Richard Isay

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 21 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5609
  1. Bob Roehr, freelance journalist, Boston, USA
  1. BobRoehr{at}

Cured psychoanalysis of its homophobia

Gordon Harrell

Richard Isay first had to overcome his own ignorance of homosexuality and embrace the fact that he was gay before forcing the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) to do the same. And neither was easy. The Oedipus complex was the dominant paradigm of psychoanalytic theory when he had trained. Homosexuality was seen as a form of so called “arrested development”; an immature and inferior status. This theory propped up much of the then commonplace legal and social discrimination against homosexual people. Isay bought into the construct and underwent a decade of analysis both as part of his training and to “cure” himself of homosexuality. He married Jane Franzblau and had two sons.

Diagnostic bible

The 1969 riots in Manhattan, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, one of few establishments to welcome openly homosexual people, catalysed the emergence of the modern gay rights movement. An early target for activists was classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the diagnostic bible of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Several years of mounting pressure from within …

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