Sunday, April 27, 2003

More History II - Barbara Gittings


A gay activist long before people were even calling themselves gay, Barbara Gittings has been fighting the good fight for almost 50 years. She flunked out of her freshman year at Northwestern because she was spending most of her time in the library trying to find something that would help her understand what it meant to be a lesbian. Her mission ever since has been to tear away "the shroud of invisibility" that allowed homosexuality to be defined in terms of crime and disease. Editor of the pioneering lesbian journal The Ladder in the mid-'60s, she was one of the first-ever gay demonstrators, a member of the group that picketed in front of Independence Hall every July 4 from 1965-69. A founding member of two national gay rights organizations, she also served for 15 years as head of the American Library Association's Gay Task Force, drawing attention to gay literature through such unconventional tactics as setting up a gay kissing booth at a Dallas ALA convention in 1971. After many years in Philadelphia, Gittings, 66, now lives in her native Wilmington, DE, with writer Kay Tobin Lahusen, her partner of 37 years. On April 27 during PrideFest, she will be honored at a reception benefiting the Free Library's gay and lesbian literature collection.