Betty Berzon

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Betty Berzon (January 18, 1928 – January 24, 2006) was an American author and psychotherapist known for her work with the gay and lesbian communities.

Berzon was among the first psychotherapists to assist gay and lesbian clients. After coming out as a lesbian in 1968, she began providing therapy to gays and lesbians, and in 1971, she organized the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center as well as an organization of gays and lesbians within the American Psychiatric Association, which declassified homosexuality as a mental illness two years later.

Berzon temporarily attended Stanford University before enrolling in UCLA in 1952 and graduating in 1957. She then obtained her master's degree from San Diego State University in 1962.

Berzon's books included Positively Gay (1979), Permanent Partners (1988), and The Intimacy Dance (1996). Berzon also wrote a personal memoir, Surviving Madness, a Therapist's Own Story (2002) in which she discussed her previous suicide attempt and institutionalization. The book received a Lambda Literary Award for excellence in gay and lesbian writing. For many years, she wrote an advice column on gay relationships for PlanetOut.com.

Berzon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986. She was treated by mastectomy and her cancer remained in remission for many years. The cancer returned in 2001, and Berzon died on January 24, 2006. She is survived by Teresa DeCrescenzo, the president of Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services, whom Berzon met in 1973 and married during a mass wedding ceremony at the 1993 March on Washington.

In 2013 the Lambda Literary Foundation launched the Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award, an award for young LGBT writers who have published at least one book in any genre of literature, which is presented as part of the Lambda Literary Awards program.

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