Richard Isay bigraphy, stories - American psychiatrist

Richard Isay : biography

December 13, 1934 - June 28, 2012

Richard A. Isay (December 13, 1934 – June 28, 2012) was a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, author and gay activist. He was a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and a faculty member of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. Isay is considered a pioneer who changed the way that psychoanalysts view homosexuality, a moral leader, and a hero within the LGBT community.


  • Admissions Committee, Yale Medical School 1973-1981
  • Chairman, Extension Division, Western New England Psychoanalytic Society 1974-1980
  • Co-Editor, Newsletter, American Psychoanalytic Society 1976-1980
  • Secretary, Program Committee (31st Congress) International Psychoanalytical Association 1977-1979
  • President, Western New England Psychoanalytic Society 1979-1981
  • Chairman, American Program (32nd Congress) International Psychoanalytical Association 1979-1981
  • Co-Chairman, Program Committee, American Psychoanalytic Association 1980-1981
  • Chairman, Ad Hoc Committee on the Desirability of Non-Medical Training, American Psychoanalytic Association 1982
  • Chairman, Program Committee, American Psychoanalytic Association 1981-1984
  • Committee on Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues, American Psychiatric Association, Chairman 1991-1993

Professional Career

  • U.S. Navy Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut 1965-1967
  • U.S. Navy Medical Corps, Lieutenant Commander, Staff Psychiatrist 1967-1975
  • Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University, Department of Psychiatry and Yale Child Study Center 1975-1981
  • Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Cornell Medical College 1981-1989
  • Faculty, Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research 1981-2012
  • Private Practice of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy 1981-2012
  • Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Cornell Medical College 1989-2012


  • Gay and Lesbian Analysts "for outstanding contribution to psychoanalysis". (New York City 1996)
  • 1996 Best Psychology Book: Becoming Gay, Books For A Better Life, Pantheon Books (1996)
  • Winfield Scott Award, "in recognition of outstanding contributions and his selfless approach to health care, education and activism on behalf of the Lesbian and Gay community". (July 28, 1998)
  • AGLP 2000 Distinguished Service Award, "for his pioneering work in combating homophobia in the psychoanalytic community as well as his many publications on the process of coming out and the psychological development of gay men and lesbians". Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (May 17th, 2000)
  • Callen-Lourde Community Health Provider Award. Community Health Awards (November 15, 2005)
  • Hans W. Loewald Memorial Award "for original and outstanding contributions to the ongoing development of psychoanalytic theory, practice and application". International Forum on Psychoanalytic Education, 22nd Annual Interdisciplinary Conference (November 12, 2011)


Richard Isay was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Isay graduated from Haverford College and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Soon after completing his psychiatry residency at Yale University, he completed training at the Western New England Psychoanalytic Institute. Throughout his career, Isay maintained an active private practice of psychiatry and psychoanalysis and was an influential teacher and supervisor. He was the program chairman of the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA). He was also the chairman of the Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues of the American Psychiatric Association.

In 1983 Isay, as chair of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s program committee, organized a panel called "New Perspectives on Homosexuality". Isay argued that homosexuality is a normal variant of sexual identity, and that psychoanalysts should stop trying to change the sexual orientation of their patients, which he considered harmful, creating a firestorm of controversy. "Several analysts walked out", Isay later recalled. Isay soon became the first openly gay member of the association.

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