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.

********************

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.

  • Samuel K. Hood

    A. By that same logical you can pose the question, “Did you want him to stop having sex with you? Of the answer is not yes then it is no. Assuming a positive or negative response does not answer the question. As for the ‘many people’ comment. Yes many people view humans as NOTHING but animals. A highly evolved animal but just an animal. But by your argument I take it you have not problem with bestiality as long as consent can be ascertained objectively. Such as the great apes with sign language?

    B. And love of food can lead to gluttony or other mental disorders that have to do with food as well. The question as to “limits” is, “Does this action either cause harm to others, does it cause harm to myself, or does it cause harm to society in general.” If the answer is yes to any of those three then their may be cause to “limit” the action.

    I responded to each point and it did not save anything except this. So I am just going with my closing remarks. And a few points for you to look at.

    Nymphomania and satyriasis are both considered mental disorders though they both have to do with consenting adults. But we don’t allow polygamy and we recognize them as mental disorders.

    Rates of STDs and rates of domestic violence are much MUCH higher in homosexuals than in heterosexuals. So if you are looking for potential harm those are two things that being homosexual does increase your risk of.

    Peoples rights to protect their children from exposure are an valid concern if sexuality is sociological.

    Health can out way constitutionality in certain situations. Typhoid mary is a good example of one of those times. If you have never read about her it is interesting.

  • .
    A. You distract with meaningless diversions into bestiality — enjoy your busy imagination without me.

    B. Morbid obesity is not a trait of any sexuality. A better analogy would be the Duggars.
    __________

    Nymphomania, satyriasis, and polygamy ( you have a very busy imagination ) are not mental disorders in and of themselves, there must be disruption of function against one’s own interests, so if they are happy, have food, clothing, shelter, and don’t scare the horses, then what’s the problem?

    Medical diagnosis is optional, voluntary, and legally private, and has nothing to do with Constitutionally protected equal civil rights.
    ___________

    Laws aren’t written to “allow”.

    Anyone, er, any three or more can practice polygamy.

    They just get no legal recognition of any marriage beyond the first one, and would be well advised to structure their cohabitation and taxes to avoid statutory challenges.

    But now they can intermarry, that is, one husband and wife, plus another couple as wife and wife, makes two marriages in a foursome ( not available for sister-wives who already have a legal relationship with each other ), so there is more possibility to share government recognition and the 1,135+ concomitant benefits.
    __________

    Statistics have no rights, and certainly not superior rights over the Constitutionally protected equal civil rights of individual citizens.

    We do not pre-punish innocent individuals because someone else’s statistics predict that yet another someone else may commit a crime someday — what bad science fiction dystopia book have you fallen into?
    __________

    In your one-liner, pray tell, what are “people” ( presumably parents ) protecting their “children” ( presumably LGBT children ) from?
    __________

    outweigh

    Your analogies are inaccurate and inappropriate.

    Typhoid Mary was contagious to the public, and refused to control her exposure.

    STDs are not exclusive to any sexuality, and are prosecutable under certain circumstances ( esplore http://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/transmitting-std-criminal-laws-penalties.htm and similar ).

    But again, we do not pre-punish innocent individuals because other people’s statistics predict that someone else may commit a crime someday — you’ve got to get your head out of that horrible science fiction dystopia book ( and stay out of Bulfinch’s Mythology, too ).
    __________

    I didn’t think you had a point here.
    .

  • Rob

    Being obsessed with food, porn, gambling, video games, intoxication, body image, stalking, and serial arson have nothing to do with the object of desire but are rooted in internal conflicts.

  • lockHilliaryup

    No mental illnesses? Why does the medical community have medications to treat mental illnesses? This article has no credibility.

  • Ryan

    Just because a disease doesn’t effect you physically, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. schizophrenia for example is a mental illness, not a personality, that often develops in teen years and requires medication in severe cases. I am NOT comparing homosexuality to schizophrenia but instead correcting your outrageous idea that mental isues don’t exist. Sure, homosexuality may have been voted out instead of proven to not be a disorder, but you also have to remember that the APA was under severe stress from protesters, which probably led to the forced removal of homosexuality from the DSM. A metal disorter is not a denunciation but rather a diagnosis that simply just is, it can be good, bad or neutral. Calling it a denunciation is a misconception.

