I was watching Chris & Don: A Love Story a few weeks ago when one intriguing fact caught my attention: the author Christopher Isherwood rented a pool house in Evelyn Hooker’s backyard. Crazy!
A quick Wikipedia refresher reminded me of the profound contribution Evelyn Hooker made to my life. In 1957, at a time when homosexuality was widely considered a mental illness, Hooker devised a brilliantly simple way to test that assumption. She gave straight and gay volunteers a series of standard psychological tests, and then asked experts to identify the homosexuals based on the tests alone. They couldn’t.
In 1952, the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association labelled homosexuality a disorder. Hooker helped to prove that this assumption was based on social prejudice rather than scientific evidence. By 1973 the APA removed homosexuality as a disorder. Evelyn Hooker was a practicing therapist, largely for gay men, for most of her career. She died in 1996. Thank you, Evelyn.* Movie Review: Chris & Don: A Love Story was a fascinating bit of history, telling the story of Christopher Isherwood and his much younger lover Don Bachardy. (Isherwood wrote the stories that became the movie Cabaret and more recent, and wonderful, A Single Man, a stunningly beautiful film by Tom Ford. Christopher and His Kind is his fascinating autobiography about gay life in Europe before and after WWII.) I sat watching Chris & Don with my much younger partner, Kamran, in mutual horror. There was so little love in the story, and so much twisting power dynamics of a famous man with his pretty “boy.” We found it educational, but sadly, not a overly heartwarming.