Sunday, December 12, 2010

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is a gay pioneer who was out and proud before Stonewall. Forthright, out, and outspoken, organized, hardworking and a strategist she participated in the first organized annual gay civil rights demonstrations, helped convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, and crusaded for more gay resources and materials in libraries across the United State. Today's Out Spotlight is Barbara Gittings.

Barbara Gittings was born on July 31, 1932 in Vienna, Austria, where her father held a post with the American diplomatic service. The family returned to the US when she was young eventually settling in Wilmington, Delaware. As a teenager, her father caught her reading “The Well of Loneliness,” the 1928 novel of lesbian love by English writer Radclyffe Hall. He told her to burn the book, not in person but by letter, because he couldn't bring himself to speak to her.

After graduating from high school in 1949, she enrolled at Northwestern University,in Chicago, as a theater major. She had been excluded from the National Honor Society in high school because an advisor thought she had "lesbian tendencies" and found herself during her freshman year she consulting a Chicago psychiatrist who confirmed her inklings that she was homosexual--and offered to "cure" her.

Instead of going into psychotherapy, she hit the library, the college, medical school and law school as well looking for any information on homosexuality. She quickly discovered that resources were few, and often to be found "under such headings as 'abnormal,' 'perverted,' or 'deviate.' In addition she found out that what information there was, was almost exclusively concerning gay men and was struck by the fact that there were no references to love.

Where she found mentions of love where in pulp novels. There were "fairly realistic, flesh-and-blood characters" that she could identify herself in contrast to the image of homosexuality she had found in scientific literature.

From then on Gittings was on a mission to find out everything she could find about homosexuality.She stopped going to classes, which found her failing out of the semester. She returned to home to her family but quickly set out on her own and moved to Philadelphia.

In her quest for resources, she discovered The Homosexual in America (1951), written by Edward Sagarin under the name Donald Webster Cory. She called his publisher, and arranged a meeting with him. Through Sagarin, she learned about organizations in the fledgling homophile movement, including the Mattachine Society and their publication ONE. In 1956 on a visit ONE's office, in California, she heard about the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) and attended her first meeting, where she met the society's founders, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin.

Two years later, in 1958, Lyon and Martin asked her to form the first New York chapter of DOB. She traveled from Philadelphia to New York to head up the chapter.
In the 1950's gay activism was in its infancy. Describing those years, she said, "There were scarcely 200 of us in the whole United States. It was like a club---we all knew each other." It was at a DOB picnic in 1961 that she met Kay Lahusen, herself an activist. The two fell in love and soon became partners, together for 46 years.

[We met in] 1961 at a picnic in Rhode Island. We hit it off, we started courting. I flew to Boston [to see her] and got off the plane with a big bunch of flowers in my hand. I couldn’t resist. I didn’t care what the world thought. I dropped the flowers, grabbed her and kissed her. That was not being done in 1961.

In 1963 she became the second editor of DOB's magazine, The Ladder, a position that she held for more than three years. Under Gittings, The Ladder became a more militant journal that challenged some of the DOB's post. Under her The Laddder questioned medical authorities and the idea that homosexuals were sick and needed to be cured.

She also rejected the DOB's stance against direct political action. She had met Washington, D. C. activist Frank Kameny, who held the same ideal of speaking out.
In 1965 they marched in the first gay picket lines at the White House and other Federal sites in Washington, DC to protest discrimination by the Federal government. She also joined the first annual demonstrations for gay and lesbian civil rights that were held each July 4 from 1965 to 1969 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The yearly protests laid the groundwork for the Stonewall rebellion in 1969 and the first New York gay pride parade in 1970.

The tactic of picketing was somewhat controversial at the time within the group and contention led to Gittings's decision to leave DOB.

Kameny was campaigning to have homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association's list of mental disorders and invited Gittings to join the effort, she eagerly accepted.

In 1971 they had an exhibit at the APA's annual convention, which led to them being invited to participate in a panel discussion the following year entitled "Psychiatry, Friend or Foe to Homosexuals? A Dialogue."

When her partner Kay pointed out that the psychiatrists on the panel were heterosexual, she found a gay psychiatrist who agreed to take part on the provision that he could do so anonymously. He participated in the discussing wearing a disguise and using a microphone to alter his voice--itself a dramatic statement about homophobia with in the profession and in society at large. At the panel Gittings read anonymous written statements from other gay psychiatrists as well.

