Betty Berzon

Two years after psychologist Betty Berzon came out as a lesbian in 1971, she won the fight to have the American Psychiatric Association declassify homosexuality as a mental illness. Berzon graduated from UCLA in 1957 and earned a master’s degree from San Diego State University in 1962. She quietly came out as a lesbian in 1968 and began treating gays and lesbians in her therapy practice. Then, in 1971, she organized both a community services center in Los Angeles and the Gay Psychological Association to advocate for change within the APA. She has founded and joined numerous groups for LGBT advocacy, serving as president of the National Gay Academic Union and a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services. Her books, including 1979’s Positively Gay and 2002’s Surviving Madness: A Therapist’s Own Story, created models for thinking of homosexuality as a healthy expression of human sexuality and recognized the psychological toll of society’s prejudices against gays and lesbians. After her death from breast cancer, the Advocate hailed her as one of their 40 heroes in 2007 and the Lambda Literary Foundation created the Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award in 2013.


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Cover of Betty Berzon's book Surviving Madness.

Date of Birth

St. Louis, MO
United States

Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Betty Berzon." (Viewed on June 22, 2021) <>.


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