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.
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 can 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 “The
Ladder” between the years of 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 that 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. Though this
change still required adjustments, the contribution made by Barbara Gittings
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. At the memorial service
for her, “Matt Foremen, the director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
said, “What do we owe Barbara? Everything.” (delawarestonewall.org)
Barbara Gittings died of breast cancer on February 18th
2007. Her walk through history, a protest of injustices, was one of great
strides in the LGBTQ civil rights movement in America. Visit the links in this
Clio for more details on the life and accomplishments of Barbara Brooks
Gittings. Visit her grave in person or take a virtual walk with photos of her
grave and the Congressional Cemetery with the provided links on Clio.