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'''John Ercel Fryer''', M.D. (November 7, 1937 – February 21, 2003) was an American psychiatrist and gay rights activist best known for his anonymous speech at the 1972 American Psychiatric Association (APA) annual conference where he appeared in disguise and under the name '''Dr. Henry Anonymous'''. This event has been cited as a key factor in the decision to de-list homosexuality as a mental illness from the APA's ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders''. The APA's "John E. Fryer, M.D., Award" is named in his honor.
Fryer was born in Winchester, Kentucky, to Ercel Ray Fryer and Katherine Zempter Fryer. He was in the second grade of his elementary school at 5 years old, graduated from high school at 15, and earned a bachelors degree from Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky, when he was 19. He received his medical degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1962, and did his medical internship at Ohio State University. He began his psychiatric residency at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, but left on the advice of a psychoanalyist due to the depression caused by having to hide his homosexuality; he later described Menninger as having "a lot of homophobia." He moved to Philadelphia, where he held a residency at the University of Pennsylvania, but was forced to leave because of his homosexuality; he completed his residency in 1967 at Norristown State Hospital.
Around the mid-1960s, Fryer began to receive referrals from Alfred A. Gross, the Executive Secretary of the George W. Henry Foundation – co-founded by Gross and Henry in 1948 to help those "who by reason of sexual deviation are in trouble with themselves, the law or society"; to treat homosexual men who had run afoul of the law, and to testify on their behalf in court cases.
Fryer joined the medical faculty of Philadelphia's Temple University in 1967. As of January 1969, he was an instructor in psychiatry there. He worked in the community health center in North Philadelphia, and became active in the Health Care and Human Values Task Force, using a $5,000 grant to that organization to create a group he called "Ars Moriendi" to deal with matter concerning the professional reaction to death and dying. This later became the International Work Group on Death, Dying, and Bereavement.
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Fryer became a professor at Temple, both of psychiatry, and of family and community medicine. He specialized in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction as well as in death and bereavement. Sometime after 1973, he began treating gay men with AIDS who were dying, seeing them in his home office rather than in his practice at Temple, for reasons of patient confidentiality. He was involved in setting up Physicians in Transition, Temple's Family Life Development Center, the APA's International Work Group on Death, Dying, and Bereavement and the Philadelphia AIDS Task Force. In 1980, at the behest of Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of London's St Christopher's Hospice, he took a sabbatical from Temple and helped to restructure the hospice's education department. He retired from Temple in 2000.
In 2002, it was reported that Fryer had accepted a position at a hospital in the Northern Territory of Australia, but he never took up that post.
Fryer was also a musician, playing the organ. For 30 years was the choirmaster of St. Peter's Church in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia where he lived; he also played the organ for Temple University graduations.
Fryer was being treated for diabetes and pulmonary sarcoidosis, and eventually died from gastrointestinal bleeding and aspiration pneumonia in 2003.
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