Richard Colestock Pillard



Richard Colestock Pillard (born 11 October 1933) is a professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine best known for his work on biology and sexual orientation. Pillard was born in Springfield, Ohio. He briefly attended Swarthmore College before transferring to Antioch College, where his father Basil H. Pillard was an English Professor. Pillard received his B.A. from Antioch. He then earned his M.D. from University of Rochester, with his internship at Boston City Hospital. Pillard married Vassar graduate Cornelia Livingston Cromwell in 1958, while he was in medical school. They later divorced when he was in his thirties, and Pillard now identifies as gay. 


According to one source, in the early 1970’s, Dr. Pillard was the first psychiatrist in the United States to acknowledge publically that he was gay in an atmosphere when the American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a mental disorder in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Dr. Pillard spoke out at a symposium and with other psychiatrists led by Robert Spitzer, who had led the DSM-II development committee, a vote by the APA trustees in 1973, and confirmed by the wider APA membership in 1974, the diagnosis was replaced with the category of "sexual orientation disturbance", presently referred to as gender identity disorder (GID).  At that time it was the seventh printing of the DSM-II.


Chandler Burr reported that Pillard  jokes "he is uniquely equipped to investigate whether homosexuality has a biological basis: he, his brother, and his sister are gay, and Pillard believes that his father may have been gay. One of Pillards three daughters from a marriage early in life is bisexual. This family history seems to invite a biological explanation, and it made Pillard start thinking about the origins of sexual orientation."


Pillard is well-known for a series of studies he coauthored with J. Michael Bailey, which examined the rate of concordance of sexual identity among monozygotic twins, dizygotic twins of the same sex, non-twin siblings of the same sex, and adoptive siblings of the same sex. In all studies they found rates of concordance variants consistent with the hypothesis that homosexuality has a significant genetic component. The Council for Responsible Genetics and other researchers have criticized this work for using a self-selected sample, a problem which later studies have attempted to remedy.


Pillard feels that some of his most significant work deals with the incidence of homosexuality running in families.