Changing Minds, Changing History

It has been a loooooooong time since I verbally smacked Adam upside the head and educated him about LGBT history; and since June is officially LGBT Pride Month in honor of the Stonewall Revolution of June 28, 1969, it seems like an great time to do just that.

Hey Adam!! Did you know that the American Psychiatric Association used to openly pathologize homosexuality and bisexuality?  Yes they did!

Until 1973, any individual who expressed sexual desire for a member of the same sex could and many times would be subjected to various forms of corrective therapy.   If normal everyday talk therapy didn’t have an effect, it wasn’t uncommon for more unique measures to be used.  These measures range from the laughable (encouraging gay men to participate in sports) to the grotesque (injections to induce nausea when the subject became sexually aroused and electric shocks when shown images of members of the same sex).

The LGBT community has one courageous heterosexual woman to thank for finally changing these ridiculous practices: Evelyn Hooker.  Hooker was a Johns Hopkins University educated psychiatrist who conducted numerous studies on homosexual men and vehemently advocated for the removal of homosexuality from the APA’s diagnostic criteria.  Hooker’s attitude did not arise in a vacuum.  She has acknowledge that her friendships with her former student Sam From and neighbor Christopher Isherwood, both of whom were gay,  introduced her to the gay subculture and informed her opinions.

In 2010, many LGBT people seek therapy for assistance adjusting to their sexual orientation and with coming out.  We have certainly come a long way, but I still think there is some work to be done.  The APA still has a classification under which psychiatrists can “treat” individuals displaying same-sex desires.  Egodystonic Homosexuals, or gays who don’t like that they are gay, are still subjected to to corrective therapies.  This classification is rarely used by therapists who want the best for their clients, but there are still religious fanatics who exploit its existence to scar new generations.

More accepted is the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder, which broadly covers transexuality, transgender identity and transvestitism.  In short, this diagnosis allows psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals to treat children and adults with “non-normative” gender expression.  I’m not sure about you, but I think that the concept of normative gender expression went out with the Second Wave Feminist Movement of the 1960s & 1970s.  This is precisely the reason why many practitioners are currently lobbying to get the diagnosis removed from the manual.

I hope that by the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (here we come June 28, 2019) both of these diagnoses will have been removed  from the manual so that fewer people are traumatized in the name of therapy.


3 thoughts on “Changing Minds, Changing History”

  1. Unfortunately even if the “illness” is removed, there are still the wingnuts who will have their camps to straighten you out. Just this week my friend Jen interviewed an author of gay romance M. Jules Aedin who considers hereself … dual gendered perhaps or gender fluid. Here is a bit from the interview about her story and how she started writing what she does:

    I was raised extremely conservative, religiously speaking. I could tell you horror stories, including my own (obviously unsuccessful, ha!) experience with “ex-gay” therapy. Part of my “therapy” regimen was to avoid any positive portrayals of LGBT people at all, lest I be tempted into thinking it was acceptable.

    And then I found slashfic. It wasn’t even particularly good slashfic, but it was a revelation. I started sneaking that on the sly (and not telling my counselor, hehe), and then it moved on to gay & lesbian films, and then one day I ditched the whole “ex-gay” attempt. (Which took me about six years.)

    My friend KZ Snow also wrote a book called Jude in Chains which is about a gay man who goes to an ex-gay camp to do a story. It’s fiction but these camps I think will exist for a long time because there will always be people who refuse to accept it even though the medical community says it’s normal. And I’ve heard that some are truly truly awful, frightening and soul scarring. What makes me sadder is the men and women who seek out this “help” on their own. Who are unable to accept themselves. I can sort of understand family who “send” someone against their will, but to choose or try to deny a part of yourself is very sad.

    Oh and yay Ms. Hooker. 🙂

  2. It is a sad part of the history, but even worse is the fact that there are “professionals” who continue to try to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality. I have less of an issue with transexuality’s classification, because I think that making the transition is very difficult and there should be protocols in place for individuals and professionals to seek/provide the appropriate supports. With that said, I will say that I can recognize the problems with its classification and the abuses that are potential.

    I will also say that my time working in the mental health system demonstrated that the positive side of the system. I never encountered a professional who considered homosexuality an illness or anything other than a normal part of the human spectrum of sexuality

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