the PUBLIC FORUM - Homophobia
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Paul E. Lynch

Leon Hoffman, M.D.:Those are really important words as we begin our discussion this morning. I would like to introduce Dr. Paul Lynch. Dr. Lynch is one of the first two openly gay candidates in the American Psychoanalytic Association and is Chair of the Committee on Psychoanalysis of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists. A year ago he presented a marvelous paper at this meeting entitled "Debasement in the Sphere of Homosexual Love as Understood Through Freud’s Formulation of the Universal Tendency to Debasement." For this paper, Dr. Lynch shared the Karl A. Menninger Award for the best paper presented by a candidate at the meetings of The American Psychoanalytic Association. The members of our Association have learned a great deal from Paul about some of the issues we will discuss today. It is my great pleasure to turn the rest of the program over to Paul. Thank you.

Paul E. Lynch, M.D
.: Thank you, and welcome. Welcome! I join Dr. Hoffman and Mr. Hevesi in welcoming you, and in particular, I welcome you on behalf of the Committee on Issues of Homosexuality. By the way, for the gay and lesbian people in the audience, I am not responsible for the name of that committee. We, on the Committee on Issues of Homosexuality, join the Committee on Public Information and the American Psychoanalytic Foundation to bring you today’s program. Those who are new to us should know that we often refer to our association simply as "The American." I assure all of my fellow Americans that I am also not responsible for the appropriation of that name. Before I introduce our panelists, I thought I should tell you just a little bit about who I am and why I am here today and, after the panelists speak, I will ask you to give up your role as audience and to join in the discussion.
I grew up in South Buffalo, a working class neighborhood where I was one of six children in my Irish Catholic working class family. I had great aspirations, even as a small child. Other boys in my neighborhood wanted to be firemen, policemen, and Buffalo Bills quarterbacks. Even as a very little boy, I wanted nothing more than to grow up to be a homosexual, and to be a psychoanalyst. My primary goal throughout my childhood, and steadily and unwavering throughout my entire life has been to come to the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and to declare before the American Psychoanalytic Association and our guests that I am a homosexual. Thank you all for affording me this marvelous opportunity.
I am pulling your leg this way because of course I do not have time to tell you the truth. As Chair, I will only be moderating this panel. We would be here for a very long time if I were to tell you the many stories from my childhood, of the many ways in which I did all I could to avoid the fact that I am primarily homosexual. Not only in childhood, but throughout my life. In my college years, an "outing" meant that my friends and I would get onto the subway from Riverdale and head down to Greenwich Village to see the "weirdos.". I was not gay because I was not a "weirdo." I was not like "those people." So you see, even though there was no doubt in my mind that in my college years I was everywhere and always thinking about men, I did not come to the Waldorf and declare my homosexuality. Instead, I became a homophobe. Perhaps that is why it was easy for me to attend medical school just blocks uptown from this hotel, and in four years, never once meet an openly gay or lesbian person. Remarkable isn’t it? So there you have it. I am coming out twice today. First as a homosexual, and second as a homophobe, and -- we might as well add a third – as a psychoanalyst wannabe.
This mix causes problems at times, as I am sure it has for many of you in the audience. It would be easier if we could think of homophobia only in its extremes. Like those who tortured Matthew Shepard and left him hanging on a fence in Wyoming. Or like those anti-gay activists who picketed his funeral and assaulted Matthew’s grieving family with the words, "God hates fags." Or even like those who write psychoanalytic books and assert theories from which we could conclude without any further information that of course Matthew was very sick, simply because he was gay.
It is always easy to see a prejudice when it is blatant and when it is somebody else’s, but how do we find our own? Can psychoanalysis help each of us with that task? How does a psychoanalytic organization address its own institutionalized prejudices? It has been the goal of the Committee on Issues of Homosexuality, soon to have a new name, to find ways in which anti-gay bias has impeded our psychoanalytic purpose. In the beginning -- that is, for me in my beginning here, six years ago when I first attended these meetings -- it was very easy to see the bias and very hard to see how to do anything about it. It took a very personal toll. We openly gay members, at that time, were only three. Two first year candidates, Susan Vaughan and I, and one recent graduate, Sid Phillips. But we were not alone and we had grown thick skins before our arrival here. The more people we got to know, the more supporters we had. Still, on at least a few occasions, tears were shed.
Then, after some of our most difficult and personally trying times, Marvin Margolis, then President of the Association, invited us in to talk. When he and his entire administration decided to do a very leaderly-like thing -- take charge -- everything became better for us. We had turned the corner. With the strong support of the administration, the American became a safer place for gay and lesbian people, a place where we could learn about psychoanalysis and make our own contributions to the education of our colleagues, and here we are today. Less often are we feared as politically correct fascists, and more often is it recognized that we share a genuine interest in learning psychoanalysis.
When it comes to issues of sexual orientation, clearly, until recently, the psychoanalytic movement failed to have the courage of its convictions. If more analysts had had the courage to analyze without bias towards heterosexuality, we might have more answers to our troubling questions, and less cause for the shame and embarrassment that analysts have today.
Yet, despite this failing, I believe with many of you, that psychoanalysis, freed of its biases, remains the best available tool for exploring those parts of our lives for which there are no easy or apparent explanations. Thank you for joining us today in this effort to weaken the grip of at least one of the prejudices that limits the effectiveness of this potentially liberating technique.
Biases and prejudices are by their very nature restrictive, and to some degree everyone loses out. For example, we might all have missed out on a deeper or closer relationship with some gay or lesbian friend who held back from our friendship out of fear. Yet clearly, gay and lesbian people have suffered the worst and most direct assaults of this prejudice. Before our panelists turn our attention to the prejudice itself, I would like to close with a representative illustration of just one of the millions of everyday tortures that gays and lesbians suffer in our bias ridden world.

This poem is by Mr. Perry Brass, and it is called "I Think the New Teacher’s a Queer".

"’I think the new teacher’s a queer.’

I turned around
and saw that
they were talking about me,
one false move
and it would all be over,
I could not drop my wrists
or raise my voice.

So I stood there up against the board
arms folded
pressed against my chest
and looked without seeing
or hearing until
the children became a noiseless pattern

and all those years
from when I sat among them
stopped dead and I feared
that they’d beat me up

in the boys’ room."

  Copyright, 1999, The American Psychoanalytic Foundation. All Rights Reserved.
all photographs by Mervin S. Stewart, M.D.