The biography is written by Tracy Baim, who is no slacker herself when it comes to LGBT activism . Baim is the publisher and executive editor of Windy City Media Group, which produces Windy City Times, the oldest LGBT newspaper in Chicago—co-founded by Baim in 1985. She has authored, co-authored, or edited books about the LGBT press, about lesbians in the service, about Obama’s relationship to the LGBT community, and about mothers of LGBT kids. In 2014 she was inducted into the Hall of Fames for both the Chicago Headline Club and the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association. In other words, Baim, like the subject of her biography, is a lesbian force of nature.
Baim has done so many important things in her writing of this book. Here are just a few:
She has written a major lesbian activist back into a history of the LGBT civil rights movement that was at risk of looking like a gay male movement. The erasure of lesbians has now, alas, become a “thing.” Advocate writer and blogger Victoria Brownworth has written about it. Feminist scholar Dr. Bonnie Morris has a book coming out this year titled The Disappearing L. Last year Curve Magazine published a story on “Erasing Our Lesbian Dead,” and AfterEllen posted a reminder to the culture at large that lesbians are gay people, too. So, thank you Tracy Baim, for giving Gittings such a solid, cast-in-cement, gold-star biography in our LGBT Walk of Fame.
This same kind of courage is also evident in the photos of those early marches at the Pentagon and the White House. There was no rainbow flag. It was all gray flannel suits and shirtwaist dresses with sensible shoes. These picketers were dressing for the jobs they were not allowed to hold.
In many ways, the book is like a family album. Thumbing through it, some names jump out, like "Sylvia Rivera" or "Vito Russo." So that’s what they looked like… And other times the faces jump out.. Oh, look, there’s Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon and Karla Jay!
But once Gittings had a vision for an action, she was unstoppable. She located a psychiatrist willing to appear in disguise—and what a disguise! He wore a tuxedo three sizes too large and a huge, full-head, rubber mask of Richard Nixon. His appearance was grotesque, and so was the reality to which he was responding. The panel was an overwhelming success, no small influence on the removal of homosexuality the following year from the APA clinical roster of mental diseases.
Gittings is family, and her personal photo album is part of our heritage, too. Her journey, like that of a first generation immigrant, is embedded in our second-, third-, and fourth-generation lesbian DNA. Her traumas are in our bone marrow, and her victories are the legacies on which we build.
Thank you, Tracy Baim, for this meticulously researched, sparkling biography of Barbara Gittings!
Barbara Gittings: Gay Pioneer is available in both a black-and-white-photo edition and a color-photo edition!