Dr. Richard Green, an early supporter of LGBTQ rights, has died at the age of 82. As a psychiatrist, he fought against classifying homosexuality as a disease or as a mental disorder by means such as writing a paper in 1973 in the International Journal of Psychiatry arguing against the idea that “homosexuality is a disease or a homosexual is inferior.”
Before 1973, homosexuality was considered a mental illness and listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the diagnostic handbook used by psychiatric practitioners. Classifying homosexuality as a mental illness led to increased stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ people.
“Those were times when, if you spoke up in support of homosexuals, people immediately thought that you were secretly homosexual yourself, or had unresolved sexual issues,” Dr. Jack Drescher, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia, told the New York Times in an interview. “Richard was very much heterosexual, and it took a lot of courage to argue for gay people.”
But shortly after Dr. Green’s paper was published, and as he continued to advocate for gay patients, the American Psychiatric Association dropped homosexuality as a diagnosable condition. Even after homosexuality was removed from the DSM, Dr. Green continued his advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ people, even going so far as to become a lawyer in order to work on LGBTQ advocacy cases.
Dr. Green also once testified on behalf of a gay Nicaraguan man who was at risk for deportation because of his sexuality. The man eventually was able to become a U.S. citizen. Green was involved in cases involving a trans woman who was fired from being a pilot and a trans parent who wanted visitation rights to her child. He also worked with the ACLU on a case against the Boy Scouts of America, which had then prohibited gay men from becoming scoutmasters.