Homosexuality: The Mental Illness That Went Away

by Phil on October 8, 2011

Post edited and updated January 2, 2013, to reflect clarifications as a result of interactions with the many people who have left comments.  I thank them for their input.

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According to the American Psychiatric Association, until 1974 homosexuality was a mental illness.  Freud had alluded to homosexuality numerous times in his writings, and had concluded that paranoia and homosexuality were inseparable.  Other psychiatrists wrote copiously on the subject, and homosexuality was “treated” on a wide basis.  There was little or no suggestion within the psychiatric community that homosexuality might be conceptualized as anything other than a mental illness that needed to be treated.  And, of course, homosexuality was listed as a mental illness in DSM-II.

Then in 1970 gay activists protested against the APA convention in San Francisco.  These scenes were repeated in 1971, and as people came out of the “closet” and felt empowered politically and socially, the APA directorate became increasingly uncomfortable with their stance.  In 1973 the APA’s nomenclature task force recommended that homosexuality be declared normal.  The trustees were not prepared to go that far, but they did vote to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses by a vote of 13 to 0, with 2 abstentions.  This decision was confirmed by a vote of the APA membership, and homosexuality was no longer listed in the seventh edition of DSM-II, which was issued in 1974.

What’s noteworthy about this is that the removal of homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses was not triggered by some scientific breakthrough.  There was no new fact or set of facts that stimulated this major change.  Rather, it was the simple reality that gay people started to kick up a fuss.  They gained a voice and began to make themselves heard.  And the APA reacted with truly astonishing speed.  And with good reason. They realized intuitively that a protracted battle would have drawn increasing attention to the spurious nature of their entire taxonomy.  So they quickly “cut loose” the gay community and forestalled any radical scrutiny of the DSM system generally.

The APA claimed that they made the change because new research showed that most homosexual people were content with their sexual orientation, and that as a group, they appeared to be as well-adjusted as heterosexual people.  I suggest, however, that these research findings were simply the APA’s face-saver.  For centuries, perhaps millennia, homosexual people had clung to their sexual orientation despite the most severe persecution and vilification, including imprisonment and death.  Wouldn’t this suggest that they were happy with their orientation?  Do we need research to confirm this?  And if we do, shouldn’t we also need research to confirm that heterosexual people are happy with their orientation?  And if poor adjustment is critical to a diagnosis of mental illness, where was the evidence of this that justified making homosexuality a mental illness in the first place?

Also noteworthy is the fact that the vote of the membership was by no means unanimous.  Only about 55% of the members who voted favored the change.

Of course, the APA put the best spin they could on these events.  The fact is that they altered their taxonomy because of intense pressure from the gay community, but they claimed that the change was prompted by research findings.

So all the people who had this terrible “illness” were “cured” overnight – by a vote!  I remember as a boy reading of the United Nations World Health Organization’s decision to eradicate smallpox.  This was in 1967, and by 1977, after a truly staggering amount of work, the disease was a thing of the past.  Why didn’t they just take a vote?  Because smallpox is a real illness.  The human problems listed in DSM are not.  It’s that simple.  You can say that geese are swans – but in reality they’re still geese.

The overall point being that the APA’s taxonomy is nothing more than self-serving nonsense.  Real illnesses are not banished by voting or by fiat, but by valid science and hard work.  There are no mental illnesses.  Rather, there are people.  We have problems; we have orientations; we have habits; we have perspectives.  Sometimes we do well, other times we make a mess of things.  We are complicated.  Our feelings fluctuate with our circumstances, from the depths of despondency to the pinnacles of bliss.  And perhaps, most of all, we are individuals.  DSM’s facile and self-serving attempt to medicalize human problems is an institutionalized insult to human dignity.  The homosexual community has managed to liberate themselves from psychiatric oppression.  But there are millions of people worldwide who are still being damaged, stigmatized, and disempowered by this pernicious system to this day.

