On Monday afternoon, a large crowd gathered on the shady side of 13th and Locust streets to kick off LGBT History Month with the revealing of Barbara Gittings Way, a street sign honoring the legacy of the LGBT-rights activist who died in 2007 at age 74. Considered the mother of the LGBT civil-rights movement, Gittings started the New York chapter of the country’s first national organization for lesbians, the Daughters of Bilitis. Gittings, a Philadelphia resident, was also instrumental in promoting positive homosexual literature in America’s libraries, and was part of the movement in the early 1970s that lobbied the American Psychiatric Association to drop homosexuality as a mental illness.
Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the nonprofit Equality Forum, led the dedication ceremony and said Gittings was “a forced to be reckoned with.” He added that she was “in the upper most stratosphere” of those who took part in the civil-rights movement. The dedication of Barbara Gittings Way is important, Lazin said, to “remind us of our history in the stretch for full equality.”
While standing on a makeshift stage in the heart of the Gayborhood, Councilman Mark Squilla said it was “a proud day for Philadelphia” as it celebrated the history and achievements of LGBT rights in the city.
One by one, activists took to the stage to recite various Gittings quotes. When it comes to homophobia, she once said, “We are right, the world is wrong.”