Charles Silverstein

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Charles C. Silverstein
Charles Silverstein, therapist and pro-LGBT advocate, in a video conference.png
Silverstein during a 2021 video conference
Charles C. Silverstein[1]

(1935-04-23)April 23, 1935
DiedJanuary 30, 2023(2023-01-30) (aged 87)
Alma mater
Known for
Bill Bartelt
(m. 2017; div. 2019)
PartnerWilliam Bory (died 1993)[4]
  • Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Practice of Psychology (2011)
  • GLMA's Achievement Award (2017)
  • Lifetime Achievement Social Justice Award (2022)
Scientific career
ThesisThe Relationship of Attitude Change to the Complexity of the Environment, the Message, and Conceptual Structure[5]
Doctoral advisorPeter Suedfeld[6]

Charles Silverstein (April 23, 1935 – January 30, 2023) was an American writer, therapist, and LGBT rights advocate. He was best known for his presentation as a graduate student before the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 that led to the removal of homosexuality as a mental illness from the organization's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.[7][8][2] He was also the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Homosexuality.[9][10]


Charles C. Silverstein was born at Beth-El Hospital to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, on April 23, 1935.[11][12][10] His father was a newspaper deliveryman, and his mother was a homemaker.[13] He recalled his family experiencing antisemitism early in his life.[14][11] The family attempted to move to Los Angeles in 1946. There his father was fired; he recalled that his father's co-workers had threatened strike action if the boss would not fire "that Jew". After this, the family moved back to Brooklyn.[11] Silverstein studied education at the State University of New York at New Paltz, receiving his degree in 1959.[2] He then became a teacher at Chatsworth Avenue School, an elementary school in Larchmont, for six years.[2][11]

He studied at The City University of New York in clinical psychology for three years, but later became a student at Rutgers University.[2] He joined the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) in 1972; he later remarked that it was "an organization that many people will tell you it saved their lives, and I think it did for me."[2][8] He also led student protests against the Vietnam War.[11] In 1973, as a Rutgers University graduate student and member of the GAA, he provided a key testimony (in which he utilized satire) to the American Psychological Association opposing the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness.[10][2][8] Silverstein was one of several speakers who attended the panel: while he provided testimony from a psychologist's perspective, Jean O'Leary gave testimony at the same event from a commoner's perspective.[3][13][15] In a 2003 interview he said, "I threw back at them their diagnoses over the decades and how funny it all sounds now, and pointed out that their fun had hurt a lot of people."[16][2] That same year, Silverstein came out as gay to his mother.[17]

He later earned his PhD in social psychology from Rutgers University in 1974.[10][2] After graduating from Rutgers University, he opened a private psychology practice.[3] His essays and professional papers have been published widely in journals and anthologies.[9] In 1977, Silverstein and Edmund White co-authored The Joy of Gay Sex, described by The Advocate as a "landmark" sex manual that has "educated generations of gay men".[18][19] In one of his last interviews, Silverstein told the LGBTQ&A podcast in 2021, "When Ed and I first sat down to talk about the book and we made a list of the entries, it was quite clear that a majority of the entries were not about sex, it was about community and it was about relating to each other. While most people think of all the dirty pictures, what we always thought our greatest contribution was, is trying to write something that we would've wanted when we were kids, and that would be something more than just sex. That would be about community."[20]

Silverstein was the founding director of the Institute for Human Identity, and the Identity House in New York City.[9] He was the founding editor of the Journal of Homosexuality.[9] He was a member of American Psychological Association and was made a Fellow in 1987.[21] He was also a member of Division 44 of the APA (Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues), the New York State Psychological Association (NYSPA), and the Committee on Ethical Practices of NYSPA.[21] He was a frequent lecturer at conventions on both the state and national levels, author of eight books and many professional papers, and has received many awards from the American Psychological Association.[22][23]

He advocated against conversion therapy, particularly aversion therapy.[24] In 1995, he discussed the prospect of a cure for homosexuality to The New York Times, saying: "At most, it allows a person to develop some kind of relationship with a woman that most of the time will end badly. Even if it doesn't, the gay man invariably feels like a failure."[25] In 2012, he told The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide that the "amount of damage that has been done by the psychological and psychiatry professions to help people change — I see it every day at my practice... I think aversion therapy is a form of torture. I think that psychiatrists of that period enjoyed setting up a sado-masochist relationship between them and their patients."[14]

Silverstein died at his home in Manhattan on January 30, 2023, at age 87;[26][2] According to his executor Aron Berlinger, Silverstein had been diagnosed with lung cancer.[27][13]


Silverstein received the Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Practice of Psychology from the American Psychological Association in 2011, for "his 40-year career challenging the criteria of social morality as the basis for diagnosing sexual disorders", "his presentation before the American Psychiatric Association to eliminate homosexuality as a mental disorder", "his founding two counseling centers for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in order to deliver unbiased treatment", and "his founding of the Journal of Homosexuality."[22][23]