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  • cledwyn bastard

    Obviously I wasn’t suggesting that paedophiles themselves are the victims of persecution or anything, just saying this issue has whipped up such a tempest of emotions that the facts tend to get scatterred to the periphery of the debate, with people getting getting so swept away by the contagion of hysteria, that innocent lives are inevitably destroyed, and even the crimes of the guilty sometimes take on an even more sinister hue, as happens sometimes with the sensationalist media and in the circulation of rumours.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • jorge_videla

    And if poor adjustment…

    the obvious problem with that criterion is it depends on the time and place.

    i remember iran’s president was booed and laughed at when he gave his speech at Columbia after saying, “we don’t have homosexuals in iran like you have in your country.”

    this may be laughable, but it shouldn’t be dismissed prima facie.

    and, in fact, gay men have high rates of suicide and drug addiction and lesbians are short-lived. so by this criterion, homosexuality might be deemed pathological.

    but it all depends on what the reasons for these stats are.

    genuine “mental illness”, if there is such a thing, must be illness in ALL environments just as physical illness is illness wherever and whenever. doesn’t hearing voices and bizarre delusions qualify?

  • Francesca Allan

    You’re making some extraordinary claims here. As to your allegation of homosexuals having shortened lifespans, you might want to have a look at this:

    http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites/rainbow/html/facts_cameron_obit.html

    And your assertion that an illness must be manifest in all environments is demonstrably false.

  • jorge_videla

    please demonstrate it false.

    diabetes is diabetes at the south pole too. ischemic heart disease is ischemic heart disease in new guinea too. rheumatoid arthritis is more common in cold climates but it’s still a disease in the sahara.

    i think you didn’t read what i wrote.

    my claims regarding the homosexual population are not controversial. but, is it innate? i don’t think it’s prejudice or discrimination. but there could be a third reason.

    here are some articles:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/drug-use-seven-times-higher-among-gays-8165971.html
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447240/
    http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/fischer/090313

    but it’s just statistics. maugham lived to 91.

  • Anonymous

    Can you please tell me why you said Maugham lived to 91 what is the relevance of that fact please?

  • jorge_videla

    i was just demonstrating the “ecological fallacy”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_fallacy

    some gay men live a long time. one of my mother’s uncles lived to 98. he was almost certainly homosexual, but may have never acted on it.

  • jorge_videla

    it’s just a demonstration of the “ecological fallacy”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_fallacy

    that is, although life expectancy for homosexuals (both gays and lesbians) is less than for heteros, some homosexuals live a long time.

    and i liked maugham’s The Razor’s Edge a lot.

    my mother’s cousin lived to 98. but he may never have acted on his homosexual orientation.

    never married women are the most over-represented group among centenarians. and the second and third longest lived men ever were married and divorced without issue and never married respectively. maybe they were homosexual.

    and monks and nuns live much longer than non-religious men and women respectively. my guess is homosexuals are over-represented among monks and nuns, or as the roman church terms them “religious”.

  • tedshepherd

    That implication is false for couples one or both of whom are sterile. Vasectomies happen, menopause happens, impotence and frigidity happen, as do hysterectomies, orchiectomies, and land mines. These, and other events, remove the possibility of procreation by removing or damaging some organ or tissue necessary for reproduction but not necessary for life.

  • tedshepherd

    The need for members of a species to reproduce themselves does not imply that ALL members of a species must have offspring for the species to survive and thrive. Consider the sterile castes of workers and soldiers in some social insects. It is not necessarily irrational for someone to abstain from parenting. Many people have taken vows of chastity and some even keep those vows. Are they mentally ill? Secondly, if irrational behavior is the manifestation of mental illness by definition, then everyone who buys a lottery ticket or gambles in a casino, knowing the odds are against him, is mentally ill. Such a sweeping definition has no use and no appeal.

  • tedshepherd

    Are you under the impression that heterosexuals never indulge in anal intercourse? Are you under the impression that all homosexuals practice anal intercourse? Lesbians, too?

  • tedshepherd

    Consider the assumption that what “fits well” is inherently natural. Consider also the observation that men generally have a much higher preference for frequent sexual release than women do. Then the conclusion is that the good fit in sex drive between two men or two women is natural and their unions are, too.

  • tedshepherd

    Again, looking at a match between men’s higher sex drive, and women’s common willingness to have much less sexual activity, it seems that men are born to pair up with each other. Oh, the fireworks!

