Is Homosexuality an Illness?

Article ID: DH055-1 | By: Joseph P. Gudel

The following is an excerpt from article DH055-1 from the Christian Research Journal. The full article can be read by following the link below the excerpt.


IS HOMOSEXUALITY AN ILLNESS? IS IT “NORMAL”?

An even more important question, though, is if homosexuality constitutes pathological behavior. Is it an illness? Gay rights groups continually assert that homosexuals are as “normal” as heterosexuals, that homosexuality is not an illness or psychological disorder. For example, Peri Jude Radecic, a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), asserted on the ABC news show Nightline: “Homosexuality is not an illness, it is not something that needs to be cured. We are normal, natural and healthy people.”14 Moreover, these groups universally contend that all competent psychiatrists and psychologists are in agreement on this. As proof of this, the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) 1973 declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder is always cited. Before examining the contention that all competent psychiatrists and psychologists agree that homosexuality is normal and healthy, we need to look at the APA’s 1973 decision for a moment. For 23 years homosexuality had been listed as a mental disorder by the APA. Why was it decided, at that particular point in time, that it was not pathological? I do not have the space to go into a detailed analysis of the history leading up to the APA’s decision.15 Nonetheless, it is a misconception to think that this came about only after dispassionate and scholarly discussion, and only after listening equally to all sides of the issue. Also, it is important to note that the APA’s vote was anything but unanimous. In the three years leading up to the 1973 APA meeting, the previous national meetings had been repeatedly disrupted by gay activists. At the 1970 meeting in San Francisco certain sessions were broken up with shouts and jeers, prohibiting any rational discussion or debate. At the APA’s 1971 meeting in Washington, threats and intimidation accomplished what discussion could not. Ronald Bayer, in a work sympathetic toward homosexuality and the gay rights movement, recounts: “Using forged credentials, gay activists gained access to the exhibit area and, coming across a display marketing aversive conditioning [i.e., punishing an organism whenever it makes a particular response] techniques for the treatment of homosexuals, demanded its removal. Threats were made against the exhibitor, who was told that unless his booth was dismantled, it would be torn down. After frantic behind-the-scenes consultations, and in an effort to avoid violence, the convention leadership agreed to have the booth removed.”16 These tactics continued in the same manner at the APA’s 1972 national meeting. It was against this backdrop that the association’s trustees finally made its controversial 1973 decision. When a referendum on this was sent out to all 25,000 APA members, only a quarter of them returned their ballots. The final tally was 58 percent favoring the removal of homosexuality from their list of disorders. Four years later, Dr. Charles Socarides — who was at the meetings and was an expert in the area of homosexuality, having treated homosexuals for more than twenty years — described the political atmosphere leading up to the 1973 vote. He writes that during this time, “militant homosexual groups continued to attack any psychiatrist or psychoanalyst who dared to present his findings as to the psychopathology [i.e., the study of mental disorders from all aspects] of homosexuality before national or local meetings of psychiatrists or in public forums.”17 Elsewhere Socarides stated that the decision of the APA trustees was “the medical hoax of the century.”18 Was this the end of the debate? Did the vast majority of “competent” psychiatrists agree with the APA’s decision? In 1977 ten thousand members of the APA were polled at random, asking them their opinion on this. In an article entitled “Sick Again?” Time magazine summarized the results of the poll: “Of those answering, 69% said they believed ‘homosexuality is usually a pathological adaptation, as opposed to a normal variation,’ 18% disagreed and 13% were uncertain. Similarly, sizable majorities said that homosexuals are generally less happy than heterosexuals (73%) and less capable of mature, loving relationships (60%). A total of 70% said that homosexuals’ problems have more to do with their own inner conflicts than with stigmatization by society at large.”19 But what about today? Has this issue been resolved in current medical opinion and research? Concerning this, Dr. Stanton L. Jones, professor of psychology at Wheaton College, states that there is a “mixed scorecard” among professionals on this. He writes: “I would not regard homosexuality to be a psychopathology in the same sense as schizophrenia or phobic disorders. But neither can it be viewed as a normal ‘lifestyle variation’ on a par with being introverted versus extroverted.”20 One may debate whether or not homosexuality is a pathological disorder, but it is clear that the APA’s 1973 decision cannot be cited as medical consensus that homosexuality is a “normal” condition.