Obituaries

John Fryer

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7390.662 (Published 22 March 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:662

The “masked, gay, anonymous psychiatrist” who helped to get homosexuality declassified as a mental illness

John Fryer was a huge man in size and reputation. In a speech described by gay activists as a “watershed moment” in the history of gay liberation, Fryer addressed the 1972 convention of the American Psychiatric Association in Dallas, Texas, wearing an enormous wig, a rubber head mask, and an oversized tuxedo, and using a voice distorting microphone. He stunned the standing room only audience of his colleagues, saying: “I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist.”

At the time of Fryer's speech, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual listed homosexuality as a mental illness; electric-shock aversion therapy was still prescribed for gay men and lesbians, and if their sexuality was discovered it often meant job loss.

Fryer, introduced as “Dr H Anonymous,” delivered his own form of shock therapy to the psychiatric world when he told the audience that gay psychiatrists were forced to deal with “nigger syndromes”—facing bigotry similar to black people. He said he could not reveal who he was for fear of …

View Full Text

Sign in

Log in through your institution

Free trial

Register for a free trial to thebmj.com to receive unlimited access to all content on thebmj.com for 14 days.
Sign up for a free trial

Subscribe