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Roughton, R.E. (1997). Becoming Gay: The Journey To Self-Acceptance. By Richard A. Isay. New York: Pantheon, 1996, xii + 210 pp., $23.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:293-298.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:293-298

Becoming Gay: The Journey To Self-Acceptance. By Richard A. Isay. New York: Pantheon, 1996, xii + 210 pp., $23.00.

Review by:
Ralph E. Roughton

Homosexuality and psychoanalysis have had a stormy relationship, and this book and its author should be considered in that historical context. The relationship began benignly, with Freud stating that homosexuality is neither an illness nor anything to be ashamed of, nor should it be reason to reject a candidate for analytic training. In those days, psychoanalysis was a leading voice of reason and compassion against a repressive society.

A few decades later, American analysts deemed homosexuality a treatable illness. What followed, I believe, fatefully set a course so determined by the zeal to cure homosexuality and by an authoritarian, antihomosexual stance that our scientific rules of observation and our psychoanalytic principles of nondirective neutrality were eroded. Generalizing from disturbed patients and discounting contradictory evidence, these analysts attributed severe personality disorders to all homosexual individuals—meaning, among other things, that gay men and lesbians would be considered unsuitable as psychoanalytic candidates. Freud's wisdom on two counts had been abandoned. And, for a while, the professional world listened, accustomed to respecting psychoanalytic thinking.

Then, gradually, this a priori link of homosexuality and psychopathology was challenged by clinical experience and by studies of nonpatient populations, and in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association deleted homosexuality as a diagnosable disorder. The American Psychoanalytic Association, however, remained entrenched in conservative complacency, stuck with a theory that could not explain the presence of both homosexuality and psychological maturity in the same person. Rather than admit we were wrong, we ignored the inconsistency of observation and theory and held fast to what had become unexamined orthodoxy.

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