‘Cured’ examines fight to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness

The award-winning documentary Cured made its U.S. broadcast debut Monday, October 11 at 10 p.m. on PBS, according to The Advocate. The documentary was the first in PBS’ Independent Lens series, opening its fall season. 

Co-directed by Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer, the film deeply examines the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973 and the activism that its inclusion prompted. Before homosexuality was removed from the manual, it was believed by many working in the psychiatric field that homosexuality was a mental condition that could be “cured.” 

The treatments for the homosexual “mental illness” included intensive talk therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, and aversion therapy. However, in some cases where being cured was thought to be next to impossible, people were castrated and lobotomized. The diagnoses contained in the manual led to justifications for discrimination against and persecution of queer people. 

Almost 50 years after the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s manual, it is still legal for youth to be subjected to conversion therapy in 30 states, a practice that Cured proves to have deep historical context. Featuring archival footage and interviews with those on the front lines advocating for a change in the APA’s manual, Cured covers a pivotal moment in the gay liberation movement.

“This was a seminal moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality and a story that had not been told before in film,” said co-director Patrick Sammon in a press release. “We put more than five years of research and production work into this project and had the great privilege of interviewing many of the key people who were direct catalysts for this groundbreaking change. Five of our interviewees have passed away, so we see this film as a testament to their courage and persistence.”

“We’re thrilled that the broadcast premiere is taking place on National Coming Out Day — the perfect moment to remind the world that for LGBTQ people, coming out represents an incredibly powerful form of activism,” added co-director Bennett Singer. “Even though this is a story from history, its lessons remain profoundly relevant today. This is a film about the process of bringing about lasting, systemic social change.”

Cured has been recognized in the U.S. and internationally, winning such awards as the Audience Awards for Documentary Feature at Frameline 44: The San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival, the Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature at Out at the Movies International Film Festival, and a $50,000 award from the 2020 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film.

By selecting Cured to start their fall season of Independent Lens, PBS is setting the tone for the films that will follow. “Our films this fall honor individuals whose determination in the face of challenge reflect major issues impacting our nation and our world, and our goal is always to inspire meaningful conversations around timely and often challenging issues,” said Lois Vossen, executive producer of Independent Lens

“Cured gets to the very core of this, shining a light on the inspiring LGBTQ+ activists who went up against a powerful institution and used open dialogue to create immense change, the impact of which is still felt today. I can’t think of a more appropriate film to open this new season.”

Cured is available on the PBS Video app.

Watch the teaser trailer for Cured below!

BWM Staff

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