Today in History, 1970: Nationally-Renowned Therapist Warns of Homosexual Epidemic

Jim Burroway

May 18th, 2016

New York psychiatrist Charles Socarides warned the nation’s physicians in the May 18, 1970 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, that “Homosexuality is a medical disorder which has reached epidemiologic [sic]proportions; its frequency of incidence surpasses that of the recognized major illnesses in the nation.”

Epidemiologic. What he was trying to say that it was of epidemic proportions. But Socarides, being Socarides, made up his Very Impressive Seven-Syllable Word, which he used quite often.  He appeared three years earlier on the infamous CBS documentary “The Homosexuals” (Mar 7), were, again, he used that Very Impressive Word. By then he had established himself as a nationally-recognized authority on homosexuality and its cure. And so his article in the AMA’s prestigious journal carried considerable weight. Socarides chided his fellow physicians for not taking this new — err, epidedemy? — seriously:

Attempts to obfuscate the fact that homosexuality is a medical problem have not been met head on by those most qualified to clarify the situation.  Only in the consultation room does the homosexual reveal himself and his world. No other data, statistics, or statements can be accepted as setting forth the true nature of homosexuality. All other sources may be heavily weighted by face-saving devices or rationalizations or, if they issue from lay bodies, lack the scientific and medical background to support their views. The best that can be said for the well-intentioned but unqualified observer is that he is misguided because he does not have and can not apply those techniques which would make it possible to discern the deep underlying clinical disorder or to evaluate the emotional patterns and interpersonal events in the life of a homosexual.

Socarides distinguished between two types of homosexuals: the “obligatory” and the “episodic.” Only the former were true homosexuals as he put it. “The latter is characterized by isolated homosexual acts without the stereotypy, the compulsivity, of the former.” As for the former:

There is a high incidence of paranoia or paranoid-like symptomatology in overt homosexuals. This is related to the medical fact that overt obligatory homosexuality is either a fixation or regression to the earliest stages of ego development. As a result, archaic and primitive mental mechanisms belonging to the earliest stages of life characterize the homosexual’s behavior. Also, homosexuality, obligatory or not, can be seen in the schizophrenic in his frantic attempt to establish some vestige of object relations as an expression of the fragmented and disorganized psychic apparatus with which he has to struggle.

Socarides argued that because homosexuals were suffering from a mental illness, they should not be penalized legally for consensual activities “so long as it is not accompanied by antisocial or criminal behavior.” Despite increasing calls to decriminalize homosexuality, homosexual behavior was still criminalized in every state except Illinois (Jul 28). Socarides cautioned that “any change in the legal code should be accompanied by a clearcut statement as to the nature of obligatory homosexuality, its diagnosis as a form of mental illness, and a universal declaration of support for its treatment by qualified medical practitioners.” And only those “qualified medical practitioners,” he concluded, were qualified to pass judgment whether gay people were sick:

It is vitally important to realize this fundamental point: the diagnosis of homosexuality can not be self-made, imposed by jurists, articulated by clergy, or speculated about by social scientists. … If the homosexual is to be granted his human right as a medical patient, issues which becloud his status should be clarified. Above all, the homosexual must be recognized as an individual who presents a medical problem.

The whole issue of homosexuality must be transformed into one more scientific challenge to medicine which has time and again been able to alleviate the plaguing illnesses of man. With this respected leadership on the part of the physician, we will see a surge of support for the study and treatment of the disorder by all the techniques and knowledge available through the great resources and medical talent of the United States.

There’s an interesting post-script to all of this. Dr. Socarides’s oldest son, Richard, was very close to his father, so much so that after his parents divorced when Richard was six, he moved in with his father upon turning 13. That would have been at around 1967. When the elder Socarides wrote this article, Richard was sixteen. Richard went on to become a gay rights activist, attorney, and an advisor to President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1999.

[Source: Charles W. Socarides. “Homosexuality and medicine.” Journal of the American Medical Association 212, no. 7 (May 18, 1970): 1199-1202.]


May 18th, 2016

Two points: Thomas Kuhn, in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” pointed out that one requirement for the adoption of a new paradigm is that the staunchest proponents of the old paradigm die off: they will hold to their belief in spite of the evidence because they are, after all, only human. In this case, this is very revealing: “Only in the consultation room does the homosexual reveal himself and his world. No other data, statistics, or statements can be accepted as setting forth the true nature of homosexuality.” Considering that the work of Evelyn Hooker in the 1950s had opened up, so to speak, research into homosexuality based on non-patient populations, this is total bullshit.

Second: Charles Socarides was a psychiatrist with a substantial number of clients who were gay men seeking help. It was to his financial interest to support the idea that homosexuality was a pathology that would respond to (long-term, expensive) treatment.

Ben in oakland

May 18th, 2016

Oh, no! this asshole again!

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Ramp up the fear of the other! the Great homosexual epidemic! danger! Danger! Only my religion can save us all! (And psychiatry of the sort this asshole practiced is just like religion, but with a new God). and I will bend, distort, and pervert every single bit of information to prove my point.

The hysteria goes on. TReat homosexuals like individuals, but they are all alike anyway! danger Danger! Theyre paranoid, But of course, that didn’t mean someone wasn’t out to get them.

And then the final kicker. SEND MONEY NOW.

This asshole’s words are far more revealing than I’m sure any amount of ink blot tests would have revealed. Even an armchair psychiatrist like myself can see all of the paranoia, fear, megalomania, projection, and psychosis in this assholes comments. All of it is there.

I have said this many times in the past, and I will say it yet again. I am increasingly convinced that more vehement the opposition to the full integration of gay people in society, and ending this vicious prejudice, the more likely it is that the proponent is just another homohating homo, exercising his personal demons under the guise of exorcising mine.

robert gump

May 19th, 2016

1) Thanks so much for BOX TURTLE – I learn, or am reminded of, so many things about myself, my world, and my continuing evolution.

2) The info regarding Socarides is NOT new to me – I was very aware of his activity and publishing during the ’70s. In fact, one of the first “queer” letters I ever send was to him promising, at the appropriate time, to find his final resting place and take a long, satisfying PISS (I know, I know, not very mature, but somehow satisfying at the time).

3) The development history of Socarides family/son and the Queer social revolution since the ’70s seems, somehow, very ironic, synchronistic (see, I can use multi-syllable words too – but seven is a bit of a stretch) and just.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.