September 2, 1907
North Platte, Nebraska, USA
|Died||November 18, 1996
Santa Monica, California
Evelyn Hooker (née Gentry, September 2, 1907–November 18, 1996) was an American psychologist most notable for her 1957 paper "The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual" in which she administered several psychological tests to groups of self-identified male homosexuals and heterosexuals and asked experts to identify the homosexuals and rate their mental health. The experiment, which other researchers subsequently repeated, argues that homosexuality is not a mental disorder as there was no detectable difference between homosexual and heterosexual men in terms of mental adjustment.
Her work argued that a false correlation between homosexuality and mental illness had formed the basis of classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder by studying only a sample group that contained homosexual men with a history of treatment for mental illness. This is of critical importance in refuting the existence of the category of cultural heterosexism because it argues that homosexuality is not developmentally inferior to heterosexuality.[clarification needed] Her demonstration that it is not an illness led the way to the eventual removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
In 1924 she became a student at the University of Colorado while working as a maid for a rich Boulder family. Her mentor, Dr. Karl Munzinger, guided her in her challenge of the then prevalent psychological theory of behaviourism. She wrote her thesis paper on trial-and-error learning in rats. He invited her to write her own case history. After receiving her Masters degree, she became one of 11 women involved in the PhD program in psychology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, having been refused referral from the chairman of Yale for being a female. She studied with Knight Dunlap, who also generally did not approve of women doctorates. She was awarded her PhD in 1932.
In her early career, she wasn't especially interested in the psychology of homosexual people. After teaching for only one year at the Maryland College for Women, she contracted tuberculosis and spent the next year in a sanatorium in Arizona. In 1937 Gentry received a fellowship to the Berlin Institute of Psychotherapy. She witnessed mass hysteria on the triumphant return of Hitler to Berlin after the Anschluss.
However, during the 1940s, she first became interested in what would turn out to be her life's work. In 1942, while a teacher at UCLA, Gentry married writer Don Caldwell and took his surname. She became close to one of her students, Sam From, who introduced her to the gay and lesbian subculture, in 1943. He challenged her to scientifically study "people like him." Despite the social, moral and scientific climate of the post-war period, Caldwell became increasingly convinced that most gay men were perfectly socially adjusted and that this could be proven through scientific tests.
Over the next two decades she became established professionally. In 1948 she divorced her husband and moved to a guest cottage at the Salter Avenue home of Edward Hooker, professor of English at UCLA and poetry scholar. They married in London in 1951, and she took his surname. In the mid-fifties Christopher Isherwood became their neighbor and they became friends. She was against the gay relationship of Christopher Isherwood with the much younger Don Bachardy, they were not welcome at her house Sam From died in a car accident in 1956, just before her ground-breaking research was published. Hooker's husband died in January 1957 of cardiac arrest.
The 1960s saw her work find a wider audience, and her conclusions were taken up by the gay rights movement. In 1961 Hooker was invited to lecture in Europe and in 1967, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) asked her to produce a report on what the institution should do about homosexual men. Richard Nixon's election in 1969 delayed the publication of the report, which was published by a magazine, without authorization, in 1970. The report recommended the decriminalization of homosexuality and the provision of similar rights to both homosexual and heterosexual people. The burgeoning gay rights movement seized on this.
She retired from her research at the age of 63 and started a private practice. Most of her clients were gay men and lesbians.
Hooker died at her home in Santa Monica, California in 1996, at the age of 89.
Although Hooker had collected data about her homosexual friends since 1954, she felt this was of little value because of the lack of scientific rigor attached to the gathering of these data. She applied for a grant from the NIMH even though she was warned that it was highly unlikely she would receive it due to the controversy of the topic. The man in charge of awarding the grants, John Eberhart, personally met with Hooker and convinced by her charm he awarded her the grant.
She gathered two groups of men: one group would be exclusively homosexual, the other exclusively heterosexual. She contacted the Mattachine Society to find homosexual men. She had greater difficulty finding heterosexual men for the study. She gathered a sample of 30 heterosexual men and 30 homosexual men and paired them based on equivalent IQ, age, and education. For the interest of the study, it was required that none of the men from either group have previously been seen for psychological help, in disciplinary barracks in the Armed Services, in prison, showed evidence of considerable disturbance, or who were in therapy. She also had to use her home to conduct the interview to protect the participants' anonymity.
