“We truly stand on his shoulders,” she wrote.
Reflecting on Dr. Silverstein’s impact, Dr. Drescher, a gay psychiatrist who has spoken out against conversion therapy, said by email:
“Although I was not yet in medical school when Charles was already advocating for me, I can say without hesitation that my own career in psychiatry and psychoanalysis would not have been possible without his contributions. Many of us owe him a deep debt of gratitude — but Charles’s generosity was such that he never acted like anyone owed him anything.”
Charles Silverstein was born on April 23, 1935, in Brooklyn. His father, Sam, delivered newspapers by truck, and his mother, Ida (Berlly) Silverstein, was a homemaker.
He mainly grew up in New York, although there was a moment when he was 11 that almost made him a Californian while introducing him to discrimination. His father was offered a job in California by a former co-worker, but when the family arrived on the West Coast after a nine-day drive, they were welcomed less than hospitably.
“The other men in the shop came to the foreman and said, ‘Either you get rid of that Jew, or we go on strike,’” Dr. Silverstein recalled in an oral history recorded for The Outwords Archive in 2018. His parents received a refund of the deposit they had put down on a house, loaded the family back into the car and made the long trip back to New York.
Dr. Silverstein said he first realized that he was gay when he was a teenager, but his advocacy was still years in the future. In his early attempts at psychoanalysis, he said, he specifically asked to be “cured.”
“I was very much the kind of person who had this low self-esteem, depression and feelings of shame that I wrote about later,” he said.