6. Dr. H[omosexual] Anonymous, Gay Liberation Activism, and the American Psychiatric Association, 1963–1973
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

181 6 Dr. H[omosexual] Anonymous, Gay Liberation Activism, and the American Psychiatric Association, 1963–1973 Thomas R. Dunn I n 1975, the New York Times published a letter to the editor by Dr. Judd Marmor, then-president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Marmor excoriated an earlier letter-writer who claimed that protests and pressure tactics by gay liberation activists had forced the profession’s removal of homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1973. He wrote: [The] assertion that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of illnesses “largely under pressure from gay liberation groups” is equally unfounded. This issue was studied for more than a year, with careful review of the available scientific evidence, by a committee of psychiatrists under the auspices of the A.P.A.’s Council on Research and Development. Their considered conclusion that homosexuality does not necessarily constitute a mental illness was evaluated and approved by the council and the A.P.A. Assembly of District Branches and only then by the A.P.A. board of trustees.1 The decision in question—to remove homosexuality as a classified mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)—was one of the most important and transformative steps toward greater equality for homosexuals since the movement’s inception.2 Prior to this change, homosexual men and women faced a daunting and dangerous life largely facilitated by the APA classification system. Since the early 1900s, psychiatry held that same-sex attractions were the result of mental illness, a pathological “sickness” that required intervention from the psychiatric community to be remedied. These remedies for homosexuality frequently took medieval forms, including castration, aversion therapy (shock treatment), and lobotomy in addition to traditional psychotherapy. Attempts to alter homosexuals struck fear into those SOCIAL CONTROVERSY AND PUBLIC ADDRESS IN THE 1960S AND EARLY 1970S 182 lucky enough to escape or survive such treatment and fostered a deep resentment toward psychiatry among early homophile communities. However, the taint of mental illness had damning effects well beyond the physical and psychological. Being classified as “sick” prevented homosexuals from holding government jobs, earning certifications, and serving in the armed forces.3 It justified losing employment, housing discrimination, arrest and detention, and mistreatment writ large. In this regard, the repeal of the sickness language in the DSM was a major victory. Marmor, a strong ally and advocate of homosexuals throughout his career, proposed that one day in 1973, a logical and rational set of presumably heterosexual scientists took it upon themselves—on a lark—to reassess one hundred years of data on homosexuality and change a few words in the standard scientific manual of psychiatry . In reality, the decision by psychiatrists to free homosexuals from the shackles of the “sickness question” was a grueling, contentious, and decades-long struggle inaugurated and undergirded by a growing, diverse, committed, and rambunctious membership of the gay liberation movement. This change was also not exclusively an evaluative measuring of evidence rationally undertaken according to the scientific method, but was prompted, cajoled, and emotionally invested by a social movement rhetoric that shook the psychiatric community to its very core. This chapter investigates some key rhetorical moments of that social movement from its formative days in the 1960s to its most prominent protest actions at the 1970, 1971, 1972, and 1973 APA annual conventions. These events have garnered intermittent interest in academic scholarship. Most notable of these accounts is Ronald Bayer’s highly regarded Homosexuality and American Psychiatry, which first appeared in 1981.4 Rhetorical scholars, in particular James Darsey, Robert Alan Brookey, and Lynn Clarke, have also addressed historical conflicts between psychiatry and homosexuality.5 In addition, fragmentary stories concerning the movement have been mentioned in other texts and made a few notable appearances in the popular press.6 But, as subjugated knowledges and queer memories, many of these stories have not been widely discussed by scholars.7 To that end, this chapter endeavors to shed greater light on those protests, which The Advocate magazine labeled “one of the most influential events in gay history.”8 Bayer’s authoritative text continues to be the best source for recounting the events of this period. This chapter supplements Bayer’s ideas and contributes several new insights into the movement and the APA protests. First and foremost, as the rhetorical history of a social movement, this chapter devotes special attention to the oratory, discourse, and protest actions of the participants. Second, significant new resources have surfaced since the...


pdf