Hooker used three psychological tests for her study: the TAT, the Make-a-Picture-Story test (MAPS test), and the Rorschach inkblot test. The Rorschach was used due to the belief of clinicians at the time that it was the best method for diagnosing homosexuality.
After a year of work, Hooker presented a team of 3 expert evaluators with 60 unmarked psychological profiles. She decided to leave the interpretation of her results to other people, to avoid any possible bias.
First, she contacted Bruno Klopfer, an expert on Rorschach tests, to see if he would be able to identify the sexual orientation of people through their results at those tests. His ability to differentiate between the two groups was no better than chance.
The three evaluators concluded that in terms of adjustment, there were no differences between the members of each group.
In 1956, Hooker presented the results of her research in a paper at the American Psychological Association's convention in Chicago. The NIMH was so impressed with the evidence Hooker found they granted her the NIMH Research Career Award in 1961 to continue her work.
Her studies contributed to a change in the attitudes of the psychological community towards homosexuality and to the American Psychiatric Association's decision to remove homosexuality from its handbook of disorders in 1973. This in turn helped change the attitude of society at large.
- Evelyn Hooker, "The adjustment of the male overt homosexual", Journal of projective techniques, XXI 1957, pp. 18–31.
- Evelyn Hooker, "The homosexual community". Proceedings of the XIV International congress of applied psychology, Munksgaard, Copenhagen 1961.
- Evelyn Hooker, "Homosexuality: Summary of studies". In Evelyn Duvall and Sylvanus Duvall (curr.), Sex ways in fact and faith, Association Press, New York 1961.
- Evelyn Hooker, "Male homosexual life styles and venereal disease". In: Proceedings of the World forum on syphilis and other treponematoses (Public Health Service Publication No. 997), U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 1962.
- Evelyn Hooker, "Male homosexuality". In: N. L. Farberow (cur.), Taboo topics, Atherton, New York 1963, pp. 44–55.
- Evelyn Hooker, "An empirical study of some relations between sexual patterns and gender identity in male homosexuals". In J. Money (cur.), Sex research: new development, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York 1965, pp. 24–52.
- Evelyn Hooker, "Male homosexuals and their worlds". In: Judd Marmor (cur.), Sexual inversion: the multiple roots of homosexuality, Basic Books, New York 1965, pp. 83–107). Traduzione italiana in: Judd Marmor, Inversione sessuale.
- Evelyn Hooker, "Homosexuality". In: The international encyclopedia of the social sciences, Macmillan and Free Press, New York 1968.
- Evelyn Hooker, "Parental relations and male homosexuality in patient and non-patient samples", Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, XXXIII 1969, pp. 140–142.
- Evelyn Hooker, Foreword to: C. J. Williams and M. S. Weinberg, Homosexuals and the military: a study of less than honorable discharge, Harper & Row, New York 1971, pp. vii-ix.
In 2010, actor/playwright Jade Esteban Estrada portrayed Hooker in the solo musical, "ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 4."
Honors and awards
- In 1991 received the Award for Distinguished Contribution to Psychology in the Public Interest presented by the American Psychological Association.
- In 1967 became Chair of the NIMH Task Force on Homosexuality 
- In 1992 she received The Lifetime Achievement Award, APA's highest honor.
- "Evelyn Hooker, Ph.D.: September 2, 1907 - November 18, 1996". UC Davis. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
- Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker at the Internet Movie Database
- Shneidman, E. S. (1998). Evelyn Hooker (1907-1996). American Psychologist, 53(4), 480-481
- "Chris & Don, A love story", a film by Guido Santi and Tina Mascara, 2009.
- Link Text, additional text.
- Ball, L. (2010). Profile of Evelyn Gentry Hooker. In A. Rutherford (Ed.), Psychology's Feminist Voices Multimedia Internet Archive. Retrieved from http://www.feministvoices.com/evelyn-gentry-hooker/
- Hooker, E. (1957). The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual. Journal of Projective Techniques, 21(1), 18-31.
- Marmor, J., (1997). Evelyn Hooker: In memoriam (1907-1996). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 25(5), 577-578.
- Defending the deviates. Evelyn Hooker documentary Changing our minds on video. A review of the above documentary
- Her entry at QueerTheory.com