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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



PASSAGES: LGBTQ activist, writer and therapist Dr. Charles Silverstein
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 2171 times since Wed Feb 8, 2023
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New York City-based LGBTQ activist, writer and therapist Dr. Charles Silverstein died Jan. 30 of complications from cancer surrounded by family and friends. He was 87.

Silverstein was born April 23, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York at Bethel Hospital. He grew up in a Jewish household with his parents and an older brother.

In a 2018 interview with Outwords, Silverstein recalled about the anti-Semitism he and his family faced from their neighbors in his Brooklyn neighborhood. This anti-Semitism repeated itself when his family attempted to move to Los Angeles in 1946. His father's co-workers there said they would strike if their boss did not fire, as Silverstein recounted in the Outwords interview, "that Jew."

The boss gave into that pressure and fired his father, which prompted the family to move back to Brooklyn. During a summer 1945 family road trip to Florida, Silverstein witnessed for the first time the racism Black people endured in the South.

Silverstein first realized he was gay during his middle school years, but did not act on those feelings for another two decades. Throughout his undergraduate years at SUNY New Paltz—and later teaching at Chatsworth Avenue School in Larchmont, New York—Silverstein tried to make himself straight through psychoanalysis over a period of many unsuccessful years in therapy.

While in the clinical psychology doctoral program at Rutgers University (1974 graduate), Silverstein was also very involved with the Gay Activist Alliance. He participated in the Gay Activist Alliance's "zaps," which people today call "flash mobs." Silverstein was also the Student Strike leader in New Jersey protesting the Vietnam War on college and university campuses.

It was during this time that Silverstein began dating and subsequently living with his boyfriend, the poet and lawyer William Bory. Bory died of AIDS in 1993. Silverstein recently adopted a young man named Shahrukh, who was his devoted caregiver during his long illness.

Silverstein was featured in, and interviewed for, the 2020 documentary CURED, which was recently aired on PBS. The documentary recounted the history of the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) removal of homosexuality from their DSM II's list of mental disorders in 1973. He spoke about the presentation he gave to the APA's Nomenclature Committee during the organization's 1973 meeting that helped make that removal possible. Silverstein was also featured in the documentary Conversion, focusing on the fight against conversion therapy.

Additionally, Silverstein co-wrote The Joy of Gay Sex with the renowned gay novelist Edmund White (featuring illustrations by Michael Leonard), which was published in 1977. His book A Family Matter: A Parents' Guide to Homosexuality was published that same year.

Additional books include Man to Man: Gay Couples in America in 1981 and Gays, Lesbians and Their Therapists: Studies in Psychotherapy in 1991. Silverstein co-wrote The New Joy of Gay Sex with Felice Picano in 1993 and 2006. The year 2011 saw the publication of The Initial Psychotherapy Interview: A Gay Man Seeks Treatment and Silverstein's memoir, For the Ferryman: A Personal History. Silverstein was also the author of many professional papers.

Among the many awards Silverstein received were the American Psychological Association's Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement in 2011, the GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality Achievement Award in 2017 and Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) inaugural Charles Silverstein Lifetime Achievement Award in Social Justice in 2022. He was also the Institute for Human Identity and Identity House founding director, Journal of Homosexuality founding editor, American Psychological Association member and later Fellow in 1987, American Psychological Association Division 44 (Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues) member, New York State Psychological Association (NYSPA) member and NYSPA Committee on Ethical Practices member.

Silverstein was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his son Shahrukh, an older brother, a nephew, cousins and countless chosen family members and friends.

"One of my oldest and dearest friends, Charles Silverstein, passed away, surrounded by family and friends," said longtime friend Virginia Record in a Facebook post. "I met Charles in 1971 when he was a graduate student at Rutgers and people were still calling him 'Charlie' or 'Chuck.' A man of many talents—psychologist, gay rights activist, skier, world traveler (and travel chronicler) and chef. Charles was truly one of a kind and will be missed horribly by those who knew him. RIP dear friend."

"Being Charles's friend was a privilege," said longtime friends and neighbors Manette and Aron Berlinger. "He reveled in fun and adventure. He traveled the world with friends, produced hilariously campy at-home musicals, hosted gourmet dinners and neighborhood protest meetings. He schmoozed and dished with us at Sunday brunches and helped in any way he could: faxing, printing, donating kitchen tools and refrigerator space for holiday extravaganzas, creating travel itineraries with books, maps and insider tips, celebrating birthdays with an ice-cream cake that took two days to bake which he was not allowed to eat, gifting us with food and folk art from his adventures abroad. He was always there to delight or support us. He was one of a kind, the best."

"As our grammar schoolteacher in the 1960s, 'Mr. S' taught us that, while we should always strive for excellence, perfection was not a necessary or useful goal, and being 'different' was okay," said former Chatsworth Avenue School student Charlie Seton. "That was radical teaching for those days."

