The True Tale of How One Woman "Cured" Twenty Million Homosexuals
Outline For Original Screenplay
Jeffrey George Moline, John Meeks & Terrence Franklin
STORYLINE: In the wake of the Stonewall Rebellion, long-time gay civil rights activist Barbara Gittings must ride the tidal wave of the counter-culture as it crashes against the establishment, and she leads the attack against the APA (American Psychiatric Association) to depathologize homosexuals and destroy the diagnosis that makes them SICK. The lives of doctors, activists and ordinary people collide as Barbara mobilizes them to confront the devastating and sometimes deadly consequences of simply being a homosexual in 1969.
THEME: The true story of how the power of one woman with gumption can change the course of history.
TONE: Based on actual events, SICK is a story of hope, humor and optimism, in the face of pain, struggle and sacrifice in the uphill battle to reform mental health treatment. Barbara’s fight to erase the stigma of sickness from homosexuality unfolds over the course of a swift three-year span.
July 4th, 1969. Homosexuality is illegal and discrimination against homosexuals is just the way it is. No one questions the simple truth that homosexuality is aberrant behavior. Being queer is grounds for termination. Fags and dykes can freely be turned down for apartments. Sissies cannot be teachers, and nobody blinks when “funny” people are harassed and arrested. SICK opens when Barbara Gittings’ Annual Reminder picket in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall is overtaken by the riotous Gay Liberation Front from the recent Stonewall Rebellion.
Realizing the movement is evolving around her, Barbara mounts the cyclone of diffuse energy and gives it focus -- manifesting her long-term goal of changing the DSM (Diagnostic and and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) removing the stigma of sickness. Barbara and her life partner, Kay, move to New York City, and join the GLF, where they must endure and overcome sexism and ageism, not only from the psychiatric establishment, but also from her fellow gay activists.
1970. The American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Convention in San Francisco. In attendance are all of the players who bring the issue to the forefront. Ideas clash and chaos erupts when Barbara leads protestors to disrupt the “15 Years and Counting” seminar recognizing the work of doctors Irving Bieber and Charles Socarides in “curing” homosexuals. There Barbara finds like-minded comrades within the APA who agree with her that when it comes to homosexuality, there is nothing to cure. Barbara exploits the moment and deploys the GLF, targeting the APA and attacking the idea that homosexuality is an illness.
1972. The daily struggles of homosexuals’ lives play out against the backdrop of a series of dramatic protests and maneuvers, including a speech from Dr. Anonymous, a masked gay psychiatrist, all orchestrated by Barbara. Lives and livelihoods are destroyed, relationships are tested. People die.
December 15, 1973 After a thrilling debate between the activists and the conservative APA, the Association votes to remove homosexuality from the DSM II, thus paving the way for all the progress the LGBTQ community experienced over the next forty years.
December 2006 Barbara Gittings receives the First Annual John E. Fryer Award from the American Psychiatric Association for her significant impact on the mental health of gays and lesbians. Her legacy continues to impact lives today.
A brave, headstrong woman battles the entire psychiatric industry to prove that homosexuality is not, in fact, an illness that has a "cure".
"Barbara's mission is a human rights mission...the audience is on board with her from the get-go. She has some particularly great moments during her debates, specifically when she goes head-to-head with Dr. Socarides. Dr. Fryer's scheme to get his point across using the Dr. Anonymous moniker is also an intriguing subplot. Similar to films like MILK and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, this script could certainly have a place in this subject matter's historical canon." The Blacklist Evaluator
Dr. Anonymous' Story
It’s almost shocking to believe that in 1972 there were no gay psychiatrists. Because being gay meant you couldn’t be a psychiatrist, and being a psychiatrist meant you couldn’t be gay. Barbara Gittings had to use all her rhetorical powers of persuasion to convince Dr. John Fryer, who had been fired from two university positions on suspicion that he was gay, to talk to the American Psychiatric Association about what it was like to be gay AND a psychiatrist. But it was too risky to do it as himself. So, he donned a distorted Nixon mask, an oversized tuxedo and used a voice scrambling microphone to tell his truth and the truth of so many others.
The Doctors' Story
"A homosexual is a person whose heterosexual function is crippled, like the legs of a polio victim," Dr. Irving Bieber. Dr. Bieber was one of the most influential American psychoanalysts who attempted to convert gay men to heterosexuality. He really thought he was helping his "patients." In "SICK" he presents a demonstration on lobotomy and electroshock therapy in his effort to "cure" his patient, Steve. The 1970 presentation at the American Psychiatric Association meeting in San Francisco, is disrupted by gay activists, including one who calls Bieber a "motherf*cker"!
The Photographer's Story
Kay Lahusen was the partner of Barbara Gittings in life, love and the movement for over forty years. Kay doesn't appear in a lot of the photographs of the movement from the 60s and 70s, but that's because she was always behind the camera, documenting every step of the way. Here, she has a moment in front of the camera as she attends a Gay Liberation Front fundraiser at the home of William Haines, actor and interior designer at his fabulous mansion in California.
The Captain's Story
Captain Jed Barrowman, a handsome young Air Force psychiatrist, whose job it is to help airmen who are "caught" thinking homosexual thoughts, to avoid being discharged from the service. But what is Captain Barrowman thinking? How does somebody who may be SICK, treat others who are SICK, and still keep his sickness secret?
The Singer's Story
Linda Rivera, a young Dominican singer, who, just being herself, and without really trying to, helps Barbara Gittings and her life partner Kay Lahusen, learn more about themselves and what they mean to one another.
The Journalist's Story
Ronald Gold, the young journalist activist who clashes with Barbara Gittings over their different approaches to making progress for gay rights. Younger, more aggressive, and male, Ron has to learn from Barbara, as she also must learn from Ron.