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“CURED” Documentary: What It’s Like to Participate in a Chronicle of Psychiatry’s Past

     

At the 1972 APA Annual Meeting, in Dallas, Texas, a psychiatrist identified only as “Dr. H. Anonymous,” who had been stigmatized and lost his job because of his sexual orientation, offered a masked protest during a session devoted to psychiatry’s relationship with homosexuality. Joined on the panel (chaired by Judd Marmor, M.D.) by the organizer/activists Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny, the psychiatrist was later revealed to be Dr. John Fryer. This event that was a watershed moment both for psychiatry and the LGBTQ community, and eventually led to the removal of homosexuality from the DSM in 1973.

On Oct. 11, "CURED," a documentary chronicling the fight by LGBTQ+ activists and psychiatrists like Dr. Fryer to de-list homosexuality as a mental disorder, will premiere on PBS stations around the country. (See more information here.) I was honored to play some small part in the making of this film. The APA Foundation served as presenting sponsor for the film’s Outreach and Engagement Campaign.

It is hard to overstate the importance of this historic fight to the LGBTQ community. We know today, as many knew then, that there is simply no scientific evidence to support that claim. After homosexuality was removed from the DSM, opponents of LGBTQ rights could no longer credibly refer to homosexuality as a disease. It remains a milestone for LGBTQ rights whose effect was felt not just in this country, but throughout the world.

It was a tremendously moving experience to participate in this project, especially as we explored the vast APA archives, finding contemporary chronicles and photographs of the events around the 1972 Annual Meeting and subsequent update to the DSM, and even some previously lost film footage from the time. I’m pleased to say that some of this footage made it into the film.

Thanks are due to then Interim-Executive Director Amy Porfiri and Librarian & Archivist Deena Gorland from the APA Foundation, who were indispensable as we worked with the filmmakers to unearth this priceless historical record. 

For my part, as the first openly gay CEO and Medical Director of the APA, I know that I walk in the footsteps of activist giants like Dr. Fryer, as well as Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny, both titans of LGBTQ activism who played crucial roles in seeing the fight to de-list homosexuality to its conclusion. I am grateful for all they did to achieve freedom and equality for the LGBTQ community.

The fact that I am in this position of leadership shows how far we have come as an organization since the 1970s. However, there is still much work to be done as stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ people still persists at home and abroad.

As we continue as country and as an association to seek justice and equity, I try to honor their legacy in my words and deeds and the work that we do at the APA, and I proudly echo the words that Dr. Fryer spoke at his 1972 protest: “I am a psychiatrist, and I am a homosexual.”

The national PBS broadcast of CURED is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT (check local listings) on Oct. 11. The film will be available to stream for 30 days after the broadcast on PBS.org or the PBS app. Learn more about the documentary here. To participate in the discussion on Twitter during the broadcast, use #CUREDFilmPBS.

Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., F-RCPE, FRCPsych
CEO & Medical Director, American Psychiatric Association
Chair, American Psychiatric Association Foundation

     

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