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Heartfelt, Hopeful, Happy

I was pleased with the winter 2017 issue’s LGBTQ focus. The 1973 student-run course on homosexuality organized by Jesse Ford ’73 and Tina Crosby ’74 with faculty support from Jeanne Marecek was a turning point in my life. I was conscious of gay feelings as early as I can remember and, sadly, conscious of the need to hide them almost as early. I tried to change myself, without success, and then sought help from a succession of psychiatrists to no avail. I was depressed and suicidal, wondering how I could get through life, only playacting at love, but never experiencing it. My psychiatrist never said outright that I was sick. Nevertheless, he delved with great energy into the psychic factors that had shaped my sickness. An intelligent kid from a liberal, well-educated family, it never occurred to me that this was not my problem.

Then I heard about this course. I had shared with my girlfriend my “bisexual feelings” and together we decided to enroll. The class—and indeed the gay movement on campus at the time—was almost entirely female, a reflection of the greater support provided to women by the feminist movement. Although this was hardly the best context for me to “find a date,” having a political rather than a sexual introduction to the topic was just what I needed. It was the first time I had ever read a political analysis of homophobia, the first time I had seen psychiatry’s studies of homosexual pathology methodologically criticized, and the first time I had shared my experiences with a group of people like me.

My psychological transformation was rapid and dramatic. By the time the course was over, I had fired my psychiatrist and come out to my classmates and parents. I had turned self-hatred and depression into anger, activism, and a vision for the future. Most important, I discovered I was strong, and brave, and ready to build relationships based in honesty. And the story has another happy ending: I did find “real love” and am married to the man I met 43 years ago, soon after completing the course that provided such excellent preparation. Together we have continued the struggle for LGBTQ liberation.

—JOHN WHYTE ’74, Philadelphia, Pa.