Connect with us

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia to celebrate 50th anniversary of historic speech by gay psychiatrist

John Fryer called on profession to end listing of homosexuality as mental illness

Published

on

John Fryer (right) spoke in disguise at the American Psychiatric Association’s 1972 national convention. (Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen via New York Public Library)

The City of Philadelphia on May 2 is scheduled to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic speech by then closeted gay psychiatrist John Fryer before the American Psychiatric Association’s 1972 annual convention urging the group to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

Fryer, who had a psychiatric practice in Philadelphia and served as a professor of psychiatry at Temple University, concealed his identity when speaking at the APA convention in Dallas, by wearing a rubber mask, a wig and speaking through a microphone that distorted his voice.

Fryer’s compelling arguments that scientific findings demonstrated that homosexuality was not a mental illness, and that gays and lesbians were upstanding members of their communities, including practicing psychiatrists, is credited with playing a leading role in the APA’s decision one year later to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in its official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

The Fryer anniversary events are being organized by the Philadelphia-based national LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Forum in collaboration with the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, the American Psychiatric Association, and other organizations, including the Philadelphia Historical Commission and Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists.

“From the perspective of 50 years, Fryer’s testimony marked a pioneering moment for LGBTQ civil rights,” the Equality Forum states on its website. “A successful movement could not have been launched as long as gays and lesbians were defined as mentally ill,” the group says in a write-up on the impact of Fryer’s speech.

“Fryer’s testimony and the subsequent declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder helped effectuate the change in public perceptions of homosexuals as deranged and threatening,” the write-up says.

Among the events set to take place on May 2 is an official tribute to Fryer at the site of the John Fryer Historic Marker at 13th and Locust Streets in downtown Philadelphia at noon. Participants were expected to include Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney; U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.); and Dr. Saul Levin, who serves as the current Medical Director and CEO of the American Psychiatric Association.

A VIP reception was scheduled to be held that same day at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, which houses the John Fryer Archives. A display of Fryer’s handwritten notes for his presentation at the 1972 APA convention was expected to be included for viewing at the Historical Society’s Fryer Archives.

The Equality Forum has announced that a free online screening of the award-winning PBS documentary film “CURED” was set to take place at 7:30 p.m. on May 2 followed by a panel discussion with the “CURED” filmmakers. The film provides the inside story of how early LGBTQ pioneers, including D.C.’s Frank Kameny and Philadelphia’s Barbara Gittings, capitalized on Fryer’s speech before the APA to campaign successfully for the APA’s removal of homosexuality from its mental illness list.

According to the Equality Forum, May 2 John Fryer Day proclamations have been issued by the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Congressman Evans issued a statement on April 26 announcing that he and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced House and Senate resolutions to honor Fryer by designating May 2, 2022, as “Dr. John E. Fryer Day.”

In his statement, Evans recounts the importance of Fryer’s 1972 speech before the APA and notes that in the years after his APA presentation Fryer continued to practice and teach psychiatry in Philadelphia. He notes that Fryer became one of the first psychiatrists to professionally treat people with HIV/AIDS.

Fryer died in 2003 at the age of 65.

Additional details of the Fryer commemoration events in Philadelphia can be accessed here:  equalityforum.com

The Washington Blade has announced it is sponsoring a May 12 commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Fryer’s APA speech in collaboration with the American Psychiatric Association at The Corner at Whitman-Walker located at 1701 14th Street, N.W.

The event is set to begin with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. followed by a panel discussion at 7 p.m. featuring four experts on the topic of Fryer’s historic significance. The panelists include Dr. Saul Levin, CEO and Medical Director of the APA; Dr. Karen Kelly, a friend and mentee of Dr. Fryer; Katherine Ott, Ph.D, a curator in the history of medicine at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where she documents LGBTQ+ history; and Dr. Amir Ahuja, president of the Association of LGBTQ Psychiatrists.

The panel will be moderated by award-winning filmmaker Patrick Sammon, who directed the documentary film “CURED.”

Tickets for the Blade Fryer commemorative event are free and can be accessed at washingtonblade.com/panel.  

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Pennsylvania

Blade editor’s book reading canceled after threats in Lancaster, Pa.

Weekend bomb scare led to evacuations, drag story hour disruption

Published

on

(Book cover image courtesy of Amazon)

An April book reading in Lancaster, Pa., featuring author Kevin Naff, editor of the Washington Blade, and Nick Benton, owner and editor of the Falls Church News-Press, was canceled this week following bomb threats targeting the Lancaster Public Library on Saturday.

Police evacuated an area of downtown Lancaster on Saturday after multiple bomb threats were made targeting a drag queen story hour event at the Lancaster Public Library. After the threats were made, the event was canceled, according to a report from WGAL-TV. 

“We are grateful for the outpouring of support from our community as we work to process today’s events together,”  read a statement from Lancaster Pride. “While we support the freedom of speech, we stand firm and cannot and we will not let hate, fear, and intimidation stop our collective movement for love and support for all.”

