Isay, Richard A. (Richard Isay, Richard Alexander Isay)

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Isay, Richard A. (Richard Isay, Richard Alexander Isay)


Son of Milton and Jeanette Isay; divorced; children: David, Joshua. Education: Haverford College, A.B., 1956; University of Rochester, M.D., 1961; postgraduate study at Western New England Institute, New Haven, CT, 1968-73.


Home—New York, NY. Office—55 East End Ave., New York, NY 10028-7928.


Writer, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, physician, and educator. Yale University, New Haven, CT, resident in psychiatry, 1962-65; private practice in psychiatry and psychoanalysis, 1967—; Yale University School of Medicine, assistant clinical professor, 1967-75, associate clinical professor of psychiatry, 1975-81; Columbia University, Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, New York, NY, member of faculty, 1981; Cornell University Medical College, associate clinical professor, 1981-88, clinical professor of psychiatry, 1989—. Hetrick Martin Institute, member of board of directors, 1992-95. Military service: United States Navy, 1965-67, became lieutenant commander.


International Psycho-Analytical Association, American Psychiatric Association (distinguished fellow), American Psychoanalytic Association, National Lesbian and Gay Health Association (member of board of directors, 1987-97; vice president, 1992-97), Western New England Psychoanalytic Society (president, 1979-81), Phi Beta Kappa.


Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1989.

Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self Acceptance, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1996.

Commitment and Healing: Gay Men and the Need for Romantic Love, J. Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 2006.

Associate editor, Models of the Mind: Their Relationship to Clinical Work, 1985. Contributor to periodicals and professional journals, including the New York Times.


Richard A. Isay is an author, psychoanalyst, and psychiatrist. He has been a professor at the Yale University School of Medicine, Cornell University, and Columbia University, as well as a psychiatrist in private practice. Much of Isay's work focuses on issues of male homosexuality, particularly in terms of gays' acceptance of themselves. He disputes the common psychoanalytical theory that homosexuality "represents a failure to achieve full psychosexual developmental maturity," noted a biographer on He also rejects the notion that psychological or psychiatric treatment can help gays "overcome" or "be cured" of their homosexuality.

Isay, gay himself, endured the emotional turmoil of trying to live in opposition to his nature. He married and started a family, largely to please his own therapist at the time, and worked at establishing his professional practice, reported Marny Hall in the Lambda Book Report. The strain of trying to maintain both a heterosexual and homosexual lifestyle proved exhausting and emotionally taxing. "After Isay's harrowing odyssey through guilt and shame over his anonymous sexual encounters, the two tracks of his double life finally converged," Hall noted. The 1980s found Isay divorced but in a committed relationship with a life partner. He also became the American Psychoanalytic Association's first openly gay member. Later, Isay became instrumental in persuading the American Psychoanalytic Association to accept gay and lesbian applicants to its training programs.

In his written works, Isay concentrates on topics relevant to accepting one's own sexuality and living a healthy and happy life as a gay man. In Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self Acceptance, Isay explores the psychological development of gay men and how they can benefit from a sincere appreciation of their sexuality by cultivating a "positive gay identity," commented a Lambda Book Report reviewer. Isay looks at self-acceptance through the various stages of life, from adolescence through adulthood and older age; in professional and personal venues, including getting married and having children; and in more difficult situations, such as becoming HIV infected or living with AIDS. Though some still have tremendous problems with managing, accepting, and even recognizing their homosexuality, for Isay, "acknowledging one's gayness and being happy with it are possible," noted Ray Olson in Booklist.

Commitment and Healing: Gay Men and the Need for Romantic Love argues for long-term, committed relationships for gay men, and suggests that marriage, despite the perpetual media furor surrounding gay marriage, is helpful but not necessarily the solution to gay men's unwillingness or inability to make a commitment. Isay applies a psychoanalytic approach to consideration of the difficulties gay men have with commitment, pinpointing its origins in flawed parent-child relationships. He also includes dozens of case studies that illustrate the troubles and triumphs of gay clients who have confronted their problems with long-term commitment. He notes that the image of promiscuity in same-sex relationships has some basis in reality, but that in truth, "gay men have the same needs for sustained, fulfilling, romantic relationships as do heterosexuals," observed Library Journal reviewer Richard J. Violette. Isay's work helps gay men "engage in fulfilling relationships by understanding the root of their fear" of commitment, remarked a Lambda Book Report contributor.



Archives of Sexual Behavior, June 1, 1993, Warren J. Gadpaille, review of Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development, p. 287.

Booklist, June 1, 1996, Ray Olson, review of Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-Acceptance, p. 1642.

Clinical Social Work Journal, spring, 1991, Maggie Magee, review of Being Homosexual, p. 99.

Contemporary Psychology, January 1, 1991, review of Being Homosexual, p. 39.

Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, March 1, 1990, review of Being Homosexual, p. 186.

Harper's Bazaar, May 1, 1996, "Strange Bedfellows," p. 178.

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, February 19, 1997, Ze'ev Levin, review of Becoming Gay, p. 598.

Journal of Homosexuality, January 1, 1999, review of Becoming Gay, p. 141; April 1, 1999, Maggie Magee and Diana C. Miller, review of Becoming Gay, p. 141.

Lambda Book Report, July, 1996, Marny Hall, review of Becoming Gay, p. 13; December, 1997, review of Becoming Gay, p. 36; fall, 2006, review of Commitment & Healing: Gay Men and the Need for Romantic Love, p. 42.

Library Journal, April 1, 1989, James Michael MacLeod, review of Being Homosexual, p. 102; May 15, 2006, Richard J. Violette, review of Commitment and Healing, p. 118.

Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1987, "Scapegoating of Gay Men Leaves Its Mark," p. 5.

New England Journal of Medicine, January 2, 1997, Christopher Bellonci, review of Becoming Gay, p. 74.

Publishers Weekly, February 17, 1989, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Being Homosexual, p. 62; August 31, 1990, review of Being Homosexual, p. 62; April 17, 2006, review of Commitment and Healing, p. 180.

Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 1989, review of Being Homosexual, p. 32.

SciTech Book News, October 1, 1989, review of Being Homosexual, p. 17.

U.S. News & World Report, November 6, 1989, Erica E. Goode, "Growing Up Gay in America," interview with Richard Isay, p. 95.

ONLINE, (June 14, 2007), biography of Richard A. Isay.