A new children’s book shares the amazing history of pioneering lesbian activists Phyllis Martin and Del Lyon: Written by Gayle E. Pitman and illustrated by Christopher Lyles When You Look Out the Window: How Phyllis Martin and Del Lyon Built a Community, sees Phyllis and Del pointing out landmarks through San Francisco, each of which illuminates part of their story as a couple and two of the LGBT right’s movement’s greatest advocates.
Martin and Lyon started dating in 1952, and moved in together on Valentine’s Day 1953 in an apartment on San Francisco’s Castro Street. Two years later they formed the Daughters of Bilitis, the first political organization for lesbians in the United States, and were editors of its magazine, The Ladder for many years.
They also formed the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, which encouraged ministers to accept gay parishioners, and were active in the National Organization of Women and the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, which successfully pushed for San Francisco’s first employment nondiscrimination law protecting gays and lesbians.
In 2008, Lyon and Martin became the first gay couple to legally wed in California. (Martin died two months later.)
When You Look Out the Window is written for children ages 4 to 8, and includes a reading guide and a note for parents about why teaching LGBT history is important, as well as suggestions for ways to use the book, and additional resources.
“The stories of LGBTQ people have been left out of the history books for far too long, and all the more so when it comes to children’s books,” says Pitman. “Too many children grow up without ever hearing about the brave men and women who helped bring about a world where LGBT identity is not something to hide or be ashamed of.”
Last week, gay rights groups complained to a California state commission Wednesday about the lack of LGBT representation in textbooks being considered for schools by the Department of Education.
“It’s not something to appease a particular part of the population but to truly include inclusive history throughout grades K-8,” said Renata Moreira of Our Family Coalition.
Pitman says she hopes to inspire kids with Lyon and Martin’s story, “showing them how their love for one another, their courage in being who they were in a homophobic era, and their dedication to social justice transformed San Francisco, and helped change the world.”
Pitman, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at Sacramento City College, is the author of This Day in June, a children’s book about a Pride parade. The book made headlines recently when a Chicago library refused to remove it from the children’s section.