3 december 2022 | door: Mike de Graeve

Psychologists and psychiatrists, be assertive...


Psychologists and psychiatrists, be assertive and come out of the closet with a statement about the alleged homosexuality disorder


Shortly before the World Championship Football, former Qatar international football player and World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman mentioned in a documentary produced by the German television network ZDF that homosexuality was haram and a ‘mental disorder’. Surprising? No, many people feel that way about homosexuality – not only in Muslim countries either. What is more surprising is that professional associations and federations of psychologists and psychiatrists have not expressed more emphatically (and much earlier) that according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) homosexuality has not been a mental disorder for half a century.

The DSM, the fifth edition of which was published in 2013, is considered the global psychopathology bible which defines who is mentally healthy and who is not. That handbook is published under the auspices of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the most influential professional association of psychiatrists in the world. That professional association sponsored the documentary Cured [http://www.cureddocumentary.com/] released in 2020. What is more remarkable, is that the documentary it sponsored covers a dark period in the history of the APA. Cured is about the 1973 campaign which resulted in excising homosexuality as a mental illness from the DSM.

In the first of the edition of the DSM, in 1952, homosexuality was at the top of the list of sexual perversions. In those days, gay men and lesbians could be imprisoned for their sexual orientation and were often forced to endure ‘cures’ that included castration, a lobotomy and electroconvulsive therapy. That would not only benefit homosexuals, but also society as a whole. Many Americans feared homosexuals and considered them second-class citizens that ought to be locked up.

At that time, most psychiatrists believed that homosexuality was learned behavior. Behavior that could therefore be unlearned; for example, by conversion therapy during which homosexuals and lesbians would be administered electric shocks when shown erotic photographs of people of the same sex. Because of this and other therapies, a number of young activist psychologists and psychiatrists put up a fight in May 1970 at the annual APA convention, then held in San Francisco.

It turned out to be the start of more dialogue and growing doubts about whether homosexuality was in fact a disease. Two years later, at the APA convention in Dallas, it was the first time a psychiatrist talked about his sexual orientation, albeit using a voice changer and disguised with a wig and a mask. And although a few activists thought that this anonymous confession symbolized their repression, this appearance turned out to be a game changer. One year later, at the APA convention in Honolulu, it was decided to no longer consider homosexuality an illness, which the APA then ratified on December 15, 1973. In one fell swoop millions of people were declared mentally healthy.

That emancipatory step ought to be part of the collective memory of psychologists and psychiatrists. Their international professional associations and federations have the moral obligation to explicitly remind us of this step forward in our civilization every time homophobia rears its ugly head. Now that the group stage in Qatar is almost over, they should be assertive and come out of the closet with a statement about the alleged homosexuality disorder. Mental effect guaranteed.


* Translation (by Michael Jas) of my opinion piece in Belgian newspaper De Morgen: Psychologen en psychiaters, kom eens assertief uit de kast met een statement over het vermeende defect van homoseksualiteit. De Morgen, 29 november 2022. https://www.demorgen.be/meningen/psychologen-en-psychiaters-kom-eens-assertief-uit-de-kast-met-een-statement-over-het-vermeende-defect-van-homoseksualiteit~bfe164f8/