A hero of the gay rights movement, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Richard A. Isay, died Thursday following a battle with cancer at age 77.
More after the jump.
According to Dr. Jack Drescher, a training and supervising analyst at the William Alanson White Institute in New York and the author of Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man, Dr. Isay "changed the way the psychoanalytic world viewed the subject of homosexuality. He was a pioneer, a very brave man. He was attacked by psychoanalysts. He took a lot of flak.”
Dr. Isay, as a psychoanalyst, worked with gay patients and helped them to accept themselves in an era when homosexuality was still considered an illness.
While the American Psychiatric Association stopped classifying homosexuality as a disease in 1973, the American Psychoanalytic Association continued to regard it as an illness.
Dr. Isay spent 15 years working to change the organization's position.
According to The New York Times, "In 1992, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, he threatened a lawsuit to force the association to promise not to discriminate against gay people. The group relented, issuing position statements that it would not discriminate in training, hiring or promoting analysts. It also formed committees to educate member institutions on its changed policies. Even so, some members still regarded homosexuality as something that therapy could change. But in 1997, the group became the first national mental health organization to support gay marriage."
Dr. Isay dealt with his own personal struggles as a closeted gay man. He would ultimately marry a woman and have two children with her. Once he acknowledged and accepted his sexual orientation at age 40, he came out to his wife.
They remained married for nine more years for the sake of their children.
Dr. Isay married his long-time partner Gordon Harrell last year. The wedding was held in Isay's son's home. Isay's grandson was his best man.
Dr. Richard A. Friedman, director of the psychopharmacology clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, says Dr. Isay "made the field see that their view was based on ideology, not evidence.”
Friedman continues, “You have to have passion to do what he did. He pushed the field to do what it should have done, and he did not stop. We’re all richer for it.”
Dr. Isay's books include the titles: Being Homosexual (1989), Becoming Gay (1997) and Commitment and Healing: Gay Men and the Need for Romantic Love (2006).