% IssueDate = "9/30/02" IssueCategory = "Viewpoint" %>
We just can't seem to stop getting into arguments with people who plainly don't want to accept LGBT human beings. These people latch on to any straws that will keep them from admitting their own prejudices, fears, denial, and insecurities. Then they act out their personal problems on non-heterosexuals and heterosexuals who support basic LGBT rights.
Sincere seekers of understanding are reachable, but those who hold on to their biases for a variety of personal reasons continue to fish for any basis outside themselves which prevents their own growth and our progress. Using psychology became even more popular in the last century. Today so-called psychological claims are the most often cited "scientific" arguments for supporting the idea that LGBT people are sick and need "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy."
In response we get caught up again and again arguing psychology with them. It's exhausting for us. It keeps us from more progress in our lives. And it prevents them from self-understanding and admitting that they are just prejudiced. Often we want to be "nice" about it, we don't want to offend, and hope we can "help them understand."
We can call their prejudices "homophobia," searching for motives behind them, but the reality is, it's just plain denial. They won't face the fact that they are prejudiced, and we are often enabling them in this denial.
In their attempts to convert, cure, or change sexual orientations that they don't like, they refuse to give up their lucrative strategies and recognize what all mainstream psychological organizations have been saying for over 25 years. Yes, that's a quarter of a century!
It wasn't just yesterday, but back in 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association's Board of Trustees confirmed that: "homosexuality does not meet the criteria to be considered a mental illness." Since then, all (yes, that's all) major professional mental health organizations have gone on record to affirm that homosexuality is not a mental illness.
"Further, the American Psychological Association urges all mental health professionals to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientations."
"The American Psychological Association opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation and supports the dissemination of accurate information about sexual ordination, and mental health, and appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based in ignorance or unfounded beliefs about sexual orientation."
Yes, the professional association says, "take the lead" in removing the prejudice. Yes, they say, "counteract the bias" toward gay people.
We must assume, then, that any so-called "therapists" who continue to promote prejudice and "cures," even those who merely don't stand up for LGBT people, are, frankly, acting unprofessionally. And we should say so.
We must assume, as the professionals themselves say, that counselors who disagree with the established professional standard are promoting ignorance and bigotry. They somehow need to obsess with this issue in the same way that prejudice based on race or right-handedness refused to change no matter what the evidence.
And it's time we stopped arguing and said so. We don't need to be on the psychological defensive. We don't need to play into their game of responding to the same old claims they have made for years about issues that have been settled for decades. We don't need to answer their arguments with anything more than: "I know that people believe that, but it's unprofessional, so I don't."
The debate is over. We need to say that, repeat it, and act like it.
Robert N. Minor, Ph.D. is author of Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard To Be Human (HumanityWorks!, 2001), and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas. You can reach him at www.fairnessproject.org