Billye Talmadge (1929 – 2018)

Billye Talmadge passed today [October 24, 2018] at 7:25 a.m. in Portland, Oregon. You may not know her name but you know her work. She was one of the founders of Daughters of Bilitis, She, Del Martin, Phyl Lyons, Helen Sandoz and more were at the forefront of LGBT liberation in the 50s and 60s. They sheltered young lesbians, hired an attorney to help extricate lesbians from jail (it was a jail-able offense in most states to be a lesbian). Held private gatherings in their homes so lesbians had a safe place to meet. Her wise counsel helped many young women to accept them self.  With two Ph.D.s in education she was at the foremost a teacher. She won the Golden Apple award for her work with blind and deaf children. Anyone who ever heard her speak will never forget her velvet voice and ability to reach the very soul of those who would hear.

Peaceful crossing Billye… Thank you for all you gave us.

Suzanne Deakins, Ph.D., H.W.M.
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6 thoughts on “Billye Talmadge (1929 – 2018)”

  1. Thank you Billye

    Thank you Suzanne for all you’ve done to help Billye get safely to her her destination.

  2. Pleasant voyage my old friend…
    You were a character.
    You helped me a lot.
    I loved ya’….
    Jerry Mayor

  3. I worked very closely with Billye over the expanse of several decades. In fact, we became so close, and had so much rapport – and she was so encouraging – that I sometimes wondered if we might be straying into the dangerous territory of the folie à deux (if the readership will please pardon my French, for which there is a reason, as will become clear if he or they read on (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folie_%C3%A0_deux)). Another way of putting it is that, if Thane was my spiritual father and mother, then Billye played the role of the much wiser older sister.

    Aside from Billye’s many accomplishments mentioned by Suzanne, Billye was also very active in the Civil Rights Movement – as I understand it, she was one of the original Freedom Riders. She was also a hell of a good classroom teacher – to be able to hold students’ attention over the entire weekend of a Prosperos Closed Class is a truly astounding ability. And she counseled many more kinds of people than young lesbians, including more than a few struggling heterosexual males such as myself. Readers may also be interested to know (or remember) that, during her San Francisco days, Billye was known to go tooling around that city on a Vespa, and that, for a good many years, she had as a hobby the flying/piloting of ultra-light aircraft (goggles and all on this last one, I’m pretty sure…).

    To get back to a little more French stuff for a moment, Bilye once made a long and extensive study of that language, to the degree that she refused to even try to speak it, at least with me – out of a highly commendable respect for the French (difficult stuff, speaking French, unless you’re used to it…). I always hoped to be able to take Billye around Paris someday, and to conclude our little tour with a drink together at Le Monocle (https://www.messynessychic.com/2016/09/14/inside-le-monocle-the-parisian-lesbian-nightclub-of-the-1930s/). Since she’s gone now, and so is Le Monocle, I’ll have to make do with posting this link to the considerable presence of Édith Piaf, who was just about Billye’s favorite singer, on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Edith+Piaf .

  4. One of the most profound experiences I ever had in my life took place one afternoon in the ’70s. A group of us were talking in the hallway at the 1441 4th Street Prosperos center in Santa Monica, CA. I had said that I was trying to figure out what somebody else wanted in a particular situation rather than what I wanted. Billye said something to me that clicked. Billye said to me, “You always do that.” And in my head there seemed to be a literal clicking as I went backward in time and applied this insight to incident after incident from my past.

    So, yeah, I had the Billye Talmadge experience.

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