Homophobia: Analysis of a "Permissible" Prejudice
-Public Forum to be held Friday, December 18th, 11:00am- 1:30pm-

Rep. Barney Frank (D. Massachusetts) to participate in forum

Honorary Guest: New York City Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi

Homophobia is often considered a benign, if not acceptable, prejudice. Kids (and a lot of grown-ups) still use "fag" and "homo" to put down people they dislike or consider odd or effeminate. Winking jokes about being gay are still regular elements of mainstream television and movies.

In an era when no thinking person would consider making a racial slur and ethnic bigotry is all but banished from the media, why are anti-gay comments and stereotypes still thriving?

The American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) will present a public forum to explore the sources and reasons for this "permissible" prejudice. The forum will delve into the psychic and social bases of homophobia- and why homophobia is still common, and still considered a "family values" prejudice.

The Forum, free and open to the public, will be held on Friday, December 18th, 1998 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, 301 Park Avenue, New York. New York City Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi, whose office has taken a lead role in gay and lesbian rights, will give the opening remarks. Leading the discussion will be Rep. Barney Frank (D. Massachusetts); the Reverend Peter Gomes, Harvard University; Dr. Nancy Chodorow, University of California at Berkeley; and Dr. Ralph Roughton, Atlanta..

The four panelists will bring unique insights to the forum-Frank as someone who has lived with and has been outspoken on these issues, Gomes as a scholar who has contradicted the notion that homophobia's original basis is Biblical, Roughton as an analyst who has written about homophobia, and Chodorow who has extensively discussed issues of gender and sexuality.

Rep. Frank has been an articulate spokesperson for an end to prejudice in our nation's public polices and is the only openly gay member of Congress. Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University, has written extensively on the religious roots of prejudice, including homophobia. His book, The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart, dissects new Biblical scholarship and his own thinking on these topics. He has contradicted the notion that homophobia's origin and basis is Biblical.

Dr. Chodorow is a psychoanalyst and professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. An acclaimed writer since publication in 1978 of The Reproduction of Mothering, one of the most influential books in the last two decades, Dr. Chodorow has focussed extensively on issues of gender and sexuality. She has written that only by linking heterosexuality to a culturally normative, male-dominant gender differentiation could psychoanalysis have provided grounds for pathologizing homosexuality.

Dr. Roughton, as chair of the American Psychoanalytic Association's Committee on Issues of Homosexuality from 1992 to 1998, led the effort to rid the Association of anti-homosexual bias. Dr. Roughton has given papers on homosexuality and homophobia at the meetings of the APsaA and the International Psychoanalytical Association, and has been a popular guest speaker at Institutes across the country.

The Forum will be moderated by Dr. Paul Lynch, instructor in psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, and the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute's first openly gay candidate. He is also the chair of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists' Committee on Psychoanalysis. His paper, "Debasement in the sphere of homosexual love as understood through Freud's formulation of the universal tendency to debasement," presented at the 1997 fall meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association received the Karl A. Menninger Award for the best paper presented by a candidate.

By analyzing homophobia with psychoanalytic tools and methods, the forum will examine its roots in the human mind and will seek to establish if the psychic causes are the reason for homophobia's seeming normalcy. Psychoanalysts strive to understand the workings of the mind and its connection to people's lives and actions. In the case of homophobia, a psychoanalyst would examine what a person was taught about it by parents, friends and community, and the way the person absorbed and used those lessons.

The forum is being presented by the American Psychoanalytic Association, which, like many psychological organizations, has had its own struggles with homosexual issues. Psychoanalytic theory, based on Freud's work, had long held that homosexuality was a developmental problem. As a result, homosexuals were viewed as being mentally ill and their sexuality was treated as an illness that needed resolution. Based on this theory, gays and lesbians were thought to be too "sick" to be trained in the American Psychoanalytic Association.

In recent years openly gay and lesbian people have been accepted as candidates and faculty. The Association has made enormous strides in the past five years to open up discussion about homosexuality, and this forum, like the recent resolution that the state should not interfere with civil marriages among gay and lesbian individuals, represents the level of that change.

The forum is co-sponsored by three committees of the American Psychoanalytic Association (the Committee on Issues of Homosexuality, the Committee on Social Issues, and the Committee on Public Information), and by the American Psychoanalytic Foundation.

The APsaA holds two national meetings annually; one, during the fall at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, and the other, during May at varying locations( Washington, DC- May 1999). The American Psychoanalytic Association, founded in 1911, currently has a membership of more than 3,000 analysts. APsaA also includes accredited training institutes and affiliate psychoanalytic societies throughout the United States.


For Further Information Contact:
Leon Hoffman, M.D., Chair, Com. on Public Information
Dottie Jeffries

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Last revised 11/24/98

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