Local leaders and activists gathered in the Gayborhood on Monday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Philadelphia-based psychiatrist John Fryer’s speech to the American Psychiatric Association, a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights.
Mayor Jim Kenney and other dignitaries spoke below the blue-and-gold historic marker at 13th and Locust Streets honoring Fryer, who challenged the APA’s classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder at the group’s annual meeting on May 2, 1972.
Wearing a mask to disguise himself and using a voice modulator, Fryer told the APA, “I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist.” His testimony helped persuade the APA to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder at its 1973 meeting, “ending treatments such as chemical castration, electric shock therapy, and lobotomy and paving the way for advances in LGBT civil rights,” according to the marker, which was installed in 2017.
Fryer was also a professor at Temple University. He lived in Philadelphia until his death in 2003.
In addition to the tribute, both Philadelphia and Pennsylvania declared Monday John Fryer Day, and Fryer’s residence was added to the city’s Register of Historic Places, according to Equality Forum, which organized the celebration.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania will have a special display about Fryer’s life through June.
» READ MORE: Read John Fryer's 1972 speech to the APA