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Charles Silverstein

Charles Silverstein was born on April 23, 1935, to Jewish parents in Brooklyn, New York. In 1959, Silverstein received a degree in education from the State University of New York at New Paltz, after which he taught elementary school for six years. For three years Silverstein studied clinical psychology at the City College of New York before enrolling at Rutgers University. While at Rutgers Silverstein led student protests against the Vietnam War and joined the Gay Activist Alliance in 1972. As part of the Gay Activist Alliance, Silverstein provided key testimony to the American Psychiatric Association opposing the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness in the association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Silverstein was also an early critic of conversion therapy. In 1973 Silverstein founded the Institute for Human Identity, which claimed to be the first provider of LGBTQ+ affirmative psychotherapy in the United States. In 1974 Silverstein received a Ph.D. in social psychology from Rutgers. In 1976 Silverstein founded and became the editor-in-chief of The Journal of Homosexuality, subsequently publishing articles in the journal throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Silverstein and co-author Edmund White published the landmark manual on gay sex and culture The Joy of Gay Sex in 1977; a sequel titled The New Joy of Gay Sex was published in collaboration with Felice Picano in 1992. Silverstein published throughout his life; his work includes A Family Matter: A Parent’s Guide of Homosexuality (1977), Man to Man: Gay Couples in America (1982), Gays, Lesbians, and Their Therapist: Studies in Psychotherapy (1991), and his memoir For the Ferryman: A Personal History (2011). Many of Silverstein’s works were proofread by his longtime partner poet and activist William Bory, who died in 1993. Silverstein became a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in 1987. Silverstein has received awards for his work in LGBTQ+ psychotherapy, including the Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Practice of Psychology from the American Psychological Association (2011), the Achievement Award from Gay & Lesbian Medical Association: Health Professional Advancing LGBT Equality (2017), and a Lifetime Achievement Social Justice Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (2022). Charles Silverstein passed away on January 30, 2023. For more on Silverstein, see Curing Psychiatry and Psychology: A 2015 Interview with Charles Silverstein, by Philip Clark.