"I met Charles at the height of the AIDS epidemic just after the virus claimed his partner, William. Charles was a hero," said longtime friend Ted Osius. "He never took himself too seriously. Clayton and I cherish an original drawing he gave us from the second edition of his book, The Joy of Gay Sex.

"One highlight of my first tour in Vietnam was a visit from Charles, where he and dear friend Judy Clarke careened around the Hanoi on the back of motorbikes. He liked the wartime paintings, and later I found one for him by Vann Nath, who more than any other painter chronicled the genocide of the 1980s. Over the years we shared many friends, including Bill Bartelt and Bryan Dalton, visited many cities, and ate like kings. I like to think that a good life involves love and purpose. Charles had both: he made a huge difference for millions, and his life was full of color, laughter, learning, sharing, love and friendship."

"Charles Silverstein and I were neighbors," said longtime friend and neighbor James Grissom. "Eventually, we became friends, with the majority of our friendship taking place in our building's elevator or on its stoop. As casual as we were, our conversations were often deep and substantive.

"Charles would see patients in his apartment, and several times a man would turn to me (I was presenting) in the lobby or the elevator and tell me how great it was to have this man in the world and this building. This was often because Charles would see patients for free or on a 'pay what you can' basis. Primarily, because he removed the shame and fear of being gay.

"I would have to be court-ordered to go apple-picking, but Charles would go, and he would place baskets of his harvest for us to all have. He threw great parties, amid his African Art collection, with good food and lots of it, and lively conversation. Dr. Ruth Westheimer got lost in our building once and came to my apartment rather than Charles'. I helped Dr. Ruth get to the right place, but Charles and I would laugh for years that, while Dr. Ruth led people to the exact location of the clitoris, she could not find the apartment of a close friend and associate. Later in his life, Charles paid every cent of a foreign trip for those people in his life and his building who had been helpful to him, during health scares, the death of friends, life itself. He was inordinately generous, funny, fulsome. He leaves an enormous footprint, and many sad friends."

"My wife, Inés and I, met Charles in 1977 when we moved into the Amidon apartment building where he lived," said longtime neighbor/friend and professional collaborator Gerald (G. Augustine) Lynas. "Charles was a good and friendly neighbor. I enjoyed his company and admired his impeccable taste in art.

"Charles sought me out to do various graphic design and illustration projects. When he needed a cane he asked me to make it unique so I painted a serpent on it which he loved because it gave him a conversation starter. He was a good client and collaborator and I will miss his presence in the building. Charles' death is a great loss to all of us in the Amidon community."

"Charles had a joie de vivre and a great, sarcastic, grouchy sense of humor," said NYSPA leadership in an email to members announcing Silverstein's death. "He could poke fun at himself as well as at others, and if you have never seen some of his videos from the "shows" that were put on at his vacation home, usually with Charles in a blonde wig, singing, acting, telling jokes, and just loving life, you really missed out.

"Once he became involved in activism, however, he was out and proud. He became the voice of a generation in a way, in that he banded together at the early part of that gay activism and fought the system. He stopped worrying about what coming out would do to his career and started worrying about what not coming out would do to gay rights. He loved to tell how he came out to his mother. She was visiting him, and he was going to be interviewed for a TV news spot on homosexuality and was expecting the news crew any minute. He told his mother, 'A news crew is coming to interview me about homosexuality.' When she asked, 'Why you?' he replied, 'Because I am a homosexual.' And then she left and went to visit his brother.

"Charles had a huge heart, a great sense of humor and a lack of patience for nonsense. He was humble, despite having accomplished so much. Charles was also a fantastic cook and loved to have friends over for dinner at his beautiful NYC apartment, which is covered in incredible artwork and souvenirs from his many travels far and wide, including a painting of a slightly younger Charles, in a kimono, with a dog on his lap. That was another great thing about Charles. He was either wearing a plaid flannel shirt like a lumberjack, or a kimono like a diva. He was complicated that way, part of his charm.

"Without Charles Silverstein the LGBT community would have had a much harder time fighting for their rights. In addition, he helped countless patients, young professionals and those who read his books and scholarly articles. His death leaves a huge hole in our profession."

Silverstein appeared on the LGBTQ&A podcast in 2021, where he spoke about the legacy of The Joy of Gay Sex: "When Ed and I first sat down to talk about the book and we made a list of the entries, it was quite clear that a majority of the entries were not about sex, it was about community and it was about relating to each other. While most people think of all the dirty pictures, what we always thought our greatest contribution was, is trying to write something that we would've wanted when we were kids, and that would be something more than just sex. That would be about community."

A day of remembrance will be held in late April or early May in New York City. Details TBA.

The Outwords Archives interview with Silverstein can be viewed at .

This article shared 2171 times since Wed Feb 8, 2023
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