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April 17: Alfred M. Freedman and the Declassification of Homosexuality as a Mental Illness
Dr. Alfred M. Freedman, who was elected head of the American Psychiatric Association as a reformer in 1973 (by a margin of only three out of 9,000 votes), died at 94 on this date in 2011. Freedman gave his support to a resolution offered by Robert L. Spitzer to delete homosexuality from the APA’s list of mental illness diagnoses, which was adopted by 13—0 in December, 1973. “By itself, homosexuality does not meet the criteria for being a psychiatric disorder,” the resolution stated, and therefore “We will no longer insist on a label of sickness for individuals who insist that they are well and demonstrate no generalized impairment in social effectiveness.” A second resolution called for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation and the repeal of laws against gay sex. Freedman also founded one of the earliest drug treatment programs for adults (1959), and led protests against the abuse of psychiatry to punish political dissidents in the USSR and against participation by psychiatrists in the administering of capital punishment in the U.S. To see him interviewed, look below.
“[W]e belong to a profession whose essence is conciliation, interchange and a belief in the possibility of human progress. It is our hope that our colleagues will behave in accord with those aspects of our life and work and enter into exchanges and consultation on a universal basis.” —Alfred M. Freedman