THE PEOPLE WHO MADE HISTORY
CURED is a David-versus-Goliath story that reveals how a small group of impassioned activists took on a formidable institution and brought about a pivotal shift in the movement for LGBTQ equality and dignity. Viewers meet the key players who achieved this victory, including pioneering lesbian and gay crusaders who refused to accept psychiatry’s declaration that they were sick, along with allies and opponents within the APA.
A tenacious organizer, Barbara Gittings (1932–2007) joined the homophile movement, as it was then known, in 1958 and played a crucial role in the APA fight. She worked closely with activist Frank Kameny to confront the APA. In 1971, Gittings joined a group of seven out lesbians to discuss homosexuality on PBS’ The David Susskind Show. When Susskind points to “the body of medical evidence that suggests [homosexuality] is a mental aberration,” Gittings rebuts the assertion, arguing that “the body of knowledge which claims sickness for homosexuality has to be challenged.”
Kay Lahusen (1930–2021), Barbara Gittings’ life partner of 46 years, shared her recollections of the APA fight during two days of filming in Pennsylvania. “We could not expect our civil rights,” she reflected, “as long as we were burdened with the sickness label.” An amateur photographer, Lahusen created an extensive archival record that is invaluable in telling the story chronicled in CURED. Notably, she took photos of the 1972 panel discussion featuring “Dr. Anonymous” — John Fryer — describing his experiences as a gay psychiatrist. In her later years, she never lost her activist spirit. She even started a group for LGBTQ residents at her Pennsylvania retirement home.
Kay Lahusen passed away in May 2021 at the age of 91. We are honored that she decided to share her story on camera in CURED. Watch a short segment about Kay on the TODAY show. Read more about Kay’s remarkable life.
Dr. Frank Kameny
Before almost anyone else, Frank Kameny (1925–2011) understood that the gay rights movement had to get the DSM classification changed to achieve progress. A Harvard-trained astronomer, Kameny had been fired by the federal government in 1957 because he was homosexual; that injustice motivated him to advocate for the rights of gay men and lesbians. As head of the Mattachine Society of Washington, DC, he organized early gay rights marches, helped gay people who were targeted by the federal government, and formulated strategy for challenging the APA, consistently pointing out that the mental-illness theory of homosexuality was a belief, not a scientifically proven fact.
Dr. Charles Silverstein
Dr. Charles Silverstein (1935-2023) spent seven years in therapy, hoping to “cure” his attraction to men and thereby safeguard his job as a public school teacher. He eventually came out and became a gay liberation activist and psychologist. After participating in a “zap” at a 1972 New York meeting of psychiatrists, Silverstein was invited to make a case for changing the DSM to the APA’s Nomenclature Committee, the body that decides what’s in the manual. The following summer, he and Ron Gold were featured in a 60 Minutes segment that brought wide public attention to the “civil war” that had erupted within the APA over the question of homosexuality.
Charles Silverstein passed away in January 2023 at the age of 87. We are honored and humbled that he decided to share his story on-camera in CURED. Read more about his incredible life here.
Dr. John Fryer
John Fryer (1937–2003), a Philadelphia psychiatrist, played a pivotal role in the DSM fight during a dramatic speech at the 1972 APA convention in Dallas. Wearing an oversized tuxedo, a distorted Richard Nixon mask and using a voice-altering microphone, “Dr. H. Anonymous” stunned his colleagues by describing his tormented experiences as a closeted gay psychiatrist. The speech by Dr. Anonymous — which began with the words, “I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist” — marked a turning point in this fight because, for the first time, APA members heard a personal story from a colleague who was both gay and a practicing psychiatrist.
