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Blade event to celebrate 50th anniversary of historic APA speech

Gay psychiatrist John Fryer credited with changing LGBTQ history



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 Washington Blade, in partnership with the American Psychiatric Association, is holding an event on May 12 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic speech by then closeted gay psychiatrist John Fryer before the APA’s 1972 national convention calling on the group to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

Fryer, who had a psychiatric practice in Philadelphia and served as a professor of psychiatry at Temple University, disguised 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.

His compelling argument that scientific research showed 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 Blade event will take place at Whitman-Walker’s The Corner community exhibition center at 1701 14th St., N.W. beginning with a panel discussion at 6 p.m. followed by a cocktail reception at 7 p.m.

The panel will feature four experts on the topic of John Fryer’s role in changing the thinking on homosexuality and LGBTQ people: Dr. Saul Levin, CEO and Medical Director of the APA; Dr. Karen Kelly, a friend and mentee of John Fryer; Katherine Ott, Ph.D. and curator in the history of medicine at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, where she documents LGBTQ history; and Dr. Amir Ahuja, president of the Association of LGBTQ Psychiatrists (AGLP).

The panel will be moderated by award-winning filmmaker Patrick Sammon, who co-directed “Cured,” a documentary film about the LGBTQ activists who successfully fought to convince the APA to remove the “diagnosis” of homosexuality from its manual of mental illnesses.

The APA’s partnership with the Blade in celebrating the significance of Fryer’s 1972 speech is viewed as a development symbolizing the APA’s dramatic change from an institution that stigmatized homosexuality to a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights, with its current CEO and Medical Director, Saul Levin, being an out gay psychiatrist.

“I feel it’s really fantastic that John Fryer and what he did is being remembered by our community,” Sammon told the Blade. “It’s too easy to forget our history and forget where we came from,” Sammon said. “So, it’s wonderful that we’re pausing and reflecting on what he did and how it impacted where we are today in the fight for equality.”

Experts on LGBTQ history have said among the changes brought about by the APA’s removal of homosexuality from its classification as a mental disorder were efforts around the country to repeal state sodomy laws, which made it illegal and in some places a felony for consenting adults to engage in sexual activity with a same-sex partner.

The APA’s action is also credited with boosting efforts to pass laws banning discrimination against gays and lesbians, which were later expanded to include nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.

Out gay psychiatrist Amir Ahuja, who serves as president of the Association of LGBTQ Psychiatrists, said the positive outcome from Fryer’s efforts has had a direct impact on his own career.

“I would say I think John Fryer opened the door for me to have a career and many of my colleagues who are LGBTQ+ psychiatrists in order to work in a field where we’re not stigmatized as having an illness,” Ahuja said. “Because we could have lost our job. That’s what happened to John Fryer multiple times,” according to Ahuja. “Before he gave that speech, he had lost two residencies at least. Because of his sexuality, people were discouraging him from continuing in the profession.”

Sammon and Ahuja said it’s also important to remember that Fryer’s groundbreaking speech came at a time when others in the pre-Stonewall early gay rights movement — sometimes called the homophile movement — played a pivotal role in the APA’s decision to change its position on homosexuality.

“It’s wonderful to put John Fryer in the spotlight, but it’s also important to think about all the other people who were involved in this fight,” Sammon said. He noted among those credited with starting the effort to change the APA going back to around 1965 was D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who had a doctorate degree in astronomy from Harvard University.

As a scientist, Kameny was among the first in the political area to point out that claims by the psychiatric profession that homosexuality was an illness were based entirely on studies of homosexuals who were psychiatric patients undergoing treatment for stress, stigma, and other mental health problems related to society’s condemnation of homosexuality.

Kameny, who referred to the then prevailing thinking on homosexuality as “junk science,” also pointed to a groundbreaking but little noticed study of homosexual men who were not suffering from any mental health problems conducted by Dr. Evelyn Hooker, a psychologist who had gay friends who helped her recruit subjects for her study, which was published in 1956.

The study, which was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, included administering three longstanding tests to assess the mental health of individuals, including the Rorscharch ink blot test, on 30 exclusively gay men and 30 exclusively heterosexual men with no histories of mental illness, according to an American Psychological Association write-up on the study.

The results of the tests were reviewed by mental health experts who were not told which of the test results were from the gay or straight participants. Their conclusion was there were no differences in the state of the mental health of the homosexual and heterosexual participants.


District of Columbia

Inaugural Uptown Pride to take place June 10

Festival to feature drag storytime, makers’ market, DJs



Logo created by Anthony Dihle (Courtesy of Justin Noble)

A new Pride festival is coming to D.C. 

The inaugural Uptown Pride will be hosted in Sixteenth Street Heights on June 10 with Pride celebrations for Washingtonians of all ages.

The festival, hosted at the intersection of 14th Street, Colorado Avenue and Kennedy Street, NW, will feature a drag storytime, a makers’ market, DJs and more. There will also be a raffle for various prizes, with all proceeds going to the Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention services for LGBTQ teens.

The festival will be from 2-7 p.m. and is partnering with local businesses like Moreland’s Tavern, Captain Cookie and Lighthouse Yoga Center for activities and refreshments.

Justin Noble, one of the organizers of the festival, said that the inspiration for the event came out of wanting a Pride experience tailored to the residents of the Sixteenth Street Heights, Petworth and Brightwood neighborhoods.

“It can be a hassle to get to downtown,” Noble said. “There needs to be something in our community that supports LGBTQ+ people and the culture and all of that because we’re everywhere, right? We are everywhere.”

