The mother of the gay rights movement
40 years ago the American Psychiatric Association took homosexuality off of the list of mental disorders. At that time, being gay was considered an illness that required psychiatric treatment.
In the 1970s this decision was quite controversial. The research to back up this statement was conducted several decades prior in the buttoned-up 1950s by UCLA professor Dr. Evelyn Hooker.
Her work started when she befriended one of her students who was part of the burgeoning gay community in Los Angeles. He challenged Dr. Hooker to evaluate him along with his fellow peers to determine if they were indeed ill. Through her initial results, she found that the men were socially adjusted and did not exhibit mental disorder characteristics.
She decided to formally research this topic and studied early gay subculture groups such as the Mattachine Society and was able to obtain grant money from the National Institutes of Mental Health.
Despite the McCarthy Era penalties for being openly gay in the 1950s, Dr. Hooker managed to find a group of 30 homosexual men from her connections to that community. She also needed 30 heterosexual men to interview for the study, which was actually more difficult to find due to the stigma of being associated with a study on sexuality.
Each had to take three psychological assessment tests: The Rorschach, Make a Picture Story Test (MAPS) and Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). With all personal identities removed, their results were then analyzed by experts in psychological assessment.
The result was that about two-thirds of both sets of men were well-adjusted and that the experts could not distinguish which group each result came from. The conclusion was that being gay was not pathological and throughout her life Dr. Hooker pushed to have homosexuality be decriminalized.
Finally in 1973, her efforts paid off where her research convinced a majority of American Psychiatric Association members to vote to remove homosexuality off of their official list of mental disorders.