Philadelphia's Newest Monument Honors LGBT Pioneer Barbara Gittings

barbara-gittings-and-annise-parker
From left: Barbara Gittings and Annise Parker

Out former Houston Mayor Annise Parker took a break from Democratic National Convention activities in Philadelphia Tuesday to help unveil a historical marker dedicated to LGBT rights warrior Barbara Gittings (1932-2007).

Gittings is credited with influencing the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders.

In 1972, Gittings and her organizing partner, Frank Kameny, sat before the APA annual meeting with gay psychiatrist John Fryer, who appeared in disguise to convince psychiatrists that pathologizing homosexuality caused grave harm. "I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist," he told the audience, continuing to explain the pain of being a closeted gay doctor.

In 1973, homosexuality was removed from the DSM thanks in part to Gittings's efforts. 

While this may be among Gittings's most significant accomplishments, she was always a leader and a pioneer. In the 1960s she edited The Ladder, the first widely circulated lesbian journal, according to the marker unveiled today in front of the house where she lived with her partner, Kay Lahusen. And in 1965 she participated in the first gay rights march in front of the White House.

On Twitter, Parker wrote that she was "honored" to participate in the unveiling of the historical marker. "I stand on her shoulders," wrote Parker, who fought her own battles in passing the LGBT-inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and trying to prevent its repeal.

Gittings was the type of person who didn't take no for an answer. She spearheaded a successful initiative to include LGBT books in the nation's libraries, drawing attention to her cause by setting up a gay kissing booth at the American Library Association's annual meeting.

When asked how she would like to be remembered in an interview with Philadelphia's City Paper in 1999, she said, "'Gay and smiling' would be part of it."

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