RALPH E. ROUGHTON, M.D.
1175 PEACHTREE STREET
ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30361
2 October 1999
To the Criminal Court of Tampere, Finland
In the Case of Eerola v. Stålström
I have been asked to provide information and a perspective on the current understanding
of homosexuality in the American Psychoanalytic Association and, specifically, to address the
question of whether the works of Irving Bieber and Charles Socarides represent the prevailing
scientific views on homosexuality among psychoanalysts in the United States. I will not comment
on the work of Warren Gadpaille, which appears in a textbook of psychiatry; he does not speak
or write for psychoanalytic audiences.
First, let me identify myself and my credentials. I am Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at
the Emory University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science in Atlanta, Georgia.
I am a Training and Supervising Psychoanalyst and a Teaching Psychoanalyst in the Emory University
Psychoanalytic Institute, and I served as the Director of that Institute from 1986 to 1991.
1 am a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association and have served on its
Executive Council, the Board on Professional Standards, the Task Force on Certification and
Membership, the Committee on New Training Facilities, and am currently a member of the
Program Committee. I have been a member of the Editorial Boards of the Journal of the
American Psychoanalytic Association and of the third edition (1990) of the glossary,
Psychoanalytic Terms and Concepts, both published by the American Psychoanalytic Association.
In 1992 1 was asked by the President of the American Psychoanalytic Association to
organize a Committee on Issues of Homosexuality, its mission being to facilitate and integrate
changes resulting from the Association's new policy that protected homosexual men and women
from discrimination in the selection of psychoanalytic candidates, teaching faculty, and training
and supervising psychoanalysts. I served as Chair of that committee from 1992 to 1998. One of
my activities was visiting the affiliated training institutes to discuss with their faculties the newer
thinking about homosexuality and to advise them on revising their curriculum on the subject.
I have presented numerous papers on homosexuality at local, national, and international
psychoanalytic meetings. My paper, "Four Men in Treatment‑ An Evolving Clinical Perspective
on Homosexuality, 1965 to 1998," received the Award for Outstanding Contribution to the
Psychoanalytic Literature on Homosexuality, given by the American Psychoanalytic Association
in 1998. In July 1999, at the Congress of the International Psychoanalytical Association in
Santiago, Chile, I presented a paper, "Separating Sexual Orientation and Psychopathology."
I am also a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association. From 1996 to 1999
I was an elected representative from the American Psychoanalytic Association to the House of
Delegates of the International Psychoanalytical Association, where I was successful in getting a
favorable vote opposing discrimination against homosexual men and women in the selection of
psychoanalytic candidates, faculty members, and training and supervising analysts. I have given
this much detail about my professional activities to show my central involvement in psychoanalytic
organizations, including but not limited to issues surrounding homosexuality.
In responding to questions about the prevailing theoretical position on homosexuality in
American psychoanalysis, however, I want to clarify the important point that, although the
American Psychoanalytic Association has adopted official positions with regard to discrimination
and civil rights, it does not take an official position on the theoretical understanding of any issue.
It is an organization that promotes open discussions, encourages exploration of various points of
view on controversial topics, and allows the free marketplace of ideas to determine which theories
gain acceptance and which ones fade into obscurity. We believe that protecting hallowed dogma
from criticism leads to stagnation, not progress.
So the questions must be addressed not from official endorsement but from assessment of
the shifting trends of acceptance and usefulness. It is my considered opinion, from my vantage
point in the American Psychoanalytic Association and from discussing the subject of
homosexuality widely with colleagues across our country, that the theoretical and clinical
positions on homosexuality promoted by Irving Bieber and Charles Socarides have largely faded
into obscurity among psychoanalysts in the United States. I would estimate that this has been a
definite and accelerating trend over the past twenty years.
Dr. Bieber is no longer living, and his last significant contribution to the literature on the
subject was in 1965, with a slight modification in a review in 1976. Although Dr. Socarides
still remains a member and attends meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and
although he conducts an ongoing discussion group on the perversions (one of 92 discussion
groups at a recent meeting), his last publication in a peer‑reviewed psychoanalytic journal that I
am aware of was in 1973. It is true that he has published articles in other, non‑psychoanalytic
journals and several books since that time, but none of those would have gone through editorial
review by psychoanalytic peers.
Since there is no official position on the theories of Bieber and Socarides in the American
Psychoanalytic Association, what other means of judging their influence do we have? A salient
question would be whether their ideas are still being taught to psychoanalytic candidates in our
training institutes. The answer is no. The Committee on Issues of Homosexuality held a
Workshop on Curriculum for institute representatives in May 1999, at which the reading lists
from various institutes were surveyed for the courses being taught on homosexuality. Not one of
them used readings by either Bieber or Socarides. Any mention of their work was for the purpose
of contrasting it as outmoded in comparison with newer perspectives.
The American Psychoanalytic Association has commissioned a vast study by its
Committee on Scientific Activities of the scientific validity of the literature on homosexuality.
