Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How to come out to a father who was a world-renowned psychiatric proponent of 'conversion therapy'

The New Yorker followed up on Richard Socarides' participation in the I'm from Driftwood project with an article about him, his father, and the video of which he was the subject:
As I became an advocate for gay rights, I wanted very much for that work to stand on its own, and not viewed in the context of my father’s reputation. I was also sometimes embarrassed for him, as his professional reputation became interconnected with a theory that was, over time, wholly discredited. And it was just plain irritating to be asked, over and over again, if I was related to that crazy anti-gay doctor (and to have to say yes). With this backdrop, it was difficult, over the years until his death in 2005, to hold on to the residual affection I had for him as just my dad.
Below, the 1967 CBS documentary The Homosexuals, narrated by Mike Wallace. From Wikipedia:

CBS felt that the self-accepting gay men made too favorable of an impression, so Morgan edited two of the interviews to make the men seem unhappier. According to Wallace, no sponsor would buy time during the episode because of the taboo nature of the subject matter. Commercial spots were filled by public service announcements for the Peace Corps and the Internal Revenue Service.
     Lars Larson, the first interview subject, was infuriated after seeing the finished program. He had been led to believe that the episode would present a far more positive picture of American gay life. Larson, whose interview had been altered to make him seem less happy, filed a formal fraud complaint and withdrew his release.  "They had some rather nasty, angry anti-gay people on there who were treated as professionals," he said. "I had no problem with Harry Morgan or Mike Wallace because they were thorough. But obviously others in the decision-making process were truly upset with homosexuality. They saw it as a threat to the human race and were out to kill as best they could." Jack Nichols was fired from his job as a hotel sales manager the day after the program aired.
     For his part, anchor Mike Wallace came to regret his participation in the episode. "I should have known better," he said in 1992. Speaking in 1996, Wallace stated, "That is — God help us — what our understanding was of the homosexual lifestyle a mere twenty-five years ago because nobody was out of the closet and because that's what we heard from doctors — that's what Socarides told us, it was a matter of shame." However, Wallace was at the time of broadcast close friends with noted designer James Amster (creator of the landmark Amster Yard courtyard in New York City) and Amster's male long-term companion, men whom Wallace later described as "a wonderful old married couple" and "[b]oth people that [he] admired". Despite this personal knowledge, Wallace relied on the American Psychiatric Association's categorization of homosexuality as a mental illness rather than his own experience in creating the episode. As recently as 1995, Wallace told an interviewer that he believed homosexuals could change their orientation if they really wanted to.

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