In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association deemed homosexuality as an illness, with known cures to being everything from electric shock therapy, being locked in a mental institution and even a lobotomy. That thought process is long and gone, and there have been many people along the way who have changed that mindset drastically so that LGBT people don't have an illness at all, we are simply born this way.
One of those people was the late Dr. John Ercel Fryer, a gay Philadelphia psychologist who is being honored with his commitment to declassify homosexuality as an illness today at 1:00 PM in the heart of the Philly gayborhood.
Per Philly.com, Fryer caused an uproar in 1972 when he appeared before the American Psychiatric Association meeting in Dallas. Wearing a tux and a tie, as well as a mask and curly wig to disguise his identity, Fryer announced his homosexuality to his colleagues, making an impassioned plea that it shouldn’t be classified as an illness.
“He literally saved countless lives and allowed gays to come out,” Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Equality Forum, a Philadelphia-based gay rights group, said.
“I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist,” he told the group, identifying himself as Dr. H. Anonymous.
Using a voice distorter, Fryer said he had to remain anonymous because being gay might cause him to lose his license to practice. At the time, he was an untenured professor at Temple University. Fryer had already been booted from his psychiatric residency at the University of Pennsylvania when his homosexuality was discovered.
A year later, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declassified “homosexuality” as an illness, prompting Philadelphia’s Evening Bulletin newspaper, now defunct, to proclaim in a headline that 10 million Americans had been “cured.”
What would Dr. John think about the honor today? According to one of his oldest friends, Harry Adamson, he would do his best to keep it low-key. “Although he wouldn’t want to make too much of it,” Adamson said, “I think he’d be rather pleased.”
Thank you Dr. John for what you did!