SOCARIDES RIP

A central figure in the attempt to interpret the writings of Freud as endorsing homosexuality as a psychological illness has just died. His name was Charles Socarides, and his main contribution to the psychoanalytic literature was to assert that fathers induced homosexuality in their own sons in the first months of a baby’s life. His own son, Richard, of course, turned out to be gay – not only gay, but the Clinton administration’s liaison to the gay community. His father’s views long predate his own son’s emotional development, so the irony is exquisite, if not at all unique. (The number of passionate anti-gay activists with gay offspring – from Phyllis Shlafly to Alan Keyes – is almost surreally long.) I read a lot of Socarides’ work in the 1990s in order to better understand his arguments. The central essay in “Love Undetectable” is an exploration of the psychoanalytic case for gayness as a “disorder” (an idea now borrowed by, of all people, the Pope). If you’re interested in my own take on the psychoanalytic debate, you can buy the book here. All but fringe psychiatrists and psychologists disown Socarides’ theories today – but they have political salience because of the Christian right’s control of the Republican party. In fact, it’s important to note that Socarides’ work, among other psychoanalysts, is the intellectual basis of the “Christian” “ex-gay” movement – one of those rare moments when Christians have had to rely on the atheism of Freud. By all intellectual means necessary, I guess. (Update: some related thoughts here.)

– posted by Andrew.

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