He was also featured in Cured, a documentary film detailing the history of declassifying homosexuality as a mental illness.[17] In 2017, he received an Achievement Award from GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality.[3][28] In 2022, he received the Lifetime Achievement Social Justice Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.[8]



Journal articles[edit]

Letters and editorials[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Editorial Board EOV". Journal of Homosexuality. 58 (10): ebi. November 2011. doi:10.1080/00918369.2011.619915. ISSN 0091-8369. S2CID 216112250.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Genzlinger, Neil (February 7, 2023). "Charles Silverstein, 87, Dies; Helped Destigmatize Homosexuality". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on February 12, 2023. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d Ring, Trudy (February 5, 2023). "Remembering LGBTQ+ Rights Pioneer Charles Silverstein". The Advocate. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
  4. ^ Goodyear, Sheena (February 8, 2023). "When homosexuality was considered an illness, this late psychologist fought back". CBC Radio.
  5. ^ < "Titles of All PhD Dissertations through Spring 2008 and MA Theses from the Early Years". Rutgers University. p. 11. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
  6. ^ "LGBTQ+ History". Rutgers Oral History Archives. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
  7. ^ "Charles Silverstein and the Declassification of Homosexuality as a Mental Illness Interview". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d Humm, Andy (February 9, 2023). "Dr. Charles Silverstein, pioneering gay therapist and activist, dies at 87". Gay City News. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
  9. ^ a b c d "Elsevier congratulates Dr. Charles Silverstein upon his receipt of 2 awards". EurekAlert!. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d Schwartz, Yaakov. "Charles Silverstein, who helped delist homosexuality as mental illness, dies at 87". The Times of Israel.
  11. ^ a b c d e Maxwell, Carrie (February 8, 2023). "PASSAGES: LGBTQ activist, writer and therapist Dr. Charles Silverstein". Windy City Times. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
  12. ^ "Charles Silverstein Interview". Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved February 4, 2023.
  13. ^ a b c Langer, E. (2023), "Charles Silverstein, who helped declassify homosexuality as illness, dies at 87", The Washington Post, retrieved February 9, 2023
  14. ^ a b Langer, E. (2023), "Charles Silverstein, who helped declassify homosexuality as illness, dies at 87", The Washington Post, retrieved February 9, 2023
  15. ^ Rensberger, Boyce (February 9, 1973). "Psychiatrists Review Stand on Homosexuals". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
  16. ^ Sbordone, Albert J. (September 1, 2003). "An Interview with Charles Silverstein, PhD". Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy. 7 (4): 49–61. doi:10.1300/J236v07n04_05. ISSN 0891-7140. S2CID 216113581.
  17. ^ a b Phillips, Craig (September 16, 2021). "Telling the Story of When LGBTQ+ Activists Fought the Establishment and Won". Independent Lens. PBS. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
  18. ^ Masters, Jeffrey (September 28, 2021). "The Joy of Gay Sex Author Charles Silverstein Goes Deep 40 Years Later". The Advocate. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  19. ^ a b c Masters, Jeffrey (February 3, 2023). "Charles Silverstein, an Author of The Joy of Gay Sex, Dies at 87". The Advocate. Retrieved February 6, 2023.
  20. ^ "LGBTQ&A: Charles Silverstein: The Joy of Gay Sex on Apple Podcasts". Apple Podcasts. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  21. ^ a b "Why Dr. Silverstein Became Involved — Hunter College". Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  22. ^ a b "Gold Medal Award For Life Achievement In The Practice Of Psychology: Charles Silverstein". Ebsohost. PsycARTICLES.
  23. ^ a b "Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Practice of Psychology: Charles Silverstein". American Psychological Association. 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2023.
  24. ^ "Therapy Scored By Homosexuals". The New York Times. October 9, 1972. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
  25. ^ Dunlap, David W. (December 24, 1995). "An Analyst, a Father, Battles Homosexuality". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
  26. ^ "This Week 2/1/23". Gay USA TV. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  27. ^ Radde, K. (2023), "Charles Silverstein, a psychologist who helped destigmatize homosexuality, dies at 87", NPR, retrieved February 9, 2023
  28. ^ "2017 GLMA Achievement Award Recipients". GLMA. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
  29. ^ Silverstein, Charles (1977). A Family Matter: A Parents' Guide to Homosexuality. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-057429-8.
  30. ^ Silverstein, Charles (1982). Man to Man: Gay Couples in America. Quill. ISBN 978-0-688-00803-1.
  31. ^ Silverstein, Charles (1991). Gays, lesbians, and their therapists: Studies in psychotherapy. W. W. Norton & Company. Retrieved February 6, 2023.
  32. ^ Silverstein, Charles; Picano, Felice (1992). The New Joy of Gay Sex. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-016813-1.
  33. ^ Silverstein, Charles (February 2, 2011). The Initial Psychotherapy Interview: A Gay Man Seeks Treatment. Elsevier Science. ISBN 978-0-323-16522-8.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]