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Feldman, M.J. (2002). Being Gay and Becoming a Psychoanalyst: Three Generations. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 50(3):973-987.

(2002). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 50(3):973-987

Being Gay and Becoming a Psychoanalyst: Three Generations

Michael J. Feldman

Ross introduced the panel by locating the topic in its historical context: the second half of the Freudian Century. For much of this period, faculty at the Columbia Psychoanalytic Center, including Rado, Ovesey, and Socarides, pathologized homosexuality. Eventually more contemporary thinkers such as Isay, Downey, and Friedman began to normalize it, and Columbia, still a leader, was the first institute within the American Psychoanalytic Association to graduate an openly gay woman and man. Ross himself now believes that analysts blinded themselves with their own heterocentrist thinking. “When it came to homosexual individuals, theoretically and clinically,” Ross said, round pegs were jammed into square holes, often splintering, with disastrous consequences. In contrast, he pointed to extra-analytic research on the unfolding of sexual orientation (most recently surveyed in Cohler and Galatzer-Levy 2000) that reports neither universal causes nor universal correlates “in the course of gay and lesbian lives.”

The panel that followed consisted of autobiographical presentations from gay analysts of three generations. The distinctly different time periods when these men trained correspond to different periods in the history of the relationship between psychoanalysis, with its homophobic attitudes, and lesbian and gay individuals. Two discussions followed the panel, one by a lesbian psychoanalyst and one by a gay psychoanalytic historian. The reporter offered a brief commentary on the current status of gays and lesbians at Columbia, and this was followed by a discussion among the panelists and members of the audience.

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