  • Ryan

    Just because a disease doesn’t effect you physically, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. schizophrenia for example is a mental illness, not a personality, that often develops in teen years and requires medication in severe cases. I am NOT comparing homosexuality to schizophrenia but instead correcting your outrageous idea that mental isues don’t exist. Sure, homosexuality may have been voted out instead of proven to not be a disorder, but you also have to remember that the APA was under severe stress from protesters, which probably led to the forced removal of homosexuality from the DSM. A metal disorter is not a denunciation but rather a diagnosis that simply just is, it can be good, bad or neutral. Calling it a denunciation is a misconception.

  • Rob

    Cognitive suffering isn’t equivalent to biological malfunction. Where’s the scientific evidence?

  • lockHilliaryup

    Biological causation of cognitive problems. try google.

  • Rob

    The popular theory is mental health problems are medical issues. There’s no scientific evidence depression & anxiety are caused by biological defects.

  • lockHilliaryup

    Never met anyone who lost their sight, arms, legs, or any other biological component have you?

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  • Tom Jefferson

    Problem is Homosexual “sex” isn’t sex or love it’s lewd
    abnormal deviant behavior. The LGBT subculture is less than 2% of the population and the CDC confirms it is responsible for 72% HIV http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/msm/ ichael-w-chapman/johns-hopkins-psychiatrist-transgender-men

  • commonsense_is_dead

    Ok.

    Jude 5-7

    English Standard Version (ESV)

    5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved[a] a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

  • commonsense_is_dead

    John 1:1

  • Athena Koop

    John 1:1 In the beginning was LOGOS (the original Greek) which means “reason,” or the rational principle that governs and develops the universe. So, what’s your point?

  • Angl0sax0nknight .

    There is no scientific facts regarding homosexuality. It is a mental social disfuction. Looking at humans as animals which humans bring the only animal that has homosexuality as the drive to reproduce in ALL animals including humans is to reproduce. Even if this is on a subconscious level. Scientist have even studying twins (one gay the other normal) for a scientific reason for homosexuality. They have found none. This would make homosexuality a purely mental disfunction. Looking at the rates of mental disease in homosexuals this would make sense. The rate of mental illness in homosexuals is far higher then in the straight populations.

  • Rob

    You think a decision to not have kids is a “mental dysfunction”?

  • Robertt1

    Stop lying and educate yourself.
    “bigot = a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc.” – Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary

    Bigot never meant “one whose opinions are based on God”. Not even in it’s earliest use. Even the theory that it origins by “by God” is not universally accepted.

  • .
    Yes, I appreciate myopic misunderstandings of the use and abuse of words and concepts — and dictionaries, ignorance of where our words and concepts come from, and why we might choose one word or another to communicate accurately and appropriately with no confusion or ambiguity.

    US soldiers were once referred to as “les sommobiches” because their chosen and frequent swear words.

    Religious folks were referred to as ‘bigots‘ because they ended everything they said with “by god” — even becoming people’s surnames after a fashion, the way people named ‘Cooper‘ are descendents of barrel makers ( coopers, cask, cup, ‘hollow’, even a wooden ‘kype‘ ship ).

    Today, we might refer to Muslims as ‘godwillings‘ because of their frequent suffix to their declarations.

    Where do you think a person’s “intolerance toward those holding different opinions” comes from, and why we have inherited the word ‘bigot‘ averse to the words ‘opinionated‘ or ‘intolerant‘ which would suffice according to you, but are not specifically religious or God-based?

    Assessing someone as a ‘bigot‘ or ‘bigoted‘ when they do not reveal a God-basis for what they profess or for their behavior is inaccurate and inappropriate.

    Just as calling one’s self ‘conservative‘ when they are really ‘selfish‘ and ‘xenophobic‘, or calling one’s self ‘Christian‘ when they do not behave ‘Christlike‘, and so on, are inaccurate and inappropriate.
    .