  • Manuella

    what a load of homophobic bullshit is that? pretending that apa changed the homosexuality as mental illness to not mentall illnestt based on the fact they had tomuch presssur from the gay comunity that is crystal clear that its bullshit. you are a bullshit of doctor if you pretend that homosexuality and transgenderism is a mental illness you are a fraud and i woulnt wish any one to be your patient cause you would drive them to become more nuts than they could be. and you are the shame of your profession by making homophobic and idiotic stuff like that it is well known that its not a mental illness

  • Anonymous

    Another one that got straight As in reading and comprehension in grade school I see. This guy VOTES, everybody!

  • anonymus

    so basicaly what you pretend is if a gay doesnt have sex he will live longer than any gay who has sex ??? that is bullshit again just like the failse doctor who posted this article pretending that gay is a mental illness that full of bullshit if they die younger its not cause they was gay or lez but cause their time had come , and yes in the past they died younger you know why??? cause of homophobien who attacked them and killed them that the only reason. so stop your pretending and your lies and dont ever site wikipedia for source if you wanna be taken seriously cause they are the worst site you can have your sourse its not reliable . at all i saw some edit being removed cause the guy wasnt part of the people they kept the poste and i knew what he posted was real not false information and he posted first no proof they removed i he posted 1 proof they removed i again then he posed 3 proof 2 being from the source it self yet they removed it still. and then they banned him for editing abusively and trolling . so those are not good source.

  • Phil_Hickey

    Manuella,

    Did you even read anything I wrote? My essential position throughout this site is that there are no mental illnesses. Mental illnesses are a fiction created by psychiatrists to legitimize their existence as a profession. Please feel free to come back, but please:

    1. Read the stuff before you comment.
    2. Leave the vulgarity outside.

    Best wishes.

  • Sam Spade

    Few people today know the truth behind the APA’s “decision” to drop homosexuality from their list of psychological disorders. An unrelenting, angry and aggressive campaign of intimidation & bullying by homosexual activists and their allies, broke the APA’s resolve, thus paving the way for mass social activism that eventually morphed into a dark and angry Frankenstein’s monster of social engineering on an unprecedented scale.

    The official story of why that the APA based their decision to drop homosexuality from its classification of mental disorders has almost been completely lost in the mist of social activism and political correctness. The decision had nothing to do with new scientific & medical discoveries that proved that homosexual behavior is normal and should be affirmed in our culture. This false and deceptive excuse is only one part of the mass deception that have infiltrated every aspect of our culture.

    So, what Really Happened?

    Dr. Ronald Bayer, a pro-homosexual psychiatrist has described what actually occurred in his book, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis. (1981)

    In Chapter 4, “Diagnostic Politics: Homosexuality and the American Psychiatric Association,” Dr. Bayer says that the first attack by homosexual activists against the APA began in 1970 when this organization held its convention in San Francisco. Homosexual activists decided to disrupt the conference by interrupting speakers and shouting down and ridiculing psychiatrists who viewed homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 1971, homosexual activist Frank Kameny worked with the Gay Liberation Front collective to demonstrate against the APA’s convention. At the 1971 conference, Kameny grabbed the microphone and yelled, “Psychiatry is the enemy incarnate. Psychiatry has waged a relentless war of extermination against us. You may take this as a declaration of war against you.”

    Not only did angry homosexual activists intimidate the APA to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder, they infiltrated the organization so effectively that they now literally control everything the APA publishes regarding same sex relationships. One past president, Dr. Nicholas Cummings, has publicly stated that the APA is now literally controlled by homosexual activists to the point where he, as president of the organization, was not allowed to speak by a lesbian member:

