Charles W. Socarides, a grandfather of the reparative therapy movement and co-founder of the antigay National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, died Dec. 25 in New York. He was 83 years old.
According to the New York Times, Socarides’ books included “The Overt Homosexual” (Grune & Stratton, 1968) and “Homosexuality: A Freedom Too Far — A Psychoanalyst Answers 1,000 Questions About Causes and Cure and the Impact of the Gay Rights Movement on American Society” (Adam Margrave Books, 1995). He helped form NARTH in 1992. According to a 1999 Human Rights Campaign brochure (see footnote 8), Socarides misrepresented the American Psychoanalytic Association’s position on homosexuality in a published paper and court affidavit:
Charles Socarides has also run into trouble with the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA), of which he is a member. According to a letter from Dr. Ralph Roughton of the APsaA, Socarides misrepresented the position of the APsaA in a published paper and a court affidavit. Socarides attempted to make it appear that the APsaA agrees with his positions on homosexuality. He did this by quoting an APsaA document written in 1968, which supported his views and which he called the “official position” of the APsaA, while ignoring a 1990 revised statement that drastically contradicted his views. The Executive Committee of the APsaA instructed the organization’s attorney to write a letter to Socarides asking him to cease this misrepresentation and threatening legal action if he continued. Additionally, the APsaA newsletter decided to stop printing advertisements for NARTH meetings because the organization does not adhere to APsaA’s policy of non-discrimination “and because their activities are demeaning to our members who are gay and lesbian,” according to Roughton.
Socarides blamed homosexuality on the Freudian notion of absent fathers and attentive mothers. But he was a less than exemplary role model for fathers and for monogamous marriage; he was married four times, and his son Richard is an openly gay senior executive at New Line Cinema and former Clinton administration liaison on gay and lesbian issues.
The elder Socarides claimed to have helped 35 percent of his patients “become heterosexual” and to have helped additional gay patients reduce their sexual impulses. The Times does not explain or document Socarides’ claim.
From the Times:
“Socarides outlived his time,” Gilbert Herdt, an anthropologist who is the director of the National Sexuality Resource Center in San Francisco, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “He became a kind of anachronism, and a tragic one in the sense that he continued to inflict suffering on the lives of some gay and lesbian individuals and the L.G.B.T. community in general.”
Of the relationship between Socarides and his gay son, the Times said:
In an interview yesterday, Richard Socarides said that he and his father managed to sustain a relationship, in part because both men refrained from discussing their work. “It was complex,” he said. “We tried to relate to each other as father and son.”