HRC Blog

A Community Hero, Dr. Richard Isay, Dies at Age 77

The gay community lost a hero last week: Dr. Richard Isay, a psychiatrist and gay activist who lead efforts to get the American Psychoanalytic Association to stop treating homosexuality as an illness that needed to be cured. Dr. Isay died of cancer on Thursday, June 29 at the age of 77. A New York Times article describes his struggles and triumphs – both professional and personal - as he advocated for mental health professionals to end the practice of attempting to change the sexual orientation of gay people through so-called reparative therapy. Isay worked tirelessly to change the culture of the American Psychoanalytic Association to one more inclusive of gay patients and clinicians.

Sadly, still today many right-wing religious groups promote the concept that an individual can change his or her sexual orientation, either through prayer or other religious efforts, or through reparative therapy. Research has disproven the efficacy of this therapy, and also has indicated that it can be harmful. Thanks much to the work of Dr. Isay, leading mental health organizations have all released statements against reparative therapy.

Thank you, Dr. Isay, for your bravery and advocacy on behalf of the gay community.

(Note: This post was edited from its original version on 07/09/2012 to correct inaccuracies.)

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