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Friday, March 5, 2010

I was insane for 15 days back in 1973

This week, on 'This American Life': A rerun of a show originally broadcast in 2002, called '81 Words'.

The 81 words in question were the words classifying homosexuality as pathological. Until 1973, anyone who preferred their own sex--rather than the opposite sex--for sex was officially classified pathological by the American Psychiatric Association. TAL's '81 Words' episode, which knocked me on my ass in 2002 and then again this week, explains how the APA decided to give homosexuals their sanity back, and it's a remarkable episode. Also award-winning!

I know a lot of psychotic homos, by the way. One of my favorite stories is of a friend's roommate's boyfriend, who went to a Bjork concert at Radio City a few years back, then disappeared for a time. The roommate, obviously concerned, searched the city for days and found his boyfriend in Central Park, eating grass and dandelions, and when he asked the boyfriend why he was doing that, the boyfriend replied, "I've got to get my strength from the Earth. Bjork is in trouble, and she needs me. She needs me to be strong." Turned out a bad combo of Bjork, Adderall, and an undiagnosed biploar disorder had broken the boyfriend's mind. Some blamed the Adderall, some blamed the bipolar disorder, and I blamed the Bjork, but no one blamed the homosexuality any more than they blamed the dandelions in Central Park.

I was born on December 7, 1973. On December 15, 1973, the APA decided to drop the definition from its list of mental disorders. Since I believe I was born gay, that means I was insane for a little over a week, in my crib. My parents had no idea what a tiny ticking timebomb they had for a week-and-a-day.

When the APA dropped the homo-psycho thing, they changed the world. They made Tennessee Williams sane, for one thing. And Rock Hudson. And Montgomery Clift. And Gertie Stein. Walt Whitman. And Gore Vidal. Not Truman Capote, though--he remained insane, for other reasons. Vivian Vance, who played Ethel on 'I Love Lucy,' had by then been ruined by treatment (lesbian or not, the shrink she saw was awful). And the APA didn't cure homophobia, which is a real psychosis, but the APA, in 1973, managed to strip away the 'you're sick, you need some help' argument when dealing with teh ghey in an official way.

The '81 Words' episode of TAL briefly mentions a speech given at the 1972 APA annual conference--just before homosexuals were deemed sane--by Dr. H. Anonymous. Dr. Anonymous, sanely dressed in a too-big, brightly-colored (flamboyant, ok) tux, and wearing a wig and an altered Nixon mask, began his speech with these 8 words: "I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist." Dr. Anon went on to describe the lives of homosexuals, and to suggest the shrinks would be better off helping homos learn to deal with his or her sexuality, rather than convincing patients they were pathological. He also pointed out that he wasn't the only gay psychiatrist in the room, yet he was forced to both wear the Nixon mask and to speak through a special microphone which distorted his voice because he'd been fired several times for being gay. He didn't want to be fired again. But he wanted to deliver his speech.

Dr. Anonymous' real name was Dr. John E. Fryer, and he died of gastrointestinal bleeding, not from being pathologically gay. And yes, I find it ironic that the faggot's name was Fryer. Also a little ironic that he felt more comfortable, in 1972, to wear a Nixon mask rather than reveal his gay identity. In 2010, who would ever prefer to be Nixon over being gay?

Fact is, I'd be more insane without Greg than with him (and we're both still pretty insane). To crib from Twain: Wherever is he, there is sanity.

Even when it's insane sanity.

1 comment:

Tony said...

I loved this episode of TAL...nice post as well....

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