Gay and lesbian psychiatrists would meet informally and in secret for years at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. One might lose their job or even medical license if they came out as gay.
The first organized gay-affirmative presentation at the APA occurred in 1972 at the annual APA meeting in Dallas.
John Fryer, MD presented, “Psychiatry: Friend or Foe to Homosexuals?” Also on the panel were gay activists Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and prominent heterosexual psychiatrist, Judd Marmor, who supported removing homosexuality as a diagnosis.
Dr. Fryer appeared as Dr. H. Anonymous and disguised his appearance during the meeting by wearing an oversized tuxedo, a cloak, a rubber fright mask, and used a voice distortion device to further protect his identity.
He stated, “I am homosexual. I am a psychiatrist.” The audience was shocked. He then discussed his experience of being a closeted gay doctor in a field that classified homosexuality as a mental illness. It marked the first time a gay psychiatrist addressed colleagues at a professional meeting.
What do you think about Dr. Fryer and his appearance at the American Psychological Association’s 1972 annual meeting as Dr. H. Anonymous? Do you think he would have made more of an impact if he didn’t have the disguise on? Or, does it signify the fear and isolation that gay psychiatrists and psychologists must have felt as they were not free to express themselves and come out of the closet without fear of losing their job or license? Thoughts, comments, ideas?