Dr. Richard Green: Unsung Hero

On April 6, 2019. We lost a man that was well known as a wonderful ally. Dr. Richard Green passed away in his home from esophageal cancer. He was a psychiatrist that wrote a paper to The International Journal of Psychiatry that questioned “the premise that homosexuality is a disease or a homosexual is inferior.” He wrote this paper three years after Stonewall! This was the time where homosexuality was considered a mental illness and was in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In this paper, he appealed to the American Psychiatric Association to take homosexuality out of the DSM. He didn’t win that appeal. A year later, he appealed again and homosexuality was removed from the DSM.

Ten years prior to this paper, he protested and successfully challenged the courts on a man that was being deported from the United States due to having a homosexual identity. This was one of many cases he took on as a lawyer. He defended many LGBTQ identified people, regardless of how he would be perceived in the media. “Those were times when, if you spoke up in support of homosexuals, people immediately thought that you were secretly homosexual yourself, or had unresolved sexual issues,” Dr. Jack Drescher, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia, said in an interview to the Times. “Richard was very much heterosexual, and it took a lot of courage to argue for gay people.” He also took on the Boy Scouts of America in 1990 for barring a gay man from becoming an assistant scoutmaster. He did lose the trial but it helped pave the way for the 2015 decision to stop banning gay leaders.

Besides writing the paper and defending many LGBTQ identified people, he also wrote “The ‘Sissy Boy Syndrome’ and the Development of Homosexuality”, saw Transgender patients in his psychiatry practice, and founded the International Academy of Sex Research.

We have Dr. Richard Green to thank for helping to pave the way for our current policies and practices in any of the helping professions-whether it be psychiatry, social work, medical, etc.