<% IssueDate = "9/30/02" IssueCategory = "Viewpoint" %> GayToday.com - Viewpoint
The Psychological Debate is Over

By Bob Minor
Minor Details

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.

GayToday Editor Jack Nichols' biography appears in the history Before Stonewall (Haworth Press). Nichols, pictured today, first suggested to his gay and lesbian peers in the movement that they formalize a position rejecting the 'sickness' theories once entertained by the psychiatric and psychological establishments Let's be clear, then. What people who argue from psychology against LGBT people are doing is promoting in sincerity and in a successful money-raising fashion a return to something like the Dark Ages of psychology and religion. Then gay people were considered sick, perverted, inhuman, "the problem," and "unnatural."

On top of their use of religion, they deny their plain old bigotry by clinging to "scientific" language to legitimate their position. Their "experts" promote out-dated, unproven, and destructive theories that treat homosexuality as a psychological problem associated with such things as identification with the "wrong " parent or the "wrong" gender role. Their models of those they have "converted" have their own problems. Who knows what they are?

But when will they get with it? How long will they hang on to their prejudices? How long will they accuse mainstream psychological professional groups of being the ones who are wrongly motivated?

How long must we listen to their ignorance? How long will we argue with them as if we are the ones who need to justify ourselves psychologically?

It's not that "ex-gay" leaders don't know that they are acting like enemies of science. They just refuse to change the prejudices upon which they've built their self-image.

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.

Dr. George Weinberg, who coined the term 'homophobia' challenged his psychologist-peers to declassify homosexuality as an illness prior to the Stonewall uprising. His book, Society and the Healthy Homosexual, says: 'I would never consider a patient healthy unless he had overcome his prejudice against homosexuality.' His biography will apear in the forthcoming history, Before Stonewall (Haworth Press) Is that not clear enough? Listen to the unambiguous language of an American Psychiatric Association's statement about attempts to "convert, repair, or cure" homosexuality:

"The American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as 'reparative' or 'conversion' therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder, or based upon a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation."

Yes, that does say "opposes."

In fact, the APA says the "therapy" these groups tout as loving is hardly positive for the patient:

"The potential risks of Areparative therapy are great: including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."

There is just no debate here. The other professional psychological and medical organizations all agree - the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Back in 1975, the American Psychological Association agreed with the American Psychiatric Association and made it clear that: "Homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social and vocational capabilities."

And the stand of real psychological professionals on this issue is not just neutrality. Like the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association calls professionals to be involved in proactive change:

"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."

In summary:

"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

For More ...
Related Stories
A Reply to the Ex-Gay Movement

Why Reparative and Ex-Gay Ministries Fail

The Ex-Gay Files

Related Sites
American Psychological Association

Fairness Project

Before Stonewall