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.
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
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.
Nanu Grewal • 2 years ago
That is an excellent posting about the homosexuality story.
And what a fine point you make about the fact that it would
indeed be declared a disability now "rewarded" by a state
18 • Reply•Share ›
Phil Nanu Grewal • 2 years ago
Thanks for the kind words and the suggestion. Best wishes.
4 • Reply•Share ›
Jeffery Scott Thomas Nanu Grewal • a year ago
Excellent understanding and comment. In total agreement.
3 • Reply•Share ›
Jacob Blackburn Jeffery Scott Thomas • 11 months ago
scizoprehnia- mental illness.
8 • Reply•Share ›
jeanne • 2 years ago
And homosexuality is the basis of the current "anti-bullying"
movement. There seems to be no other purpose but to protect
young gays, precisley at the age when boys in the past would
move on from adolescent crushes and to normal attractions.
Now, I admit I'm confused. I thought there was a time 30 years
ago when gays wanted it known that they weren't born that way,
that it was freely chosen. But lately they seem to want to find
a gay gene. They argue that they can't help the way they are.
Now, how does this work for transsexuals? Shouldn't they accept
they way they were born? Why do they think they have a right to
change sexes and be recognized as such?
46 • Reply•Share ›
Phil jeanne • 2 years ago
Thanks for coming back. Always nice to hear from you. As usual,
you have raised some thorny issues. I started to write a reply,
but it became so lengthy that I decided to make it a post in its
own right. Stay tuned.
a) "Homosexuality" didn't really exist until certain
religious fanatics got involved (and some generals who
wanted a constant supply of cannon-fodder). Before
that sex was sex ... whomever, whenever, who cares.
This is not a NEW "category", one of the charges
against Socrates was "corrupting the youth" (the
generals at work).
b) There is no "gay gene". Likely a LOT of genes
COMBINED with the health/diet/environment of the
c) The LAST thing gays should want is a "gay gene".
"Liberalism" is a relatively new thing in the history
of the planet and likely won't last. Covid has almost
collapsed several nations, and ultra-authoritarianism
follows such collapses. Imagine if the NAZIs or Taliban
could just do a quickie gene test and identify gays
in 5 minutes. SIX minutes and they'd be chopping off
your head, or worse.