  • Rob

    What’s the difference between “unfairly” disliking and “fairly” disliking someone?

  • Rob

    So you make the point that homosexuality has been a long-standing scientifically accepted mental illness, until 1974, and no scientific evidence has ever refuted that? But, the last 2 paragraphs are self-serving nonsense just as the decision by the APA to change their mind was in 1974? I don’t think that a mental illness should be trivialized. Mental illnesses are real issues that affect people. There should not be any shame in one admitting that they have an issue, and others should not chastise, belittle or shame anyone affected by such an illness. Gambling and alcohol addictions, addictions to pornography, and sexual perversions of all forms be it homosexuality, pedophilia, bestiality and others are serious issues.
    An alcoholic saying he’s not an alcoholic or doesn’t have a problem doesn’t make him right; a schizophrenic saying that it’s acceptable for him to have hallucinations and doesn’t need treatment, does not mean that he doesn’t need treatment; a person with unhealthy sexual perversions saying that it’s ok and should be accepted does not make it a normal, healthy condition.
    What if a woman is told by her oncologist that she has early breast cancer that is very treatable, decides not to treat it, and tells everyone that “I have breast cancer; I am proud of it and wish that everyone diagnosed with breast cancer would accept it and forget mammograms and all these things people try to do and say cancer is bad”, and is overcome with joy every time someone says that have cancer and gets mad at people that want to get treatment or other that think they should get treatment? She still has a condition that is deleterious to her health. If she is able to convince others with cancer to agree with her, that does not mean that cancer is not an illness. What kind of friend would encourage her to continue down such a self-destructive path?
    That is exactly what has happened since 1974. Expect that pedophilia, bestiality and other sexual perversions will go down the road just as homosexuality and this transgender affliction have.
    I hope this does not inflame those affected. There is no shame on one that is afflicted with such an illness, any more than there is shame on anyone with cancer, illnesses, or behavioral health illnesses. What is bad however is when other alcoholics celebrate a recovering alcoholic to take a drink and tell them it’s ok. It’s a shame when others take a gambling addict to a casino and encourage him to keep betting. It’s a shame when a group of psychologists relent to pressure and state that a mental illness is not a mental illness and says it’s just fine.

  • Rob

    Suffering isn’t trivialized by anyone. Suffering is real. But what suffering is caused by biological defects and chemical malfunctioning? BTW, to adopt the self-label of “addict” or “PTSD” survivor, etc, is one of the most harmful things a person can do, as they brand themselves with a label that defines themselves with a lifetime biological defect, which there is no scientific evidence for.

  • Steve Williams

    Do you breathe invisible air ??

  • Monty Ehrich

    How does a male know if he is homosexual? If his dick gets hard when around attractive young men, but remains limp around attractive young women, then he is gay.

  • Joe Blow

    Queers are not a natural or meaningful sexual orientation for successful species development as is quite obvious. Without the “turkey baster” or bi-sexual volunteers, reproduction would cease. The difficulty here is queers have, through our democratic process, attained unhealthy levels of intrusion into society beyond what could be achieved in healthy tribal cultures.

    The Arabic saying about not letting the camel’s nose under your tent for soon it will be inside is applicable here. Turning homosexuality into a pop culture fad using modern brainwashing methods on an already dumbed down society is not advancement of society but rather malevolent manipulation to allow perversion of the highest order.

  • Rob

    Those who reject homosexuality fear being gay themselves. The root of hatred is fear.

  • Joe Blow

    Amature psychology is dangerous, especially online using ages old cliche on strangers.

  • Rob

    It takes much courage to look at ourselves honestly.

