Psychoanalysts Apologize For Labeling Homosexuality an Illness

Photo Credit: The State Press

Homosexuality was declassified as a disorder by psychiatrists in 1973 and nearly 20 years later psychoanalysts came around. Now, The American Psychoanalytic Association is the first U.S. medical or mental health organization to issue an apology for labeling homosexuality an illness. ”It is long past time to recognize and apologize for our role in the discrimination and trauma caused by our profession and say, ‘We are sorry,’” said a statement by Dr. Lee Jaffe, president of APsaA, as The Reuters reports. The apology was announced by Dr. Jaffe at the opening session of the group's 109th annual meeting in San Diego, drawing a standing ovation from the audience.

Fifty years ago the Stonewall uprising led to a change in the medical community's thinking about homosexuality. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, patrons of a New York City gay bar, called the Stonewall Inn, fought back against police harassment. This event triggered the start of the modern movement for the rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. New York police recently apologized for the raid and discriminatory laws of the time. This year around four million people are expected for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and all around the world gay pride parades will be celebrated.

One year after the Stonewall uprising, in 1970, LGBTQ activists disrupted the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Francisco and their protests had an impact on the decision to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. That happened in 1973, but psychoanalysts and their American association did not allow the training of gay and lesbian psychoanalysts for almost 20 years. In 1991, under threat of an anti-discrimination lawsuit, APsaA changed its position and allowed gay and lesbian people to be trained for psychoanalysts. 

All these changes came more than 20 years ago but no medical organization offered an apology for its earlier harmful practice even though they have done a lot of things to support LGBTQ people. For example APsaA became an early supporter of same-sex marriage and opponent of so called gay conversion therapy, aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation. According to The Reuters, APsaA and other professional organizations view homosexuality as a normal variant of human sexuality; but until now have yet to express how wrong they were, said Dr. Jack Drescher, an APsaA member. “They did the work of apologizing but they did not say the words,” Drescher said. “If the police commissioner of New York City could do it, why couldn’t we do something similar?” According to Drescher, an apology from The New York police prompted APsaA to issue its own apology.

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