking transgender woman as a contestant. Though I'd sworn off reality television years ago, it was encouraging to see both a trans woman and a gay former soldier on a show based mainly on P. Diddy's ego.

In other reality TV news, one of the contestants on America's Next Top Model is also a transgender woman. Talk about going mainstream!

Trans folks can also be fierce fashionistas, as evidenced by Kenneth Cole's online ad with Nina Poon and her boyfriend. This video is so impressive, I almost want to buy designer shoes.

This type of inclusion is great because it not only shows that transgender people exist, but that they can be beautiful (even by our culture's unrealistic standards).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Five Questions with Helen Boyd

Helen Boyd, author of My Husband Betty and She's Not the Man I Married, is
the wife of a transgender woman and a remarkable activist. She is also the voice of partners of MTFs online, hosting My Husband Betty message boards for partners, contributing to the TransGroup Blog, and maintaining her own blog called en|gender. Helen also teaches, speaks, and rocks it in true New Yorker fashion. We met a few years ago at a conference where she was the key note speaker and I've been a big fan ever since. She recently interviewed me about the Kids of Trans Resource Guide, which posted on my birthday. (Thanks, Helen!)

Here it is:

Five Questions With… Monica Canfield-Lenfest

As many of you know, Monica Canfield-Lenfest is the daughter of a trans woman and created a new resource, with COLAGE, for kids with trans parents.I highly recommend it.

1) First, tell me about COLAGE & how the book for Kids of Trans happened, what your goals were.

COLAGE ( is a national movement of children, youth, and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer parents. We build community and work toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy. I first contacted COLAGE five and a half years ago, when I was working on my undergraduate thesis: “She’s My Father: The Social Experience of People with Transgender Parents”. Looking for references for my project, I discovered a diverse community of queerspawn who gave me the space to better articulate my experience and encouraged me to continue my work, since there are hardly any resources for transgender parented families. I started presenting at transgender conferences and gained a renewed sense of responsibility to build community and develop resources for people with transgender parents.

During a COLAGE conference in Dallas two years ago, I suggested to Meredith Fenton, COLAGE Program Director, that perhaps I could fill a fall internship position at the national office. We came up with a Fellowship model for my position, which has become a new program for the organization. I worked full-time for eight months focused specifically on the Kids of Trans Program. The major goal of the fellowship was to develop resources for people with transgender parents. Since there was no book detailing our experiences and offering advice to people with trans parents, the Kids of Trans Resource Guide became the obvious main project.

My goals in writing the guide were: first, to tell other people with trans parents that they are not alone; second, to recognize that the entire family transitions when a parent transitions; and third, to provide compassionate advice from people who have similar families. In short, I hoped to create the book I wanted my father to give me when she came out to me over ten years ago.

2) I remember first meeting you & being thrilled to meet another ally who happened also to be related to the trans community – me as a partner, you as a KOT. How did trans people respond to you being at the conference & at trans events?

Yes, I remember how inspired I was to meet you, too! At many conferences, there is the inevitable question - so, why are you here? Since I don’t identify as transgender and very few people read me as trans, many people are curious about my presence at trans conferences. Once I explain my work, people tend to be excited that someone is advocating for transgender families. Although, there is usually some confusion about whether I work with trans youth or youth with trans parents.

The most memorable response I ever received was at an IFGE conference. I stood up during a panel session, introduced myself as the daughter of a transwoman, and asked how people with transgender parents can utilize the media to further transgender equality. The entire crowd gave me a standing ovation! That was the moment when I decided to dedicate more time and energy to building the Kids of Trans program. Each parent I meet reminds me how this work touches people’s families.

3) So far, what has the response been to the book?

The response has been great. People have been waiting for this type of resource for so long that families are thrilled that it exists. One therapist told me that they gave a copy to a couple who were about to come out to their kids and the parents were visibly relieved to have this type of resource. The book features quotes from nineteen people with transgender parents, and people really appreciate the personal experiences sprinkled throughout the text. By including so many elements of this experience, I hope everyone finds a resource for their family. The guide includes: The Basics, Finding Out Your Parent is Transgender, Tips for Transition, Family Shifts, Talking About Our Families, and other valuable resource sections.

It really is amazing to be able to direct people to the COLAGE Kids of Trans website ( to find a copy of the guide, sign up for our online discussion list, and search the resource lists. People can also request paper copies of the guide through the site. Since the guide is aimed at middle school aged youth and older, there have been a few requests for a resource for younger children. There are a few books for young children listed in the resources section, but I agree that we need more tools to explain gender non-conformity to young children, not just those with trans parents.

I am excited that the Kids of Trans Resource Guide addresses some of the needs of our community. If just one person feels less isolated because of this book, I’ve achieved my goal.

4) Have your feelings about your own gender changed as a result of having a parent who is trans?

My entire understanding of gender - my feelings about my own gender and other people’s genders - has been deeply impacted by witnessing my father transition from male to female. Mainly, I have a broader sense of the possibilities of gender identity and expression. In part, because I saw my dad become a woman. Also, I’ve found myself quite often existing in queer and transgender spaces, where various genders are lived and celebrated.

Since I have learned to respect the gender identities and expressions of my parent, her partner, and others, I have gained an appreciation for the complexities of my own gender.

5) I expect you don’t stay idle for long: what’s your next project?

The filmmaker, Melissa Regan, recently shot follow-up footage with the family. The sisters are teenagers now and Barbara has been living as a woman for a few years. The new footage provides invaluable perspective on one family’s process of understanding a loved one’s gender transition. In Spring 2009, No Dumb Questions will be re-released on DVD with new footage. We will also launch an interactive online community where anyone can use video, audio, photos, text and social media to ask – and answer – their own questions about gender identity and sexual orientation.

My role is to get the word out about the new project and provide input as an advocate for transgender people and families. I am really excited to apply my energy and expertise to educate the public about issues of gender identity and expression. As we saw last fall with ENDA, there is still a lot of education needed around transgender rights, even within the LGB community. This film and website will provide a venue where people can ask their ‘dumb’ questions and get answers about trans people’s experiences. You can read more at

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ramblin' Mon

Well, I guess blogging hasn't been a priority for me this summer. I am still bouncing around the northeast, though I am counting down the stops until my arrival back home in San Francisco. This has been quite a tour and June was only the beginning. My perspective continues to shift and I am more grounded than ever before. I am excited about my new projects. More to come...