  • kath2ndrew

    Wonderful article! I know many homosexuals and have worked with them, and I also work in the health care field, and they seem to share many common personality traits and disorders, such as neuroses, depression, suicidal tendencies, multiple personality disorders, I have seen this with my own eyes! Many are moody and can change attitudes and affect at the drop of a hat! Working with them is a real challenge believe me, and I do believe this is a mental and personality disorder. This whole subject is so difficult to address because you make yourself a target, they themselves accuse you of being a bigot, fuelling hate speech, and in this case we have the “patients running the clinic.” They are funded by the government, the media, entertainment industry and others all back them, instead of allowing the cat out of the bag so they can be helped! We need to treat this issue with compassion and counselling, there is so much misinformation out there, but the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the world, is that homosexuals are just like everyone else, which they clearly are not. This is not a human rights issue, or a political issue, they are not a race, a creed, a culture, an ethnicity, nor should politicians and others be trying to make laws and force employees to change in order to cater to some of their ridiculous demands. In Canada we have Universities telling Professors that they must address trans-gendered people by Ze and Zou instead of she or he – it’s utterly ridiculous! You don’t tell the teacher how to teach! Another problem I have is that when the WHO and the CDC discovered AIDS 3 decades ago, they approached them with scientific fact and told them it would kill them if they didn’t use condoms! They fought them tooth and nail, and refused to listen to scientists whose job it is to protect the public. Here we are 35 years hence, and AIDS is still being spread, because they are “A” type personalities who take undue risk, and continue to act irresponsible even though they know it will ill them. No group who is at risk for a virus or disease would disbelieve, or fight people who were trying to help them and save their lives. There is no doubt, homosexuals need to be treated and helped by the APA and others who have devoted their lives and careers to helping those with mental illness, but they have been seriously let down. This is a very sad state of affairs!

  • kath2ndrew

    Dumbest thing I ever heard. You must be a homosexual yourself! Straight people don’t fear gays, they are repulsed by the way they act, and disgusted that they have attained such power in society that trying to stop their in your face behaviour is basically ruining peoples lives! We don’t hate them, we feel sorry for them, it would be one thing for them to live their lives and leave everyone alone, but now they want to intrude in our lives, tell us how to raise our children, intrude in the workplace and make stupid laws like they have the legal right to enter a woman’s bathroom to take a piss, but the rights of my 9 year old to NOT watch a grown man whip it out in front of her are non existent right? Now they are trying to force the Blood Services to take their blood, because even though they are high risk and spread all kinds of blood born diseases, it is discrimination to refuse their blood because they are GAY! You need a serious reality check budd!

  • kath2ndrew

    Right ON! You know exactly what you are talking about, and I am confident that soon the rest of humanity will have a serious reality check and turn this issue around so that they can be treated and healed. It is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on anyone, and the APA has seriously let these people down!

  • kath2ndrew

    You missed the point entirely ROB – and that’s why you can’t have a viable, reasonable, or logical discussion about this issue with people like you!

  • kath2ndrew

    Sorry again ROB but depression is a symptom of many disorders, and clinical depression is biological! Anxiety, although can be caused by emotional disturbance, is also a symptom of biological origin. You are not a DR obviously or work in the medical profession. Mental Health IS a medical issue, because it concerns the body, body soul and spirit! I find it fascinating that gays continue to deny their illness and refuse to be helped! They are obviously self-destructive. My prayer for you is that God will open your eyes, and give you life more abundantly!

  • kath2ndrew

    Sorry again ROB, but there is scientific evidence, it is chemical imbalance, we just don’t know the cause, but we see the behaviour as the symptom. Another problem is that when someone starts thinking outside the box, like maybe these illnesses are caused by a bacterial or parasite the APA tries to discredit them, and ruin them! Sound familiar, that’s what the LGBTQ lobby does! WOW! It makes no sense to me that a viable healthy person who is normal, all of a sudden in his late teens or early 20s, suddenly becomes a schizophrenic! In medicine one would look for a germ, or parasite to explain the change in behaviour, but any research that was started, was nipped in the bud. Probably because the Pharmaceutical industry makes billions from treatment of these illnesses.

  • Rob

    You said , “We don’t know the cause.” and ” There’s scientific evidence.” There are specific psychological causes for neurosis (anxiety, rage, depression) but it’s not due to biological malfunction. When someone gets fired from a job and then goes back to work and kills 10 people, it has nothing to do with defective blood chemistry, parasites, or bacteria. We need to stop teaching our children that our misery is caused by our screwed up biology.

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