Play with Philly roots describes pivotal moment in gay rights history

The Equality Forum produced "217 Boxes of Dr. Henry Anonymous."

Mike DeNardo
April 26, 2018 - 10:00 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) - A play debuting off-Broadway next week tells the story of a Philadelphia doctor who successfully pushed for homosexuality to no longer be considered a mental illness.  

Psychiatrist John Fryer wore a mask and disguised his voice, when he explained to the American Psychiatric Association in 1972 that homosexuality should not be seen as a mental illness.  

The Equality Forum's Malcolm Lazin feels Fryer took a huge risk.

"Back in 1972," said Lazin, "if you were known to be a homosexual, one -- you could not be licensed in most states as a doctor.  And if it was learned that you were a homosexual, you would lose your licensure."

His presentation led the APA a year later to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness.  

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania commissioned a play about Fryer's activism, and the Equality Forum produced the play entitled "217 Boxes of Dr. Henry Anonymous."  

It opens next Thursday in New York, which is one day before the APA holds its 2018 annual meeting nearby.