Gay History - April 8: The APA Removes Homosexuality As "Sickness" and Remembering Ryan White.

Gay History – April 8: The APA Removes Homosexuality As “Sickness” and Remembering Ryan White.

April 8, 1974 – The American Psychiatric Association remove its “sickness” definition of homosexuality and outrages homophobic bigots across America. 

Until then homosexuality was seen as a mental disorder and those “afflicted” could be confined to a mental institutions, undergo crude conversion therapy techniques, castration, and the possibility of being lobotomized.

“We object to the sickness theory of homosexuality tenaciously held with utter disregard for the disastrous consequences of this theory to the homosexual, based as it is on poor science,” wrote Frank Kameny in a letter to the editor of Psychiatric News published in the July 7, 1971

One of the most memorable moments in APA history came when the 1972 Annual Meeting in Dallas included a certain “Dr. H. Anonymous,” his face hidden behind a rubber Halloween mask, in the session “Psychiatry: Friend or Foe to the Homosexual? A Dialogue.”

“I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist. My greatest loss is my honest humanity,” he said. “How incredible that we homosexual psychiatrists cannot be honest in a profession that calls itself compassionate and helping.”


April 8, 1990 – Ryan White at age 18 dies of AIDS after a five-year battle with the disease.  Ryan became the national poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States, after being expelled from middle school in Kokomo Indiana because of his infection.

As a hemophiliac, he became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment and, when diagnosed in December 1984, was given six months to live. Doctors said he posed no risk to other students, but AIDS was poorly understood at the time, and when White tried to return to school, many parents and teachers in Kokomo rallied against his attendance.

A lengthy legal battle with the school system ensued, and media coverage of the case made White into a national celebrity and spokesman for AIDS research and public education. Surprising his doctors, Ryan lived five years longer than predicted but died in April 1990, one month before his high school graduation the discrimination it brought upon him and his family.

Watch Ryan’s story in the short documentary below.

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