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Cover Story

Dr. Richard Isay, Dec. 13, 1934-June 28, 2012

Revolutionary psychiatrist and gay-rights champion

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Before the pray-away-the-gay so-called "therapy" movement championed by such groups as Exodus International, a real war was waged in the psychiatric community over the place of homosexuality in mental-health academia. Dr. Richard Isay, to some extent, fought for both sides, as the times dictated. It wasn't his fault; Dr. Isay studied at a time when openly gay students were forbidden from studying to become psychoanalysts at schools with accreditation from the American Psychoanalytic Association. Why? Because gays were viewed as stunted individuals, lower life forms incapable of providing therapy to the unwell. Dr. Isay himself was allegedly "cured" of his homosexuality after a decade of therapy, an act that landed him with a wife and two children in the 1970s. He did finally come out to his wife in 1980 and subsequently led a very vocal crusade of individual acceptance in the mental health community. He challenged the American Psychoanalytical Association with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, and, by 1997, the association went as far as publicly supporting gay marriage.

In what can only be seen as poetic justice, Dr. Isay married his partner of two decades, artist Gordon Harrell, last year in his son's living room. He died from cancer in June at the age of 77, leaving humanity further along than he found it.

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