The In PsyDA Perspective?
Homosexuality - a Mental Disorder
On 26th June, 2015, via a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the United States of America became the 21st country to legalise homosexual marriages. Given the Caribbean’s propensity to catch the cold whenever America sneezes, not surprisingly, this sparked a religious furore throughout the region. In light of this, I thought it best to elucidate the genesis of homosexuality’s association with mental illness. The following extract is taken from the article “Facts about Homosexuality and Mental Health” and is merely meant to catalyse further, more objective discourse.
“Modern attitudes toward homosexuality have religious, legal, and medical underpinnings. Before the High Middle Ages, homosexual acts appear to have been tolerated or ignored by the Christian church throughout Europe. Beginning in the latter twelfth century, however, hostility toward homosexuality began to take root, and eventually spread throughout European religious and secular institutions. Condemnation of homosexual acts (and other non-procreative sexual behavior) as “unnatural,” became widespread and has continued through the present day. Religious teachings soon were incorporated into legal sanctions. Many of the early American colonies, for example, enacted stiff criminal penalties for sodomy, an umbrella term that encompassed a wide variety of sexual acts that were non-procreative (including homosexual behavior), occurred outside of marriage (e.g. sex between a man and woman who were not married), or violated traditions (e.g. sex between husband and wife with the woman on top). By the end of the 19th century, medicine and psychiatry were effectively competing with religion and the law for jurisdiction over sexuality. As a consequence, discourse about homosexuality expanded from the realms of sin and crime to include that of pathology. This historical shift was generally considered progressive because a sick person was less blameful than a sinner or criminal.
Today, a large body of published empirical research clearly refutes the notion that homosexuality per se is indicative of or correlated with psychopathology. In a review of published studies comparing homosexual and heterosexual samples on psychological tests, Gonsiorek (1982) found that, ‘although some differences have been observed in test results between homosexuals and heterosexuals, both groups consistently score within the normal range.’ Gonsiorek concluded that, ‘Homosexuality in and of itself is unrelated to psychological disturbance or maladjustment. Homosexuals as a group are not more psychologically disturbed on account of their homosexuality.’ Confronted with overwhelming empirical evidence and changing cultural views of homosexuality, psychiatrists and psychologists radically altered their views, beginning in the 1970s. In 1973, the weight of empirical data, coupled with changing social norms and the development of a politically active gay community in the United States, led the Board of Directors of the American Psychiatric Association to remove ‘Homosexuality’ from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a book used by clinicians which outlines standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. A new diagnosis, ego-dystonic homosexuality, was created for the DSM’s third edition in 1980. In 1986, the diagnosis was removed entirely from the DSM. The only vestige of ‘ego dystonic homosexuality’ in the revised DSM-III occurred under Sexual Disorders Not Otherwise Specified, which included persistent and marked distress about one’s sexual orientation. (It should be noted that the American Psychological Association Council of Representatives followed in de-classifying homosexuality in 1975. Thereafter other major mental health organizations followed, including the World Health Organization in 1990.) The DSM V, the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, includes a diagnosis of ‘Gender Dysphoria’ (Other Specified or Unspecified), which involves a marked incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned gender but makes no mention of homosexuality.
In closing, Halonen and Santrock, in the book entitled Psychology: Contexts and Applications, wrote: “An individual’s sexual orientation – heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual (or transsexual) – is most likely determined by a combination of genetic, hormonal, cognitive, and environmental factors. Most experts on homosexuality believe that no one factor alone causes homosexuality and that the relative weight of each factor may vary from one individual to the next. In effect, no one knows exactly what causes an individual to be homosexual. Scientists have a clearer picture of what does not cause homosexuality. For example, children raised by gay or lesbian parents or couples are no more likely to be homosexual than are children raised by heterosexual parents. There also is no evidence that male homosexuality is caused by a dominant mother or a weaker father, or that female homosexuality is caused by girls choosing male role models. One of the biological factors believed to be involved in homosexuality is prenatal hormone conditions. In the second to fifth months after conception, the exposure of the fetus to hormone levels characteristic of females may cause the individual (male or female) to be attracted to males. If this critical prenatal period hypothesis turns out to be correct, it would explain why researchers and clinicians have found that a homosexual orientation is difficult to modify.”
Food for thought. PsyDA Consultancy (pronounced ‘Cider’) provides psychological services including individual and family psychotherapy, psychological evaluations and assessments, counselling and forensic consultations. Contact 727-1490 for weekend appointments.