Dr Richard Friedman, who challenged the notion that homosexuality was 'curable', has passed away aged 79

Friedman's book, 'Male Homosexuality: A Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspective', helped dispel the Freudian idea that being gay was a pathology.

Dr Richard Friedman, an elderly man with glasses and a moustache, sitting in a restaurant

Dr Richard Friedman, who played a huge role in changing entrenched ideas from Freudian analysts that homosexuality could be ‘cured’, has passed away in his Manhattan home at the age of 79.

The New York Times reported his passing recently with an in-depth article describing the impact his 1988 book, Male Homosexuality: A Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspective, had in challenging prevalent thought. His work proved that homosexuality was biological and not learned, and therefore could not be ‘cured’.

While Dr Richard Friedman was a straight man, he felt compelled to undertake the research as he “felt an ethical obligation to find the reasons for anti-homosexual prejudice.” The American Psychiatric Association had stopped classifying homosexuality as a disease in 1973, but continuing into the 1980’s, most psychoanalysts still regarded it as “perversion”, the product of upbringing, and something which could be ‘fixed’.

Through a combination of studies on twins and theories on developmental psychology, Friedman challenged psychoanalysts and concluded the biological nature of homosexuality. Further in the Times article, his wife, Susan Matorin, described in an interview, “Straight people had the same personality issues, and they got away with murder, but gay people were stigmatised, and he didn’t think that was right.”

Friedman’s book, and the ‘controversial’ opinion he held, pushed him to the forefront of the debates happening at that time. In 1998, he would go on to publish an article on female homosexuality which was awarded best publication of the year by the Journal of The American Psychoanalytic Association.

Although published in the ’80s, the message shared by the book is just as necessary when issues such as ‘conversion therapy’ are still a common enough occurrence across the world. Earlier this year, ILGA World released the report Curbing deception – A world survey of legal restrictions of so-called ‘conversion therapies’.

Director of Programmes at ILGA World, Julia Ehrt, said, “Six court cases worldwide were litigated with positive results. State officials and governmental agencies are speaking up, together with human rights bodies. And, to date, more than 60 health professional associations in 20 countries have repudiated efforts to ‘change’ a person’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.”

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