Barbara Gittings' Grave
Barbara Gittings' final resting place is located within the Historic Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Her grave marks more than where she lies. Her life as an activist, and now her death, represents great accomplishments in the GLBTQ American civil rights movement. Barbara Gittings contributed much to the field of psychology and views of sexuality. This was only a part of the civil rights movement attributed to her work. Her contributions were not limited to Psychology but also politics. Bringing awareness to gay employment and equality, her activism lives today.
Backstory and Context
Barbara Gittings was the daughter of a U.S. diplomat. She was born in Vienna, Austria on January 31st, 1932. She moved to Delaware after the start of WWll. Barbara, while attending high school, was a good student however, was denied entry into the National Honors Society due to character profiling by a teacher. This profiling labeled her as homosexual. Over time, her self-examination led her to sessions with a psychologist who made claims that homosexuality could be “fixed.” This experience inspired Barbara to frequent the library, read, and research. She left home in Delaware at the age of 18 and moved to Philadelphia. Driven to remove inaccurate labeling and claims made by the medical establishments and empower the civil rights of gays, Barbara Gittings walked a life of activism in American civil rights.
In 1958 at the age of 26, Barbara Gittings founded the New York chapter of The Daughters of Bilitis. Along with this accomplishment for which she is known, she edited lesbian magazine The Ladder from 1963 to 1966. It was in 1972 that she fought to change the psychological diagnosis of homosexuality away from illness which often was termed Sexual Inversion. This thinking connected crime, defect, and mental illness with homosexuality. Gittings found that there were no psychologists who were gay involved in the decision-making processes. The awareness that she brought to this problem also brought an increase in APA support to the views presented in this activism. In 1973 the diagnosis given to homosexuality by the psychological community was removed. It was no longer considered an illness. This was a great victory for the GLBTQ community in America, and around the world.
Barbara Gittings died of breast cancer on February 18th, 2007.At the memorial service for her, Matt Foreman, the director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said, "What do we owe Barbara? Everything."
Barbara Gittings is recognized for her political contribution toward equal employment for gays and she marched in protest at the White House and the Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Her walk through history, a protest of injustices, was one of great strides in the LGBTQ civil rights movement in America.
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