Wednesday, December 21, 2016

43 Years Ago This Month the American Psychiatric Association Voted To Remove Homosexuality as a Mental Disorder

Written by Anna Swartz

[Thursday, December 15, 1973] marks 43 years since the American Psychiatric Association, the organization that publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders — a change that, to many, marked a major step forward for what would become the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

However, a week after the decision, the New York Times published a conversation between two doctors, Robert Spitzer, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia and a member of the APA's nomenclature committee and Irving Bieber, a professor of psychiatry at the New York Medical College and the chairman of a research committee on male homosexuality. What that discussion would show was that there would still be a long way to go until gay and lesbian identities would be welcome into the mainstream. Indeed, the APA's decision wasn't an end to the pathologization of sexual orientation. As Spitzer said in the story, homosexuality did not meet the criteria for a "psychiatric illness" because it did not "regularly cause subjective distress." In other words, being gay and comfortable with it was no longer a disorder — but being gay and unhappy about it was. "In no longer considering it a psychiatric disorder, we are not saying that it is normal or that it is as valuable as heterosexuality," Spitzer noted. READ MORE