Following the pa meeting,the APA Board of Trustees removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973, which was supported by the whole association. Interviewed by Philadelphia newspapers on the occasion, she quipped "a wonderful headline"--"20 Million Homosexuals Gain Instant Cure."

She never lost sight of the frustration of days in her youth when she combed through libraries and bookstores looking for explanation and validation of her orientation. and crusaded to make gay literature available in libraries for everyone. Learning that some gay members of the American Library Association were organizing an interest group, the Task Force on Gay Liberation, (later renamed the Gay Task Force in 1975)at their annual meeting. She attended the meeting which was open to non professionals as well, and found herself becoming a leading participant in the Task Force on Gay Liberation's first project, compiling "a short, manageable list of the most positive materials" on gay topics.

She edited its Gay Bibliography and wrote a history of the group, Gays in Library Land. What started out with thirty-seven titles, the Gay Bibliography soon grew and grew and becoming a valuable resource for libraries and schools. The group soon received requests for lists dealing with specialized topics and subtopics within the collection.

Task Force panels were initiated in 1975, have become a fixture at ALA conventions.
Gittings pushed to have the annual Gay Book Award made an official award of the ALA. As she stepped down as coordinator of Gay Task Force in 1986, she was able to announce that the proposal had been adopted. Her campaign to promote gay materials and eliminate discrimination in libraries was recognized in 2003 by an honorary lifetime membership conferred by the American Library Association. The Free Library of Philadelphia honored her in 2001 with the creation of the Barbara Gittings Gay/Lesbian Collection.

In 1998 she appeared as herself in the documentary film Out of the Past, which presented the lives of a number of American gay men and lesbians including those early pioneers, Sarah Orne Jewett (voiced by Gwyneth Paltrow) and her partner Annie Adams Fields (Cherry Jones), Bayard Rustin (Leland Gantt), and a lesser known figure, Henry Gerber (Edward Norton), a postal clerk who founded one of the country's first gay rights organizations.

In 2001 GLAAD created the the Barbara Gittings Award for activism, of which Gittings was the first recipient.

In 2005, she and Kay attended the unveiling of a state historic marker across from Independence Hall, that marked the history of those demonstrations they participated in 40 years earlier to bring about change in the GLBT community.

Gittings and Kameny were both honored in October 2006 with the first Fyrer Award from the APA for their leadership in the relation between psychiatry and homosexuality.

Together with Lahusen, she was active in GLBT organizations until the very end of her life. The couple planned to donate their extensive collection of books, documents, and photographs to libraries and archives. Lahusen was the documentarian of the collection. Their collection was spread to many libraries and archives and have become a treasure trove to scholars and others as well as a tribute to their lifelong commitment to activism for gay rights.

Following a battle with breast cancer, Barbara Gittings died on February 18, 2007. She was survived by her loving partner Kay Lahusen.

“She was one of the rare people in the homophile movement — before Stonewall — who took a militant stance. And she not only took a militant stance, but she was in the forefront.” David Carter, author of “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution.

“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.” — Barbara Gittings

22 comments:

prairiegirl said...

You're right, Special, I know Stubborn has discovered and is also an excellent tap for memory files. And I recall you saying before in posts that London has also discovered things.

Sorry about the incompletion! oh-oh. Firefox is squiggly-underlining incompletion. Oops, there it is again, lol. Incompletion is a valid word, is it not? incomplete. That's a word. Why is it squiggly-underlining that? That's kind of irritating.

Anyway, this is why OMG and Waiting for Toothy2 are such small but mighty powerhouses.

prairiegirl said...

The red & green mitten lights are going up atop of the kitchen cabinets in between blogging, sips of Diet Barq's with vanilla syrup added in, comment responding in LJ, decorating touch-ups, and room cleaning up.

The big aid? These neat plastic deck clips that I got at Westlake Hardware! They're to use to attach strings of lights to your backyard deck, but I'm using them in my kitchen. LOL.

