Friday, December 15, 2017

Today in 1973: Best Day of the 20th Century for Gays and Lesbians

It was 44 years ago today that gays and lesbians were no longer officially considered crazy.

The Advocate's Charles Kaiser report from November 12, 2012:
The best day of the 20th century for every lesbian and gay man in America was December 15, 1973: the day the board of the American Psychiatric Association [APA] voted 13-0 to remove homosexuality from its official list of psychiatric disorders. 
It was the front page story in The New York Times (and almost every other major newspaper) at the time, and it remains the most important victory of the modern gay rights movement, which was then slightly more than four years old.

The triumph was a tribute to the diligence, intelligence, and furious determination of Frank Kameny, a cofounder with Jack Nichols of the Washington, D.C., branch of the Mattachine Society and one of the most important gay leaders of all time. More than a decade before the APA acted, Kameny identified homosexuality's classification as a mental illness as the major stumbling block for gay rights because "an attribution of mental illness in our culture is devastating."

When Kameny studied the psychiatric literature, he was "appalled." He told me that everything he found there was "sloppy, slovenly, slipshod, sleazy science--social and cultural and the theological value judgments, cloaked and camouflaged in the language of science, without the substance of science. There was just nothing there.... It was garbage in, garbage out. … 
 But that was not really the last word on whether being gay was a mental disorder. Psychology Today reports:

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) asked all members attending its convention to vote on whether they believed homosexuality to be a mental disorder. 5,854 psychiatrists voted to remove homosexuality from the [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] DSM, and 3,810 to retain it.
The APA then compromised, removing homosexuality from the DSM but replacing it, in effect, with "sexual orientation disturbance" for people "in conflict with" their sexual orientation. Not until 1987 did homosexuality completely fall out of the DSM.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) only removed homosexuality from its [International Classification of Diseases] ICD classification with the publication of ICD-10 in 1992, although ICD-10 still carries the construct of "ego-dystonic sexual orientation". In this condition, the person is not in doubt about his or her sexual preference, but "wishes it were different because of associated psychological and behavioural disorders".

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