Naff was scheduled to read from his book, “How We Won the War for LGBTQ Equality — And How Our Enemies Could Take It All Away,” at a Lancaster-area library event moderated by Benton on April 18. A library official declined to comment on the cancellation.

“I am disappointed by the cancellation but it was the right call given the recent threats targeting the LGBTQ community in Lancaster,” said Naff. “MAGA Republicans must dial back their rhetoric and their attacks on our community; they are dangerous and draconian and will cost lives.”

The event was planned as a fundraiser for the Quarryville Library after Fulton Township revoked its funding because the library carries LGBTQ-themed books. 

“I think everyone is a little bit surprised. We are in a conservative area so everyone has their own beliefs but as the public library we are here to serve everyone,” interim director of the library Sarah Bower told WHTM News in November after the funding was canceled.

Johnny Weir, the Olympic figure skater and commentator, is from Quarryville and later donated $1,000 to the library. Weir was supporting Naff’s April 18 event and promoting it on social media. 

“It is a sad reality that fear generated by threats of violence that have escalated in the Trump era is stifling the public’s access to a free and open sharing of views, an outcome that is in absolutely no one’s best interest,” said Benton.  

To donate to the Quarryville Library, visit: https://quarryvillelibrary.org/get-involved/support-your-library/

Continue Reading

Pennsylvania

Pa. state trooper in altercation with prominent LGBTQ leader

Celena Morrison pulled over on Philadelphia expressway, detained

Published

on

(Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Police)

The Philadelphia Gay News originally published this article and the Washington Blade republished it with permission.

BY LAUREN ROWELLO | Video footage uploaded to Facebook shows an altercation between a state trooper and two prominent Philadelphia LGBTQ+ leaders. Celena Morrison, executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, was pulled over by a state trooper on the Vine Street Expressway on the morning of March 2 and later detained by police.

Morrison’s sister told PGN that Morrison was pulled over “for not having their lights on while tailgating,” which a video of the encounter that Morrison recorded confirms. Darius McClean, Morrison’s husband and acting COO of William Way LGBT Community Center, was present during the incident and was also detained.

“My sister started recording when the officer became aggressive,” said Morrison’s sister, who uploaded the video to her Facebook. It shows a portion of the traffic stop encounter. It is unclear what occurred before Morrison started recording. Morrison’s sister said that McLean was following his wife’s car in a separate vehicle at the time of the stop and pulled over behind her during the traffic stop.

Morrison told her sister the officer “pulled him out of the car” then Morrison got out of her own vehicle to explain that McLean is her husband. 

“She started recording when the officer pulled his taser,” Morrison’s sister explained.

In the video, which is described in greater detail below, Morrison accuses the officer of punching her and drawing his gun on her. In the video, the officer says that both McLean and Morrison are “under arrest for resisting.”

Philadelphia Police confirmed that Morrison and McLean were taken to Philadelphia Police Headquarters at 400 N. Broad St. Morrison’s sister says the pair was processed, charged with disorderly conduct, and detained until approximately 9 p.m. on March 2.

“My concern is over her safety since she is transgender,” Morrison’s sister told PGN. She is especially concerned with “the way the police officer charged at her for recording,” which can be seen on the footage. One commenter replied to the video on Facebook, “This is OUTRAGEOUS. This has to go straight to the governor’s office.”

What the video shows

The video begins with Morrison repeatedly stating, “That’s my husband,” to the officer who is seen kneeling on McLean’s back as McLean lays on the asphalt in fetal position in the rain. The officer tells him to put his hands behind his back. McLean says, “I don’t know why you’re doing this,” then frantically attempts to reassure Morrison by telling her, “It’s OK. It’s OK.”

Morrison repeatedly states to the officer, “I work for the mayor!” McLean appears to attempt to shield his face with one arm in fear as the officer cuffs his other hand. The officer hits McLean’s hand with a closed fist before pointing to Morrison. The officer yells, “Stay the fuck back!” while moving McLean’s hands to his back to finish cuffing.

McLean pleads for the officer to stop then says, “It’s because I’m Black.” The officer appears to respond, saying, “It’s not because you’re Black. It’s because you rolled up on me.”

The officer then lets go of McLean and approaches Morrison, saying, “Turn around,” before lunging toward Morrison with a grabbing motion. The camera is jostled at this time and points at the sky for the remainder of the footage. The officer yells, “Give me your hands or you’re getting tased!” while Morrison and McLean can be heard calling out in distress.

The officer says, “Stay right there!” to which McLean replies, “I am! I can’t go anywhere!” before trying to reassure Morrison again by saying, “Celena, it’s OK baby.” Morrison says she doesn’t know why this is happening and repeatedly states that they’ve done nothing wrong.

She then says, “He just punched me. He just punched me.” The officer appears to stand over McLean and Morrison as Morrison asks what’s going on and McLean cries out for help. The officer calls to dispatch that he has two people detained. 

McLean says to the officer calmly, “I’m just getting my glasses.” The officer screams in reply, “Leave that right there!”