I didn't think they were going to work so yesterday I had also spent $4.47 at Lowe's for some similar clips, but they're different shaped for gutters & roofs. Totally useless. And that's a box of 100. But it was all they had left. The box lid was even kind of crumpled so there might not even be a real total of 100 in there. **sigh**. I was desperate, though!

Lowe's was a joke - wiped out of everything already. One strand of 100 red lights and a strand of either blue or green. And some icicle lights. Big note made to hit Lowe's way earlier in the season next year.

These deck clips are making it so, so easy!! I don't know about where you all live, but house & apartment decorating is huge here. Some houses have so many of those blow-up things in their yards, that they're spectacles. Some houses look like Clark Griswold houses with all the lights they have on.

No doubt that KCP&L loves us during the holiday season. lol

Jersey Tom said...

I met Barbara several times. She was a very nice lady and was always visible and involved in the Gay Community of Philadelphia.

Thanks for the Spotlight SK.

OwlGirl said...

Really enjoy the Out Spotlight!

Anyone know if Betty Thomas (Hill st Blues, a director) is Out and an activist?

She was my Aunt's GF for years. My Aunt passed away several years ago. Always wondered if Betty came out. They didn't need to actively hide relationships back then.

Also wondering about Paul Reubens. Is he Out? My cousin dated him for years (pre arrest).

I have a lot of family members who dated closeted celebs, huh? But no one in my fam is famous. Just good-looking!

OwlGirl said...

PG thanks for your earlier comment. I appreciate it.
The quotes in the Daily Mail piece all looked new. I have seen Jake say variations of those things before (he repeats himself in interviews a lot, including the PR lines, like the "every man must find the right woman thing." ) but i googled a few of the quotes and didnt see them come up in anything old. I do think that "I don't have children" line is new. I agree with the poster who maintains that Jake is perhaps quite desperate. As much as I do trust Ted over other gossips who are clearly on PR payroll (Lainey) I think my jury is still out on Baby Tile.
I have wondered about the constant Dr visits, though, and Jake's health. I like the Baby explanation more than some chronic health issue.

the real m said...

Special, you always amaze me how you find such interesting spotlights.

Owl girl, Ted has been asked several times about Baby Tile and has said a baby exists in no uncertain terms. One of the few times he did not beat around the bush and actually said a plain old "yes" a human baby exists.

After someone mentioned the x on the mouth of the cap I cant help but notice the mouth is shut off, ear muffs close the hearing and sunglasses block the eyes. See no bearding, hear no bearding, speak no bearding. I think he is trying to block it all out.

Special K said...

Austin looks like his having a witty moment on twitter with Steve Martin.

@SteveMartinToGo although whoever wrote the Shopgirl novella is a hack. about 5 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

@SteveMartinToGo I can't wait to see what the future holds for you. Great career ahead.
about 6 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® in reply to SteveMartinToGo

@SteveMartinToGo you have been my hero ever since your first movie, Shopgirl, hit theatres.
about 6 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® in reply to SteveMartinToGo

ROMA said...

Special, love the spotlight today~great research as usual. I got to conduct research on Gittings for a documentary once, fascinating activist, really brave. Thank you!

destiny said...

As far as I know, Betty Thomas is not out Owlgirl. I had forgotten about her.

I think the children quote is new, or is at least no older than POP promotion.

His saying something like that only makes me think BT is more likely to exist.

Saw a story in the paper this week about a couple. In PA I thin who hid four kids, never even took them to a doctor or even got birth certificates, and never registered them as being home schooled.

So you can hide a kid.

And by the way, they were arrested on charges of child endangernment.

Special K said...


Saw a story in the paper this week about a couple. In PA I thin who hid four kids, never even took them to a doctor or even got birth certificates, and never registered them as being home schooled.

So you can hide a kid.


But the difference is that J & A have gone through agencies and legal steps to have their children. They have been born in hospitals and even Ted has spoken about birth certificates.

Just because you have not seen them, you can not make the assumption that they are denying their children medical care or school or socialization in their private life. All of those things can done away from public right now.

Jersey Tom said...

But not for much longer SK. Not much longer. Do you see anything but denial in sight.

destiny said...

I agree the couple in PA was an extreme example. My main point was about the hiding, not the criminal charges.

