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Charles Silverstein, 87, dies; Helped destigmatize homosexuality

“We truly stand on his shoulders,” she wrote.

Reflecting on the impact of Dr. Silverstein, Dr. Drescher, a gay psychiatrist who spoke out against conversion therapy, said via email:

“Although I was not yet in medical school when Charles was already defending me, I can say without hesitation that my own career in psychiatry and psychoanalysis would not have been possible without his contributions. Many of us owe him deep gratitude, but Charles’ generosity was such that he never acted as if anyone owed him anything.

Charles Silverstein was born on April 23, 1935 in Brooklyn. Her father, Sam, delivered newspapers by truck and her mother, Ida (Berlly) Silverstein, was a homemaker.

He primarily grew up in New York, although there was a time when he was 11 that nearly made him a Californian while also introducing him to discrimination. Her father was offered a job in California by a former colleague, but when the family arrived on the West Coast after nine days on the road, they were less than hospitably received.

“The other men in the shop came up to the foreman and said, ‘Either you get rid of this Jew or we go on strike,'” Dr. Silverstein recalled in an oral history recorded for The Outwords Archive in 2018. His parents received a refund of the deposit they had posted on a house, loaded the family back into the car, and made the long trip back to New York.

Dr Silverstein said he first realized he was gay when he was a teenager, but his advocacy was still years away. In his early attempts at psychoanalysis, he says, he specifically asked to be “cured.”

“I was really the kind of person who had this low self-esteem and this depression and this feeling of shame that I talked about later,” he said.


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