McLean says more frantically, “I just need my glasses,” and the officer shouts, “Don’t reach for anything!” Morrison reassures McLean, “Just be still.”

The officer says, “Stay right there! You move, you’re getting taken down.”

McLean is prompted to stand but says he can’t. Morrison says she’ll call the mayor’s office once this is over. When she stands, she asks the officer to pick up her phone. The officer says loudly, “This was a simple traffic stop because you didn’t have your lights on — you didn’t have your lights on and you were tailgating.”

McLean attempts to defend himself, “I wasn’t tailgating!” and the officer repeats, “Simple traffic stop,” to Morrison. The officer appears to tell McLean, “And I don’t know who you are, so I don’t need you rolling up on me.”

“You were about to tase me. You pulled your gun on me,” Morrison says. “Because you were fighting with me,” says the officer, which Morrison is heard denying. The officer says that both McLean and Morrison are “under arrest for resisting.”

A response from Philadelphia and national leaders

Mayor Cherelle Parker released a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that reads:
“​​Earlier today, a Pennsylvania State Police Trooper executed a car stop on the Vine Street Expressway in Philadelphia, reportedly for a Motor Vehicle Code violation. Celena Morrison, the City’s executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, was in the vehicle that was stopped.
A video circulating on social media that depicts a portion of the incident is very concerning to me, and I will have no further comment until the investigation has been completed.”

State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta addressed the incident in his speech at the Human Rights Campaign Greater Philadelphia dinner on Saturday evening. He emphasized the need for a thorough investigation.

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign — a national organization that advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community — also underlined the need for a thorough investigation, underlining to PGN that important details often get missed in these kinds of situations. She retweeted the mayor, calling the incident “disturbing.”

In her speech, she said, “When Philadelphia’s very own executive director of the Office of LGBTQ Affairs, Celena Morrison, cannot even ride around the streets of Philadelphia without being harassed by law enforcement, we are in a state of emergency.”

Tyrell Brown, executive director of galaei, accepted an award on behalf of the organization they lead and informed the crowd during their speech that Morrison and McLean had just been released from police custody.

Brown told PGN that leaders from across the LGBTQ+ community and allies were working to “ensure that there is transparency and safety for these two very valued community members.”

They said that this situation demonstrates that an official title will not protect people from mistreatment — but that all people within the queer community need and deserve access to safety and support mechanisms without any barriers.

“The seconds that we miss could be the determination between life and death,” they said, highlighting the importance of working together to ensure that all members of the queer community can access resources that help promote safety and equity — “the same kind of decency and the same kind of reverence and respect that any other community deserves and has afforded to them.”

The Pennsylvania State Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Philadelphia Police Department directed PGN to their public affairs office, which did not appear to be open on March 2. An officer told PGN, “I have no comment at this time.”

This is a developing story.

Continue Reading

Pennsylvania

Arrest made in connection with gay journalist Josh Kruger’s murder

Robert Davis is being held without bail

Published

on

Robert Davis, 19, was arrested and is being held without bail in the murder of gay journalist Josh Kruger in Philadelphia. (Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Police Department)

The suspect in the murder of openly gay journalist Josh Kruger, 39, was taken into custody Wednesday evening, a Philadelphia Police Department spokesperson confirmed.

Robert Davis, 19, of the city’s Point Breeze neighborhood, was arrested and is being held without bail.

On Thursday morning, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said that they plan to charge Davis with murder, possession of instrument of crime, tampering with evidence and related offenses.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Davis sneaked through the window of his family’s South Philadelphia home Wednesday night after more than two weeks on the run and asked his brothers for help.

Davis’ older brother, Jaylin Reason, told the Inquirer his brother appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and was acting erratically. While trying to calm Davis down, Reason said, they got into a fight. He realized, he said, that the best assistance he could offer his brother was helping him surrender to police.

“I didn’t want him to keep living outside and going around and doing something to put himself in a deeper hole,” he added.

Reason told the paper that he calmed Davis down, and then asked his other brother to call the police. Together, they went outside, sat on the steps, and waited for 17th District officers to arrive. Davis surrendered and was taken into custody.

In a series of interviews in early October with the Inquirer, Davis’ family told the paper that a years-long sexual relationship involving drugs factored into the murder. Davis’ mother, Damica Davis, and older brother are alleging Kruger commenced a sexual and drug relationship with the teenager four years ago when Davis was 15.

Damica Davis told the Inquirer that her son had been deceptive about the relationship with the journalist instead claiming that he was seeing an older white woman he had met online who worked for the government and the messages on his mobile from “Josh” he claimed were because “Josh” was the woman’s gay brother.

Reporting on the arrest, the paper noted that Reason said Davis had said he wanted to tell police everything, including the troubling details that he and Kruger had been in a sex and drug-fueled relationship since Davis was just 15. But Reason told his brother not to say anything to law enforcement officials until the family got him a lawyer.

Davis was arraigned on the charges Thursday afternoon. A preliminary hearing has been tentatively scheduled for Nov. 13.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular