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The Legacy of Charles Silverstein: The Psychologist Who Helped Destigmatize Homosexuality

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Charles Silverstein, a psychologist and therapist who was instrumental in getting homosexuality declassified as a mental illness, passed away on January 30 at the age of 87 due to lung cancer. He played a key role in changing the field’s view of conversion therapy, and his contributions to psychology and the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals have been felt around the world. Silverstein dedicated his life’s work to helping LGBTQ people live without shame, from his psychotherapy practice to his writing and beyond. 

Here are some of Charles Silverstein’s accomplishments: 

  • He helped to get homosexuality declassified as a mental illness. 
  • He challenged the scientific basis of the classification in February 1973, and ten months later, the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from the DSM’s list of mental disorders. 
  • He played a key role in changing the field’s view of conversion therapy by speaking out against it on moral grounds. 
  • He founded Identity House, an LGBTQ peer counseling organization, and the Institute for Human Identity, which provides LGBTQ-affirming psychotherapy and started out with gay and lesbian therapists volunteering their time to see LGBT clients. 
  • He published guides to help parents support their LGBTQ children, and he wrote a clinical guide for psychotherapists treating LGBTQ patients. 

As a gay man who grew up wanting to be “cured,” Charles Silverstein’s work was driven by a deep desire to help others in the LGBTQ+ community live without shame. His legacy will continue to be felt in the mental health field and beyond.

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