Item: Speech of "Dr. Henry Anonymous" [John Fryer] at the American Psychiatric Association 125th Annual Meeting

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Record Number: 7766
Collection: John Fryer papers [3465]
Box Number: 38
Folder Number: 11
Creator: John Fryer, 1937-2003
Date of View: May 2 1972
View Format: Manuscript
Image description: Draft of speech by John Fryer to the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting concerning homosexuality and the psychiatric profession. Fryer was the protagonist of one of the most important moments in the history of the American gay rights movement. In 1964, Dr. Franklin E. Kameny publicly criticized the listing of homosexuality as a disease in medical literature. As part of their activism to create awareness on this issue, he and other gay activists confronted psychiatrists attending the annual convention of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1971. As a result of this incident, Kameny and Barbara Gittings, another gay advocate, were invited to the 1972 meeting of the APA to make a presentation to help educate its members about homosexuality. Originally a panel composed of Kameny, Gittings, and two psychiatrists was planned, but Gittings felt that they needed an individual who was a psychiatrist but also gay. After making inquiries among people they knew, they invited Fryer who accepted on the condition of keeping his participation anonymous.

To keep his identity a secret during the panel, Fryer called himself Dr. Henry Anonymous, wore a baggy suit and mask, and used a microphone that distorted his voice. Starting his speech with the words "I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist," Fryer electrified an audience that found itself listening to a gay psychiatrist speak in a public forum for the first time. Fryer's appearance had a galvanizing effect, playing a crucial role in prompting the APA in 1973 to remove homosexuality from its lists of mental disorders. Fryer did not reveal he was the man behind the mask until the 1994 APA annual meeting in Philadelphia. In recognition, the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (AGLP) honored Fryer with its Distinguished Service Award in 2002.