The Long War Against a Gay ‘Cure’

James Kirchick

Frank Kameny (center) and Mattachine Society of Washington members marching in the first Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, New York City, 1970

A Harvard-trained astronomer fired from his job in the Army Map Service in 1957 because of his sexual orientation, Frank Kameny was the first person to challenge the federal government over its anti-gay discrimination policies. Understanding that the rationale for barring highly qualified homosexuals like him from public service rested not only upon the McCarthyite claim that they were liable to subversion, but also that they were mentally unfit, he took it upon himself to change the scientific consensus. Kameny’s most consequential insight as an activist was that it was not the homosexual who is sick, but rather the society that deems him so.