Rev. Magora Kennedy
In the early 1950s, when Magora Kennedy’s mother discovered that her daughter was interested in girls, she offered Magora a stark choice: Get married or be institutionalized at the mental hospital in Utica, New York. Kennedy chose to get married — at age 14. She eventually came out and got involved in the Gay Liberation movement. In 1971, she appeared on The David Susskind Show, arguing that the medical establishment “had made a mistake” with its mental-illness label and asking Susskind: “Does it make you feel good to say we are sick?” Rev. Kennedy is one of 12 LGBT elders featured in “Not Another Second,” a powerful new photography exhibition that chronicles the decades lost by lesbians and gay men as a result of societal prejudice and homophobia.
Dr. Lawrence Hartmann
In the early 70s, Lawrence Hartmann — a young, closeted gay psychiatrist — teamed up with other young reformers to push for change in the APA. Convinced that the national APA board needed to see support from local APA branches, Hartmann pushed the northern New England branch of the APA to pass a resolution in the spring of 1973 calling for a change to the DSM. The APA’s national Assembly narrowly passed the same resolution in November 1973, providing vital momentum for the DSM change. Hartmann went on to serve as the APA’s president in 1991–92.
Ron Gold (1930–2017) participated in an interview for CURED shortly before his death, at the age of 86. He talked about the profound impact the mental-illness label had on gay and lesbian people of his generation: “Even I — who really was not a closeted gay person ever — had this feeling that if someone was in love with me, they must be as sick as I am.” A former journalist, Gold got involved in the gay liberation movement in the early 70s. At the 1973 APA convention, he participated in a panel discussion to debate the pros and cons of changing the DSM. Gold didn’t hold back his criticism of psychiatry, even titling his speech, “Stop it, you’re making me sick!”
Dr. Charles Socarides
Charles Socarides (1922–2005) was a Columbia University-educated psychiatrist who spent five decades trying to “cure” gay men and lesbians. He was the main force working to oppose the DSM change. In a 1973 television interview, he argued that “normalizing” homosexuality by removing it from the DSM would “produce a situation in which men and women will fly away from each other… I think if one person gives up hope and puts a bullet in his head because he feels there’s no hope, and even psychiatrists do not offer him this help because after all, it’s actually been deleted from the nomenclature — I think this is the primary thing that we, as psychoanalysts, are interested in.”
Dr. Richard Green
Richard Green (1936–2019) was one of the first straight psychiatrists to speak out publicly in favor of removing homosexuality from the DSM. He ignored the advice of his mentor and published a groundbreaking paper in 1972 that argued the mental-illness designation wasn’t grounded in science: “What I question in this essay,” Green wrote, “is the given state of ‘knowledge’ that homosexuality is, by definition, a ‘disorder,’ a ‘disease,’ or an ‘illness.’ I’m not convinced we have the data by which to base these judgments. I question them because they’re not proved.”
Dr. Richard Pillard
Dr. Richard Pillard was one of the group of psychiatrists in the 1970s who persuaded the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its disease-naming system. Dr. Pillard is a retired psychiatrist, formerly Professor of Psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, and a member of the International Academy of Sex Research. The first openly gay psychiatrist in the United States, he was a pioneer in the study of sexual orientation in families and twins — research that showed that sexual orientation has a genetic component.
Don Kilhefner helped lead a pivotal protest against mental health professionals at a 1970 conference in Los Angeles. CURED features rarely seen footage from this “zap” and an interview with Kilhefner. Aside from the APA fight, he was an original member of the LA chapter of the Gay Liberation Front. He was also a co-founder of what is now the Los Angeles LGBT Center — the world’s largest center serving the LGBTQ community. Kilhefner continues working as a community organizer, a Jungian psychotherapist, and a facilitator of intergenerational dialogue.
Richard Socarides is a lawyer, writer, political commentator, and communications strategist. He is the son of Dr. Charles Socarides, who was one of the leading proponents of the view that homosexuality is a treatable mental disorder. Richard served as White House Special Assistant and Senior Advisor to President Bill Clinton, and as the principal adviser to President Clinton on gay and lesbian civil rights issues. He is a contributor to The New Yorker and a passionate advocate for human rights and LGBTQ people.