Monday, February 19, 2007

In Memory of Barbara Gittings

It is with sadness that Lambda Literary Foundation announces the passing of an outstanding pioneer of lesbian and gay literature who made multiple historical contributions to our culture.

Barbara Gittings, 1932-2007

Gay rights pioneer Barbara Gittings has died at the age of 75 from a lengthy and brave battle with breast cancer, Philadelphia Gay News publisher and friend Mark Segal announced today.

"She will live forever in our hearts and our memory. In the history of LGBT people, she will stand forever among our giants," observed Katherine V. Forrest, president of the Lambda Literary Foundation.

Gittings first came to the public spotlight in 1965 when she and a handful of gay men and lesbians held demonstrations outside the White House and Independence Hall seeking equal rights for homosexuals. These were the first such demonstrations in American history and began an era of gays coming out of the closet. Gitting's involvement in the gay rights movement started in the late 1950s when she helped organize the New York City chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (D.O.B.). It was there she met her life partner Kay Lahausen, who has been by her side for 46 years.

Gittings other accomplishments include head of the American Library Association's Gay Task Force. In 2003 The American Library Association presented Gittings with its highest honor, a lifetime membership. She was an active cornerstone in the campaign that led to the American Psychiatric Association dropping its categorization of homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973. In 2005, she was recognized by the Publishing Triangle with its Leadership Award.

Gittings was an early community journalist. She edited the D.O.B. publication The Ladder from 1963-66 and worked with Lahausen on her 1973 book The Gay Crusaders.

Gittings continued to make appearances, even accepting an award from the American Psychiatric Association this past fall, but ill health finally led her and Lahausen to an Assisted Living Facility in Kennet Square, PA, where she went into a coma Sunday morning, February 18th and passed away with Kay at her side at 7:25 p.m. later that evening.

Gittings and Lahausen lived their latter years in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. Along with Lahausen, Gittings is survived by her sister Eleanor Gittings Taylor of San Diego, California.

Lahausen asks that donations be made in Barbara's memory to Lambda Legal Defense Fund. A memorial is currently being planned.

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