1972: Dr. John Fryer dons tuxedo and rubber mask to become Dr Henry Anonymous confronting the American Psychiatric Association with these words: “I am a homosexual, I am a psychiatrist.” Dr. Anonymous propelled psychiatry to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness – but who was Dr
All my work interrogates the ruthless editing machine we call “history.”
I write to theatrically annotate our cultural record by spotlighting figures swept (or forced) to the margins of public memory; stories too fragmented for traditional-form historicizing that may remain untold without imagining the factual gaps.
217 Boxes Of Dr. Henry Anonymous began in alliance with the Historical Society Of Pennsylvania (HSP) and two-year funding from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The grant stipulated I use any of HSP’s collections as source material for a new play guid- ed only by the thematic launch: “personal battles for public liberty.” (OK, I authored the prompt to defend myself against requests I prematurely specify further). During my intake tour, the head archivist showed me a double set of drawers. The right set, he said, held “steps toward our ideal democracy”, while the left held “stumbles along the way.” (Great set up, I was hooked.) The “ideal” steps on the right side included drafts of the Constitution, etc (all the Philadelphia narratives most aggressively promulgated to tourists – AKA stories I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.) The “stumbles” on the left side included Drum magazine, a 1960’s Philadelphia-based “gay” publication (quite the counterpoint).
Googling Drum magazine led me to seminal LGBTQ activists Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny, which led me to an image of them seated at a hotel dais next to a man in a rubber mask, which led me to a PDF of a handwritten speech on a yellow legal pad that began “I am a homosexual, I am a psychiatrist.” I realized the PDF identifier said “HSP” – the building in which I sat googling. I went up to the readin -room front desk: “Hi, you have this?” “Oh, yes,” they said, “we have 217 boxes of that.”