Homosexuality: The Mental Illness That Went Away

by Phil Hickey 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.  (The DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – is the APA’s standard classification of their so-called mental disorders, and is used by many mental health workers in the USA and other countries.)

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.

  • Rob Bishop

    When we hate those who hate, we add more hatred to the world and poison our heart. We falsely believe our hate of what we deem wrong and evil is fuel for change, but in truth it cripples us. We can totally accept the fact violent hateful people exist, without damning them, and focus our efforts to improve our culture. When we damn others we damn ourselves.

  • commonsense_is_dead

    Jesus didn’t say anything about child molesters or bestiality (or Fords and Chevys) either. The Bible is the inspired word of God. But that aside, Jesus is the divine logos, the Word of God. Jesus is a member of the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost. They are in perfect unity with one another. Perfect. To say that Jesus (God) had nothing to say about homosexuality is incorrect.

    Hebrews 1

    English Standard Version (ESV)

    1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

    2 Timothy 3:16

    King James Version (KJV)

    16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

    The Apostle Paul (and the rest of the biblical authors) were inspired by God to write what they wrote. In other words, they were supernaturally guided to express exactly what God intended them to express as a revelation of his mind and will.

  • Rob Bishop

    It’s a logical fallacy (called circular reasoning) to say “I believe the Bible is true because the Bible says it’s true” . . . common sense is dead

  • Nathan Horvatich

    Jimmy,

    You hit the nail with the truth in you comments.

    What the LORD already said, not what man says is what will stand. The LORD already told us much about sodomites. Sodomites are of a debased mind. God said those who practice homosexual sex recieve the penalty in their own bodies. It does specify what exactly that penalty is, however I’m persuaded the penalty is a hard heart and spiritual death, and on the sure road to hellfire unless they, just as any other sinner forsakes their sin and change their mind away from sin and change it towards the LORD.

    Some bible critics, who, as soon as they open their mouth it is clear they no nothing of what they critique say ..”all sin is the same”.. In attempts to justify their own wickedness to themselves. The Bible clearing teaches that God does hate all sin,
    However NOT all sin is the same to him..

  • Jimmy Quick

    Unfortunately, most people just don’t get it. When you write God off as obsolete and irrelevant, you have in turn done exactly that very same thing to yourself.

    Only problem is, God is not effected by you or your opinion. He will never change and His Word is eternal.

    It is fine to pity the people who perish due to their own evil hearts. It is not our job to judge them. That will be done by God when He is ready.

    But do not allow your pity to become complacent acceptance or they will drag you and your family down to the pit right along with them.

    That is why God said that the practitioners of this particular sin are to be put to death. They can never come back to God and so the rest of their lives they will only seek to draw others into their web of disease and therefore add more eternal pain and suffering to themselves.

  • Athena Koop

    Hmm. So according to the Gospel accounts, during the few brief years of His public ministry, Jesus did not mention Fords, Chevys or homosexuality, among many other things. Brilliant point.

    What DID he emphasize during his brief appearance in human form on earth? What was He trying to tell us in His five great discourses? What is the purpose of the Gospels in general? When comparing the Gospels to Paul’s teachings or Levitical law, are we to assign them all equal emphasis?

  • Nathan Horvatich

    Good comments,

    The a LORD clearly tells us that a sodomite and lesbian were not “born that way”. One absolutely chooses to be a homosexual. I’ve observed this “born that way” reason is simply one justifying themselves to themselves.

    “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

    Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:”
    ‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:24-27, 29-31‬ ‭KJV‬‬

  • Nathan Horvatich

    Good comments,

    The a LORD clearly tells us that a sodomite and lesbian were not “born that way”. One absolutely chooses to be a homosexual. I’ve observed this “born that way” reason is simply one justifying themselves to themselves.

    “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

    Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:”
    ‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:24-27, 29-31‬ ‭KJV‬‬

  • Nathan Horvatich

    The Lord ruled on this SIN very early on. The death penalty was implemented, ordained and carried by the command from the Lord himself. Of his 600 plus commands to his newly created people/government, only a few of the 600 laws were punishable by the death penalty. This is included in the bible for our insight into what the Lawgiver (LORD) views this SIN of sodomy and lesbianism. One be most wise to align their “opinions” with the Lord, as his “opinion” is what will stand and what the world will be judged against if you reject the Lord Jesus and his grace. The bible is clear if you not saved by grace by accepting the free gift of Christ you will be judged by your works against the “Law” of the bible. If that chilling thought doesn’t scare you straight you are the manifested example the bible talks of when it defines one who has a debased mind, passed feeling and is surely on their way to hellfire.

  • Rob Bishop

    Don’t blame your hatred on Jesus.

  • Athena Koop

    Death by stoning was also decreed for those who gathered firewood on Saturday – see Numbers 15:32-36. Nathan, are you spending any time on websites for camping enthusiasts, warning weekend campers of impending damnation for their SINful practices? If not, why not?

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