Advancing LGBT Civil Rights

John Fryer Historic Marker Dedication

Tuesday, October 3, 1:00 pm - 1:30 pm
13th & Locust Streets

Philadelphia, PA



John E. Fryer, M.D., challenged the designation of homosexuality as a mental illness at the 1972 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Seated on a panel beside Gay Pioneers Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings and disguised as Dr. H. Anonymous, Fryer announced his homosexuality at a time when medical, legal and other professional licenses could be revoked on that basis. Fryer declared himself a proud member of the APA and explained that homosexuality was not the illness, but rather the toxic effects of homophobia.

Beginning in 1952, the APA listed homosexuality as a mental disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). For decades, homosexuals were subjected to “treatment,” including chemical castration, electric shock therapy, mental institutionalization and lobotomy. 

The DSM classification was first attacked in the 1960s by pioneering activist Frank Kameny, a Harvard-educated Ph.D. astronomer. Kameny and fellow gay activist Barbara Gittings waged a multi-year campaign against the APA. In 1971, after storming the APA’s Annual Meeting, the pair was permitted to organize a panel discussion on homosexuality for the 1972 APA Meeting and recruited Fryer. As a result of Fryer’s testimony, the APA removed homosexuality from the DSM at its Annual Meeting the following year.

In 1967 Fryer joined the medical faculty at Temple University, where he was employed at the time of his testimony.

Learn more about Dr. Fryer.    

Sponsored by


Malcolm Lazin (Master of Ceremonies)
Executive Director
Equality Forum

Malcolm Lazin is the Executive Director of Equality Forum and the founder of LGBT History Month. Previously a federal prosecutor, he received the U.S. Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award and subsequently served as the chair of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission.

Lazin is credited with the lighting of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which connects Philadelphia with Camden, New Jersey. He also successfully led a nearly two-decades-long campaign to make Washington Square (in Philadelphia), the largest Revolutionary War burial site, part of Independence National Historical Park. Lazin is the recipient of numerous local, state and national community service and civil rights awards.

Dr. Saul Levin (Keynote Speaker)
CEO and Medical Director
American Psychiatric Association

Dr. Saul Levin is the CEO and medical director of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Previously, he served as interim director of the District of Columbia Department of Health. He also served on the D.C. Health Exchange Board and chaired the Essential Health Benefits Package Subcommittee. Dr. Levin served as vice president for science, medicine and public health at the American Medical Association (AMA) and as a special expert appointee in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He is a former president and CEO of medical education for South African Blacks, an anti-apartheid education trust. He received his medical degree from the University Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus

Formed in 1981, the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus (PGMC) has grown to more than 140 active members and has steadily increased its visibility in both the LGBTQ+ community and the Philadelphia arts scene. The Chorus's season includes three main stage productions and multiple special events. PGMC’s repertoire includes a broad range of styles, including spirituals and sacred music, holiday songs, love ballads, comic numbers, pop and rock, Broadway and Hollywood tunes, opera, international folk, and the latest LGBTQ+ empowerment music and commissioned works.

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