The list of references alone is 69 pages long. The report, which will be published as a book next
year by the University of Chicago Press, differs sharply with both Bieber and Socarides on their
claims about homosexuality and psychopathology and about the efficacy of attempts to change
sexual orientation. The report strongly asserts that sexual orientation and mental health are
independent dimensions (Cohler, in press).
Another indication of Dr. Socarides' influence in American psychoanalysis would be his
relationship to psychoanalytic organizations. First, he does not hold a faculty appointment in any
of the affiliated training institutes. Second, he has lost every battle that he has fought in his
persistent attempts to block the acceptance of homosexual analysts. He was unsuccessful in
trying to defeat the Non‑Discrimination Policy Statement in 1991‑92. His attempt to modify the
policy in a subsequent meeting was also resoundingly defeated. Third, in 1996 the Executive
Committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association found it necessary to have its attorney
warn Dr. Socarides to stop misrepresenting its position with regard to homosexuality. This letter
included a threat of legal action if he persisted in presenting his theory as though it were the
official position of the American Psychoanalytic Association (Letter to Charles W. Socarides,
April 11, 1996 from JoAnn E. Macbeth, attorney for the American Psychoanalytic Association;
also see "Executive Committee Supports Committee on Homosexual Issues," The American
Psychoanalyst (1997) 31(2):p.2) and "Report to Board and Council" from the Committee on
Issues of Homosexuality, May 1996.
Although these are in a sense political rather than scientific controversies, the positions
taken do reflect one's understanding of homosexuality. Dr. Socarides' positions are based on the
belief that "The homosexual, no matter his or her level of adaptation and functioning in other
areas of life, is severely handicapped in the most vital area ‑‑ interpersonal relations" (1993, p. 3).
Such statements and the basis for his opposition to accepting homosexual men and women as
psychoanalysts. The members of the American Psychoanalytic Association have clearly rejected
that basic idea in their votes on the non‑discrimination position.
Following his diminished influence in the psychoanalytic world, Dr. Socarides became one
of the founders and serves as the President of the National Association for Research and Therapy
of Homosexuality (NARTH). Members include a few psychoanalysts but mostly therapists and
counselors, and the organization seems to appeal more to the religious "ex‑gay" movement than
to psychoanalytic thinkers. In addition, Dr. Socarides has given depositions in several court trials,
lending his support to those who seek to limit the civil rights of homosexual citizens and to retain
laws making sodomy a crime. This puts him in the rather odd position of claiming that
homosexual individuals are sick and, at the same time, that they should be subject to arrest and
imprisonment for acting on this "sickness." In addition to his increasingly shrill newspaper articles
opposing what he calls the "gay activist movement" and warning that "they" are destroying
civilization, his 1995 book, Homosexuality: A Freedom Too Far, written for the lay public,
I would categorize as a vicious, anti‑homosexual diatribe.
Dr. Socarides had a large influence on psychoanalytic thinking about homosexuality in the
1970's and early 1980's. In my opinion, that influence hardly exists anymore except with a
small and diminishing group of followers. As I understand it, that change has resulted (1) from his
scientific ideas not holding up under the challenge of the new openness with which psychoanalysts
are examining the validity of older ideas about homosexuality; and (2) from the negative effect of
the anti‑homosexual political positions he has pursued within the American Psychoanalytic
Association, in the judicial system, and in the news media.
From my perspective as one who has held both elected and appointed leadership positions
within the American Psychoanalytic Association, it is my considered opinion that Irving Bieber's
work is remembered as an outmoded and misguided bit of history and that Charles Socarides'
reputation as a psychoanalyst has been destroyed by his own actions. Most psychoanalysts in the
United States today regard Dr. Socarides' theoretical ideas as unreliable, unsubstantiated, and
invalid in the light of current knowledge; and most psychoanalysts who have followed his
anti‑homosexual political activities regard those actions with scorn if not outright contempt.
I hope that this information and my perspective will prove useful in the case under
consideration. If I can be of any further assistance, I will be happy to do so.
Ralph Roughton, M.D.
Bieber, 1. (1965). Clinical aspects of male homosexuality. In Sexual Inversion: The
Multiple Roots of Homosexuality, J. Marmor, ed. New York: Basic Books, pp. 248‑267.
Bieber, 1. (1973). A discussion of "Homosexuality: the ethical challenge," Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 44:163 ‑166.
Cohler, B. (2000). Sexual Identity and Life‑Course: Implications for Psychoanalytic
Study and Intervention. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, in press.
Socarides, C. (1973). Sexual perversion and the fear of engulfment. Int. J Psychoanal.,
Socarides, C. (1993). Affidavit of Charles W. Socarides, M.D. District Court, City and
County of Denver, Colorado. Case No. 92 CV 7223. Evans versus Romer. Also in Sexual
politics and scientific logic: the issue of homosexuality. J. of Psychohistory, 19:307‑329.
Socarides, C. (1995). Homosexuality: A Freedom Too Far. A Psychoanalyst Answers
1000 Questions About Causes and Cure and the Impact of the Gay Rights Movement on
American Society. Phoenix, AR: Adam Margrave Books.