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Dr. John E. Fryer, 65; Trailblazing Psychiatrist in Gay Rights Movement

March 08, 2003|From Staff and Wire Reports

Dr. John E. Fryer, 65, a psychiatrist considered a trailblazer in the gay rights movement for appearing before his colleagues at a 1972 convention in a mask to announce his homosexuality, died Feb. 21 in Philadelphia of aspiration pneumonia.

Fryer appeared as Dr. H. Anonymous, clad in a full mask and wig, and using a voice-distorting microphone before the American Psychiatric Assn. meeting in Dallas at a time when homosexuality was designated a mental illness.

"I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist," he said. He then told the group that he had suffered discrimination and had to remain anonymous because being openly gay would cost him his job. At the time, he was an untenured professor at Temple University.

The next year, the American Psychiatric Assn.'s board of trustees removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the profession's bible.

A native of Kentucky, Fryer graduated from Transylvania College in Lexington. He joined the Temple faculty in 1967 and became a full professor of psychiatry and family and community medicine. He retired in 2000.

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