    “Homophobia as [a form of] intimidation is a much feared technique employed by Gay Agendaites to stifle, ridicule and in a prfessional sense, destroy anybody or anything that would dare oppose or even think about disagreeing with the gay agenda. “Sadly, I have seen militant gay men and lesbians– who I am certain do not represent all homosexuals, and who themselves have been the object of derision and oppression– once gaining freedom and power, then becoming oppressors themselves….this was aptly demonstrated, during an interchange that took place in a large meeting assembled by the then-current president to address the future of the APA. I was just about to agree with one of the participants, when she stopped me before I could speak. ‘I don’t know what you are going to say, but there is nothing you and I can agree on, because you are a straight white male and I am a lesbian. Such blatant reverse discrimination was overlooked by everyone else in the room, but I was dumbfounded…This woman is prominent in APA affairs, is extensively published, and has received most of the APA’s highest awards. The APA continues to laud her, even though recently she had her license suspended for an improper dual relationship with a female patient! What would be the response had it been a straight white male in an improper dual relationship with a female patient?”
    Human rights, equality, diversity, and all the usual bollocks spouted by GBLTQs and their allies are mere smokescreens to cover their real intentions. And they are political power, social domination, and the unchallenged ability to silence all who dare to question them.

  • Sam Spade

    According to the CDC, MSM (men who have sex with men) are 2% of the population of the USA, but make up 56% of all HIV/AIDS sufferers. The current percentage of HIV/AIDS infected MSMs stands at 63%, yet another one-third are also infected but won’t know it until they become chronically sick. MSM are 44 times more likely to acquire the HIV/AIDS virus than heterosexual men, and the biggest risk group are MSM aged between 13-24. Now, I don’t know about you, but a thirteen-year-old is still a child, so who is infecting boys at this age with HIV/AIDS?
    Its clear that the only people obsessed with anal sex are homosexual and bisexual men who make up the highest percentage of HIV/AIDS sufferers in the Western world.

    So tell me again that homosexuality is normal?

  • Hapee

    I must contradict the extrapolation presented in relation to the assumption that standing fast in the face of persecution etc. proves that someone is happy with orientation to a mental state, thus disproving such a state is a mental illness. It is a peculiar fact that in the face of personal danger, imprisonment, persecution and the like, people with mental illnesses do quite avidly cling to their positions. Pedophiles and anorexics provide two well known example groups. Commitment under duress to the mental state is a commonality in probably most if not all mental illnesses. There are other weaknesses in logic within this article as well. The author may wish to revisit some points and reconsider, since the reading audience is going to have no trouble immediately perceiving such flawed arguments.

  • Anonymous

    People with the “anorexia” label, self starvers, regularly reform their eating behavior after several brutal force feedings in psychiatric facilities. I’ve heard fathers of girls who were labeled “anorexic” call force feeding the “nuclear option”. You don’t talk nuclear tactics with an entity that isn’t amenable to responding to threats. Your generalizations don’t hold. Many of the people labeled “mentally ill” do in fact cling less to their positions to avoid personal violence against them after learning the hard way what violence institutional psychiatry will unleash upon them. If what you say is true, why do the penalties for noncompliance built into things like community commitment laws, even exist? Psychiatrists and governments themselves, see that threats of increased coercion bring easier compliance. Why would parole for sex offenders, even exist? If they were known to not respond to duress? Why are mental hospitals filled with detainees that literally BEG staff not to do certain violent things to them again? If the person labeled “mentally ill” is so unwavering in their positions, why is it common, very common, for the fresh detainee in a psychiatric facility, to go in knowing nothing about psychiatry, and come out convinced they must take pills for the rest of their lives? to come out parroting every cliched “just like diabetes” line they’ve been fed by the psychiatrists that had them as a captive audience? Why, if they are such generalized automatons of steadfast holding to their positions in the face of duress, do they embark on lives of jealously guarding their privacy and identity with the obvious aim of self preservation against outing and stigma? Your generalizations, don’t hold. Which isn’t surprising, given psychiatry is all about generalizations, and it is that very generalization and classification of disparate people and problems that is its fatal flaw. When one thinks in terms of “anorexics and pedophiles”, one assumes that’s like thinking in terms of “diabetics and phenylketonurics”. Nothing could be messier and more complex than an actual human being living in a civilization, as compared to a predictable “disease process”.

  • HAHAHAH

    You’re conflating homosexual attraction (not a choice, just like heterosexual attraction) with homosexual action (obviously a choice since it’s an action).

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