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Early Gay Liberation Movement at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, 1971-1978
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Lyon Dispels Fears About Lesbianism

Iowa State University Daily, February, 1973

Phyllis Lyon in Ames

Lyon dispels fears about lesbianism

February 1973
ISU Daily

"Why hide it? Why not be public?" are questions often asked by the lesbian woman. One of the most emotionally-loaded decisions a lesbian must make is whether to tell her parents and friends the truth and risk hurting them or remain silent and feel secretive.

Even though the Gay Liberation movement has brought to the surface the subject of male and female homosexuality, many lesbians still hide their homosexuality from their family, friends and employers.

Phyllis Lyon has chosen to announce publicly she is a lesbian. And she has gone one step further, by touring the country, speaking to groups on "Women Who Love Other Women."

Lyon helped found the oldest lesbian organization in America, the Daughters of Bilitis. She was the first editor of the organization's magazine, "The Ladder," one of the few lesbian magazines in the world.

Over 200 students crowded into the Pioneer Room in Memorial Union last Wednesday night to hear Lyon discuss some of the fears and myths that surround lesbianism.

The fear she may lose her job may cause a lesbian to hide her homosexuality, Lyons said. "She has to decide if she must play a double-role or if she can be honest about herself."

Another fear a lesbian often suffers from is "whether or not there's something wrong with her," Lyon said. "A lesbian can have a happy fulfilling life, but some have never accepted themselves."

"Dear Abby columns tell us to discuss our sex problems with our doctor or clergyman, and they are the least knowledgeable about homosexuality."

"The myth of 'role-playing' does not exist must at all today," Lyon said. "There are still a few women who get into the roles because of rebellion or because some library book said to or because of peer group pressure."

Lyon said lesbians are not man-haters. "I don't hate men, I just prefer women. By and large, some of my best friends are men."

Lyon has been living with her partner, Del Martin, for over 20 years. They co-authored the book Lesbian-Woman, in which they tried to dispel some of the myths and fears that surround lesbianism.

According to Lyon, a lesbian is "a woman whose primary interest is in a person of the same sex, whether or not that feeling is ever overtly expressed."

"Many lesbians are involved in heterosexual marriages," Lyon said. Some marry because they think they are "just in a phase and marriage will cure it," she added.

Even though the subject of sex and homosexuality has become more open in the last few years, "virtually the same kind of problems and delusions surround homosexuality now as we had in 1955," Lyon said.

However, Lyon thinks the Women's Liberation Movement has "also made it possible for more gay women to meet each other."

Sandra McDermott, another well-known lesbian, said in her book Female Sexuality: Its Nature and Conflict, that "Once a personal has become totally aware of himself and has wholly accepted himself, he becomes a little less sensitive to non-acceptance by a major section of the society in which he lives."

During the reception at Frisbie House following Lyon's speech, about 40 people, both "gay" and "straight," discussed problems facing homosexuals in the Ames area.

"There's nothing subtle about being gay," one girl said. "Once you say it, there's a kind of hush and everyone leaves the room."

One of the most difficult problems facing most of homosexuals is "breaking the news to your parents," one boy said. "I felt I owed it to my father to tell him before he found out some other way." Lyon said her partner's mother still does not know her daughter is a lesbian. Lyon said she thinks her partner's mother senses it, but does not want to confront the problem.

Homosexuals in the Ames area can join gay organizations by writing to either the Lesbian Alliance of Ames, Box 1287 ISU Station, Ames, or the Gay Men's Rap Group, Box 1001, ISU Station, Ames.


After Phyllis Lyon's lecture there was a joint men and women's reception at Frisbie House, a brick building that used to be on Lincoln Way across from campus. I remember she talked about San Francisco a little bit. She lived there. It seemed as if such a place were only available to people who lived in novels.

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