1. Richard Isay

Dr. Richard Isay was born in 1934 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a long list of credentials including psychiatry, psychoanalysis, gay activism, and writing. Homosexuality was considered a mental illness and had a spot in the DSM-II (the list of mental disorders in the United States) until 1987; it was removed from the American Psychiatric Association list of disorders in 1973. During the 50’s and 60’s, the abusive practice of Aversion Therapy, to “cure” homosexuality, was common and can still be found today. Dr. Isay was intent on removing the label of mental illness from being gay.

Among his accomplishments, Isay was a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and also worked in the Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research at Columbia University. Despite being born in Pittsburg, Isay spent his professional career in New York City, where he successfully changed how homosexuality was viewed from a psychological standpoint. Isay faced many hurdles both personally and professionally as he didn’t come out until he was forty and faced a lot of opposition from his colleagues. Isay sought “help” for his own sexuality, seeking out conversion therapy for ten years and after it failed to work, he changed his stance on the subject.

Dr. Richard Isay wrote three books, all centered around homosexuality, titled, Being Homosexual, Becoming Gay, and Commitment and Healing: Gay Men and the Need for Romantic LoveDespite the headway Isay made in officially removing the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness, it’s still regarded as such by some homophobic professionals and people. Richard Isay died from cancer in 2012 and was buried in Brooklyn.

Next, check out Gay Pride in NYC Through the Lens of Fred W. McDarrah and 10 Notable LGBT Landmarks and sites in NYCGet in touch with the author @LitByLiterature