Barbara Gittings, LGBT pioneer and hero

I’ve been busy enough over the past few days that I hadn’t gotten far enough into the news to read of the death of Barbara Gittings. A friend sent me an email with the news.

You can see a great tribute page to her at http://www.rainbowhistory.org/gittings.htm. Another good piece on Barbara Gittings, “Our Rosa Parks,” can be found at: http://www.gaylinknews.com/storydetail.cfm?storyid=3036

When I came out in 1973, California still had sodomy laws on the books. Although they weren’t being enforced at the time, they still existed–and were a clear sign of our lower-than-second-class status. Sonoma State University, where I went to school, was THE place to go for an education in humanistic psychology at the time (still may be, for all I know), and the “delisting” of homosexuality as a mental “disorder” got lots of discussion there. I found out about Barbara Gittings and her contribution to this in a women’s studies course that I took.

Because it was time to do so, and armed with the recent action of the APA, the state of California enacted a “consenting adults” law during the next legislative session, revoking the sodomy statutes. I remember that the bill was pushed by Troy Perry, sponsored by Assemblyman Willie Brown, and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. There was definitely a liberating feeling when that bill became law on January 1, 1976. But the bravery and hard work of Barbara Gittings was most definitely a precipitating factor on the road to that achievement.

Although certainly not one who I would ever call a friend, I knew Barbara Gittings. I met her through another of our pioneers, a woman who I do call a friend. I also had an occasional e-mail correspondence relationship with her. I did my best to honor her.

She’s one of those people who changed the world for LGBT people. It’s sad that most in our community–and beyond–don’t know anything of her, and, most likely, never will…

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