NYT: Dr. Richard Friedman, Who Debunked Homosexuality Myth, Dies at 79

From the New York Times:

In the 1980s, when marriage and adopting children seemed impossible dreams for gay men, the psychoanalyst Richard C. Friedman became their champion.

His 1988 book, “Male Homosexuality: A Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspective,” showed that sexual orientation was largely biological and presented a case that helped undermine the belief held by most Freudian analysts at the time that homosexuality was a pathology that could somehow be cured.

“I felt an ethical obligation to find the reasons for anti-homosexual prejudice,” he once told an interviewer. His wife, Susan Matorin, a clinical social worker at the Weill Medical College of Cornell, put it more plainly: “Straight people had the same personality issues, and they got away with murder, but gay people were stigmatized, and he didn’t think that was right.”

Dr. Friedman’s motivation wasn’t political. “He very much felt like you followed the science, and it didn’t matter what the political backdrop was,” his son, Jeremiah, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, said in a phone interview.

Although the American Psychiatric Association, the dominant mental health organization in the United States, changed its diagnostic manual in 1973 and stopped classifying homosexuality as an illness, psychoanalysts continued to describe homosexuality as a perversion, and many believed it could be cured.

Dr. Friedman, using studies of identical twins and theories of developmental psychology, made a scholarly rather than ideological case that biology rather than upbringing played a significant role in sexual orientation.

It was a direct challenge to popular Freudian theories and thrust him into the center of debates among the more established heavyweights of psychoanalysis. It led to a model in which analyst and patient simply assumed that homosexuality was intrinsic, said Jack Drescher, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who knew Dr. Friedman and would later offer his own critiques of Dr. Friedman’s theory as new approaches to working with gay and lesbian patients emerged.

There’s a bit of a difference between “debunking homosexuality myth” and “making a case…”

We don’t know why people become homosexual. It hasn’t been established yet. Therapists such as Mark Smith have noticed that every homosexual man they’ve counseled did not have a good relationship with his dad and hence he grew up eroticizing male attention. It makes sense to me that nature and nurture play a role here.

Judaism does not recognize any such category as homosexual. There are homosexual acts that are forbidden. Why would we define people based on their sexual fantasies? I have heterosexual fantasies that I would prefer to not define me.

Virtually every married man would like to have sex with a female younger and hotter than his wife. They learn to sublimate these desire to sustain a relationship. They’re acting against their nature as much as a gay fantasizing man married to a woman.

Given male nature, the difference between being able to have sex with one person or none is not that big for most men. Every committed man with the opportunity to stray with a woman young and hot has to fight his most primal sexual inclinations. The difference between hetero men learning to function in a committed relationship and a gay-leaning man learning to function in a committed hetero relationship is not usually huge. Most “gay” men (about 70%) have had sex with women.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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