Organizer Max Davis said that the inclusion of children’s events like a drag storytime was purposeful, and helps make the event more accessible to LGBTQ families and youth. 

“Kids I feel are the most important in as far as just showing them, just visibly showing them that you can live out and you can be queer,” Davis said. “There is no more dangerous time than now to be queer, questioning youth … So who better to welcome into the fold than kids who might be questioning their sexuality.”

Davis said that a big part of wanting to bring Pride celebrations uptown was to have a physical representation of support for the LGBTQ community.

“I felt like because there wasn’t anything going on in Sixteenth Street Heights — the clientele that we were serving up at Moreland’s absolutely is supportive, and I never felt that it wasn’t a supportive environment — but if you don’t have something to actively support that I feel that your support is just words,” Davis said. “If our community had someplace to attend even for one day to just be like, ‘Hey, I stand with you,’ … that is something that every community should have available to them to actively support the LGBTQ community.”

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2023 honorees, grand marshals

Assistant Secretary of Health Levine among picks



Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine and acclaimed longtime D.C. LGBTQ and transgender rights advocate Earline Budd are among nine prominent LGBTQ community leaders named on Wednesday by the Capital Pride Alliance as its 2023 Capital Pride honorees.

Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes D.C.’s annual Capital Pride parade, festival, and related events, announced in a May 24 statement that it will present the honoree awards to each of the recipients at a ceremony scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2, at the Penn Social event and catering hall at 801 E St., N.W.

“The recipients are nominated each year by members of the community,” the Capital Pride statement says. “They represent individuals who and organizations that have advanced the causes of LGBTQ+ rights,” it says.

The statement says Levine was selected for the Capital Pride Paving the Way Award, which “acknowledges an individual or organization that has provided exemplary contributions, support, and/or advocacy that has positively impacted the LGBTQ+ community, and whose leadership has inspired continued progress.”

Levine, who was appointed by President Biden in 2021 as Assistant Secretary of Health, is a longtime pediatrician who also serves as an admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She became the first openly transgender person to hold the admiralty position.

Capital Pride named Earline Budd as recipient of the Capital Pride Super Hero Award, which “recognizes additional significant and important contributions to the LGBTQ+ community in the national capital region.”

The statement announcing the honorees says Levine and Budd will also serve as grand marshals for the June 10 Capital Pride Parade. It says each of the other honorees will serve as parade marshals.

The announcement says the following four people have been named as recipients of the Capital Pride Hero Award:

• Shi-Queeta Lee, the D.C.-based nationally acclaimed drag performer
• Benjamin Rosenbaum, longtime congressional staffer, LGBTQ rights advocate, and LGBTQ Jewish community advocate
• Nancy Canas, president of D.C. Latinx History Project and advocate for the LGBTQ Latinx community
• Abdur-Rahim Briggs, longtime leader of the D.C.-based Project Briggs, which provides philanthropic support for LGBTQ causes.

The following two organizations were named as recipients of the Capital Pride Breaking Barriers Community Impact Award, which recognizes individuals or organizations that have “demonstrated a significant impact to the LGBTQ+ community at either the local or national level and who helped eliminate barriers for social, personal, or professional growth of the LGBTQ+ community:

• Drag Story Hour DMV
• National LGBTQ Task Force

The Bill Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Services, which acknowledges “exemplary contributions to the Capital Pride Alliance, its programs, initiatives, or other Pride sponsored activities,” is being given to Brandon Bayton, Jr., a longtime Capital Pride volunteer, consultant, and organ transplant advocate, and LGBTQ rights advocate.

“We are fortunate to have such a vibrant honoree selection process, with so many outstanding individuals who were nominated,” said Ashley Smith, president of the Capital Pride Alliance Board of Directors. “We are very pleased to celebrate these individuals at the 2023 Capital Pride Honors,” Smith said in the CPA statement.

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District of Columbia

Blade names recipients of two summer fellowships

Kravis, Lev-Tov join LGBTQ news team



Isabelle Kravis and Joel Lev-Tov are the Blade Foundation’s 2023 summer fellows.

The Blade Foundation this week announced the recipients of its 2023 summer fellowship program. 

Isabelle Kravis (she/they) is a senior at American University studying journalism and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. She will focus on covering LGBTQ issues in the local D.C. area for 12 weeks starting this week. The fellowship is made possible by a generous donation from the DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K event.

“I’ve been reading the Blade since I first moved to D.C. for my freshman year and I’m so excited to be able to contribute to such a historic paper,” Kravis said. “I love covering the LGBTQ community because of the diversity of experiences that each queer person has and the joy that queer people bring to everything they do. I’m incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to be able to cover both the city and community that I love.”

Joel Lev-Tov (they/them) is a senior at the University of Maryland College Park studying journalism. Lev-Tov also serves as president of the Association of LGBTQ Journalists at College Park. Lev-Tov is the sixth recipient of the Steve Elkins Memorial Journalism Fellowship, which honors the co-founder of CAMP Rehoboth. The fellow covers issues of interest to the LGBTQ community in Delaware, also for 12 weeks. The fellowship is funded by donations from the Rehoboth Beach community.

“I’m extremely excited to start reporting about my community for my community,” Lev-Tov said. “The Blade is offering me a special opportunity that I’m very grateful for. I can’t wait to start reporting!”

Kevin Naff, editor of the Blade, welcomed Kravis and Lev-Tov to work this week.

“We’re all excited to work with Isabelle and Joel this summer,” Naff said. “There’s never been more news to cover and they will add an important, fresh perspective to our work. Thank you to our donors and to the Front Runners for making this program possible.”

For more information on the fellowship program or to donate, visit

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