81 words, mental illness and homosexuality

As an update to a previous post on John E. Fryer’s dramatic role in getting homosexuality de-listed as a mental illness in 1973, thanks to the reader who emailed to say that the radio programme This American Life has a special on the fascinating story of the people behind the wider campaign.

The programme also charts the personal family story of Alix Spiegel, the producer of the This American Life series, whose grandfather was John Spiegel, president of the American Psychiatric Association when homosexuality was finally removed from the diagnostic manual.

She tells how the issue had a significant impact on psychiatry and society, but also on her family (you’ll have to listen to find out why).

The story recounts one curious event when psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, then head of the diagnostic committee, visited a clandestine gay psychiatrists’ party to meet gay psychiatrists for himself, and was surprised to see many of the psychiatric establishment there.

Although it will cost you 99 cents to download the mp3 of the programme, and audio can be streamed for free from the webpage.

Link to page for ’81 words’ programme with streamed audio (speaker icon).

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