However, I still think it is wrong to hide a child while running around talking about having no children, or playing stepdad to your beard's childresn, or running around all over the place with your niece, while basically keeping your own under lock and key.

the real m said...

Any Dexter fans here? I watched the east coast feed of the season finale. Some things I liked, some things I didnt. I dont want to spoil it for anyone. I checked ONTD and there were already over 1000 comments. I dont have the patience to read that many.

prairiegirl said...

Incredible story on Barbara Gittings, a true pioneer. Wow.

What strength in a human being! Thank goodness for people like this.

I'm just so impressed.

Thanks, Special.


Well, I wimped out. Just couldn't do it. Couldn't walk with it being 8 degrees, feels like 4. Shame, shame, shame!!!

prairiegirl said...

I've heard of this Dexter show, m, but I don't watch it. Is it pretty good? Has it been on hiatus or something?

Quote Me said...

^ LOL!!

Jersey Tom said...

Is anyone around these parts thinking EAGLES vs. PATS in the big game. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Music Lover said...

Another great Out Spotlight - activists like Barbara Giddings and Dr. John Fryer "Dr. H. Anonymous" were involved in one of the greatest advancements in human rights that I can think of. It's frightening to think that gay men and women in the medical professions and psychiatry in particular had to live with this at the time, and thank goodness for people like Dr. Fryer and Ms. Gittings. Fascinating.

Music Lover said...

Oops, sorry for the typo - that should read "Barbara Gittings" in my first line, and I should have listed Frank Kameny too. Amazing and brave people.

Ted said...

Dear Ted:
Concerning Jalyor, the whole thing seems contrived. I personally think chemistry jumps through a picture—Brangelina anyone—and no matter how far they stand apart, their attraction will come through. Even with Gyllenspoon—remember when they started hanging out, well you could see that they liked each other and were friends? Sorry I didn't see any sexual heat, but at least, there was honest likeness. None of that with Jaylor: everything seems contrived. No chemistry, not even friendly. Why is that Ted? Are we wrong in assuming that this is a showmance? Jake should be jailed for trying to pull this one, although he is less than a decade older than Taylor, she seems to be at least decades younger. Odd. What say you Ted?
—Rita

Dear Picture Imperfect:
There is so much wrong with what you wrote, R, that all I'll say is this: Jake and Tay are definitely friendly. The twosome may not be getting as hot as that coffee they love so much—yet, at least—but there's chemistry. Probably more than there ever was with Gyllenspoon, which, of course, isn't saying much at all.

Dear Ted:
First off I have to say I love you! Next I have a question about Toothy. Since you said recently he hasn't really brought in the big bucks at the box office, do you think for a future movie instead of hooking him up with another beard his PR will encourage him to publicly come out? He might lose some fans but I think in the end he'll actually gain more than he'll lose.
—Karoll

Dear Crystal Blue Balls:
T2 is doing just fine at the box office, check your facts, K. Some of his flicks may be panned but they still make a decent amount of dough. But Tooth's team would never ask him to come out, that would be PR all right but it would also end his career.


Dear Ted:
I've got some questions about this whole beard business. How does one become a beard? For instance, is there a resume you must submit, stating your qualifications for the job? Are there interviews with your prospective bearding subject? Who picks the beard—the agent, the actor/actress themselves or someone else? I can imagine the conversation: "Hey, so and so is gay and needs someone to be a beard for a year...you in?" Fascinating way to spend your time, fer sure!
—PattyPoo

Dear No Shave Hoe-vember:
It's the Team—agents, publicists, you get the idea—that set the twosomes up. Occasionally they'll get some input from the beardee—but, mostly, they just trust their media masterminds and hope for the best. And while it's a fascinating way to spend time, sure, remember that both halves usually benefit in a beardship.

Bitch Back

OwlGirl said...

But Tooth's team would never ask him to come out, that would be PR all right but it would also end his career.

Last part of this sentence totally contradicts Ted's previous numerous statements implying he thinks that Toothy might do just fine if he came out. He's referenced NPH's career several times.

?

the real m said...

Owl Girl that statement from Ted is confusing I agree. One thing to consider though is that as more time passes and Toothy's bearding, hiding a child continues, his coming out reveals a trail of lies as well as being gay. Is there a point at which he wont be forgiven for being deceptive.