Irving Bieber (1909 – 1991) was an American psychoanalyst, best known for his study Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals (1962), in which Bieber took the since discredited position that homosexuality is an illness.
Life and career
Irving Bieber was born in New York City and graduated from New York University Medical College in 1930. Bieber went on to work at Yale Medical College, New York University, and starting in 1953 at the New York Medical College, where he taught a course in psychoanalysis. Bieber was, along with Lionel Ovesey and Charles Socarides, one of the most influential American psychoanalysts who attempted to convert gay men to heterosexuality. Bieber's 1962 book Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals was a counter reaction to the 1948 Kinsey Report on male sexual behavior. It remained the leading study on homosexuality until homosexuality was removed from DSM-III in 1973.
In 1970, Bieber attended a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Francisco that was protested by gay activists. According to Socarides, Bieber, who felt he had "been working all these years to help these people", "took this very hard." In 1973, the same year the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, Bieber told an interviewer that "a homosexual is a person whose heterosexual function is crippled, like the legs of a polio victim." When Alan P. Bell, Martin S. Weinberg, and Sue Kiefer Hammersmith's study Sexual Preference was published in 1981, Bieber declared that its findings were "totally disparate" with his experience from psychiatric consultation.
Bieber arranged a partial translation into English of a paper by the Hungarian pediatrician S. Lindner, who had reported a systematic study of sucking. Sigmund Freud had used Lindner's observation that sensual sucking seems to absorb the attention completely and leads to either sleep or an orgasm-like response to develop his theory of infantile sexuality. Bieber pointed out what he saw as inaccuracies in Freud's use of this paper.
Bieber died in Manhattan in 1991.
Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals
Homosexuality offered a view of homosexuality as an illness that has since been discredited. The book has been criticized for examining homosexuals already in analytic treatment as opposed to non-patient heterosexuals. It has been suggested that the study informed stereotypes later promulgated by the media. For example, in 1964 Life Magazine featured an article on homosexuals and smothering mothers directly inspired by this study. Despite its discrediting, Homosexuality continued to be read and taught in psychopathology courses in universities in the 1980s.