RAZZ Pride Icons: Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny

Affectionately known by many as the mother and father of the Gay Rights Movement in America, Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny worked tirelessly, both independently and together, for gay rights. Gittings, in the late 1950s, followed on from Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon (see profile) and started the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) and, in 1963, went on to take over as editor of The Ladder, their national gay women’s magazine. Kameny, however, never intended to become an activist until, in the midst of the ‘Lavender Scare,’ he was fired from the Army Map Service (the precursor to NASA) for refusing to answer questions about his sexuality. With a derailed career as a budding astronaut, Kameny appealed to the Supreme Court about his firing and, though it declined to consider his case, it became the first civil rights case based on sexual orientation filed in a U.S. court.

Together, Gittings and Kameny organised the first public demonstrations for gay and lesbian equality: the “Annual Reminders,” held in front of the Independence Hall in Philadelphia every fourth of July between 1963 and 1969. After Stonewall in 1969, they stopped these demonstrations in order to help support the first New York City Pride in 1970, to commemorate Stonewall’s anniversary.

Gittings and Kameny, along with other activists, also waged a campaign that lobbied the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 1971, they stormed their annual meeting and Kameny seized the microphone. The year after, Gittings and Kameny organised a panel on homosexuality, featuring an anonymous gay doctor (John E. Fryer M.D.) and together they made the case that homosexuality was not a disease. In 1973, Gittings and Kameny were present by invitation so that they could announce homosexuality’s official declassification; Kameny described it as the day “we were cured en masse by psychiatrists.”

Separately, Gittings successfully fought to promote gay literature and eliminate discrimination in national libraries. She became the coordinator of the Gay Task Force of the American Library Association (a position she held for 16 years) and wrote Gays in Library Land, a history of the group. In 2012, Philadelphia designated a street to Gittings in the heart of its ‘gaybourhood’: “Barbara Gittings Way.” Due to his personal understanding of how the federal government treated gays, Frank Kameny also counselled those who had been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation and worked to end the ban on gays in the military. Both Gittings and Kameny radically transformed gay politics during the course of their lives and are definitely iconic for doing so.

Read More – Barbara Gittings | LGBT 50th Anniversary https://lgbt50.org/barbara-gittings (Quote Source)

Frank Kameny: Father of the Gay Rights Movement https://medium.com/queer-history-for-the-people/frank-kameny-father-of-the-gay-rights-movement-891e0e993864 (Quote Source)

https://carolyngage.weebly.com/blog/a-new-biography-of-barbara-gittings (Featured Image Source)

Sophie Chapman

 

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