Wednesday, February 08, 2023

A Fond Farewell to Charles Silverstein

Nice to see that both the New York Times and Washington Post had in-depth obituaries for Charles Silverstein, giving much-deserved recognition to the man who helped declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder some 50 years ago. (The first six years of my life were humiliating knowing what the medical community was saying about me!) While the vote by the American Psychiatric Association was indeed "the single most important event in the history of gay liberation after the Stonewall riots,” it was Silverstein's book -- cowritten with Edmund White -- on how to be a homo that had a more practical effect in my day-to-day life(style!).

I'll never forget stumbling upon a used copy of "The Joy of Gay Sex: An Intimate Guide for Gay Men to the Pleasures of the Gay Lifestyle" at Changing Hands Bookstore (the original location on Mill Avenue) near the campus of Arizona State University, almost afraid to bring it to the cash register. Once home, this 20-year-old virgin spent hours upon hours reading up and looking at the erotic drawings, learning about "tops" and "bottoms," "rough trade" and "cruising," and "blowjobs" and frottage," and more. It was like making up for a lifetime of heterosexual indoctrination.

In his memoir, Silverstein wrote that they wanted the book to "have a wider focus than just sex, that it should also advise the reader about life in the gay community and the majority of passages in the finished book were of a nonsexual nature."

Read HERE.

Worth noting, as The Washington Post writes, that the medical community didn't exactly come around on homosexuality in 1973.
“Psychoanalysts believed that gay men were doomed to lives of depression and, eventually, suicide because of their shame,” Dr. Silverstein later told the Windy City Times, a Chicago-based LGBT publication. “I argued that these men were not ashamed because they were homosexual but because of what these therapists were telling them.”

Ten months later, in December 1973, the APA voted to remove homosexuality from the official list of mental disorders. The association issued a statement declaring that the decision was “not to say that homosexuality is ‘normal,’ or that it is as desirable as heterosexuality.” But among supporters of gay rights, the vote was regarded as a landmark victory.

Read HERE.

The obituaries flesh out his career, as an activist, psychologist and author, and his personal life, where we learn his first partner died of AIDS at the height of the pandemic and a subsequent marriage ended in divorce.

And it's always nice to put a face to a name. I'd always assumed Charles Silverstein was a trans woman of color, so was surprised to learn he was just a garden-variety cis gay white man. 😜


Jaradon said...

A landmark book that opened the eyes of many gay men

Jaradon said...

Someone needs to make a movie about this man- instead of celebrating gay psychos lets celebrate gay heroes

Lee said...

omg I swiped my copy of JoGS from the Mill Avenue Changing Hands because I was too awkward to take it to the register. I came back a few days later, bought a slightly more expensive book of a different title, and then returned that second book to the shelf so that I could rest easy that I had paid for the JoGS after all.