The Story

STORYLINE: In the wake of the Stonewall Rebellion, long-time gay civil rights activist Barbara Gittings must ride the tidal wave of the counter-culture as it crashes against the establishment, and she leads the attack against the APA (American Psychiatric Association) to depathologize homosexuals and destroy the diagnosis that makes them SICK!. The lives of doctors, activists and ordinary people collide as Barbara mobilizes them to confront the devastating and sometimes deadly consequences of simply being a homosexual in 1969.

THEME: The true story of how the power of one woman with gumption can change the course of history.

TONE: Based on actual events, SICK! is a story of hope, humor and optimism, in the face of pain, struggle and sacrifice in the uphill battle to reform mental health treatment. Barbara’s fight to erase the stigma of sickness from homosexuality unfolds over the course of a swift three-year span.


July 4th, 1969. Homosexuality is illegal and discrimination against homosexuals is just the way it is. No one questions the simple truth that homosexuality is aberrant behavior. Being queer is grounds for termination. Fags and dykes can freely be turned down for apartments. Sissies cannot be teachers, and nobody blinks when “funny” people are harassed and arrested. SICK! opens when Barbara Gittings’ Annual Reminder picket in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall is overtaken by the riotous Gay Liberation Front from the recent Stonewall Rebellion.

Realizing the movement is evolving around her, Barbara mounts the cyclone of diffuse energy and gives it focus — manifesting her long-term goal of changing the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) removing the stigma of sickness. Barbara and her life partner, Kay, move to New York City, and join the GLF, where they must endure and overcome sexism and ageism, not only from the psychiatric establishment, but also from her fellow gay activists.

1970. The American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Convention in San Francisco. In attendance are all of the players who bring the issue to the forefront. Ideas clash and chaos erupts when Barbara leads protestors to disrupt the “15 Years and Counting” seminar recognizing the work of doctors Irving Bieber and Charles Socarides in “curing” homosexuals. There Barbara finds like-minded comrades within the APA who agree with her that when it comes to homosexuality, there is nothing to cure. Barbara exploits the moment and deploys the GLF, targeting the APA and attacking the idea that homosexuality is an illness.

1972. The daily struggles of homosexuals’ lives play out against the backdrop of a series of dramatic protests and maneuvers, including a speech from Dr. Anonymous, a masked gay psychiatrist, all orchestrated by Barbara. Lives and livelihoods are destroyed, relationships are tested. People die.

December 15, 1973 After a thrilling debate between the activists and the conservative APA, the Association votes to remove homosexuality from the DSM II, thus paving the way for all the progress the LGBTQ community experienced over the next forty years.

December 2006. Barbara Gittings receives the First Annual John E. Fryer Award from the American Psychiatric Association for her significant impact on the mental health of gays and lesbians. Her legacy continues to impact lives today.


Cinematographer / Consultant
Oktay Ortabasi and The Dreaming Tree LLC

Christian Dean, Zach Riddle

Hair and Makeup
Amira Aranda, Blush Studio
Edgar Martinez, Eddie's Barber Shop

Ivan Sharudo, Don Hannah

Michael Mullen, My Baby Jo, Joseph Ramos, Cloris Brown, Jeffrey Moline, Terry Franklin, John Meeks, Iguana Vintage Clothing, The Costume House, special thanks to Jen Steele

Sue LaVaccare (Barbara Gittings)
Catherine dePrume (Kay Tobin Lahusen)
Dan Wentzel (Dr. John Fryer, aka Dr. Henry Anonymous)
Rob Watzke (Dr. Irving Bieber)
Derek Ferguson (Steve Bertucci)
Gil Correa (Captain John Barrowman)
Eric Sherrod (Sam)
Laura Sanzo (Cocktail Waitress)
Hayleigh Franklin (Linda Sanchez)
William Rosenberg (Ronald Gold)
Jason Wong (Cabana Server)

Sue LaVaccare
Barney Frank, U.S. Cong. (Ret.)
Debra Zane, Debra Zane Casting

Jeffrey Harris

Cloris Brown