US psychoanalysts apologise for labelling homosexuality as an illness

Emma Powys Maurice June 22, 2019
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The American Psychoanalytic Association has issued an official apology for previously treating homosexuality as an illness (The Fix)

The American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) apologised on Friday (June 21) for treating homosexuality as an illness, acknowledging that its past errors have contributed to discrimination and trauma for LGBT+ people.

The American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a disorder in the DSM-I in 1952. It was declassified as a disorder by psychiatrists in 1973, but APsaA did not change its position until 1991 when, under threat of an anti-discrimination lawsuit, it allowed the training of gay and lesbian psychoanalysts.

Their recent admission is thought to be the first time in history that a US medical or mental health organisation has issued such an apology. It was prompted by the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, as well as the New York Police Department’s apology for Stonewall issued earlier in June.

“It’s hard to admit that one has been so wrong.”

— Dr. Lee Jaffe, President of APsaA

Reuters reported a statement from the President of APsaA, Dr. Lee Jaffe: ”It is long past time to recognise and apologise for our role in the discrimination and trauma caused by our profession and say, ‘We are sorry.’”

Recognising APsaA’s role in supporting same-sex marriage and opposing conversion therapy, Jaffe said his group has long been active in promoting LGBT+ rights but had yet to put its contrition into words. He added: “It’s hard to admit that one has been so wrong.”

The announcement reportedly drew a standing ovation from the 200 people present at the group’s 109th annual meeting in San Diego.

One audience member, psychoanalyst Dr Justin Schubert, told The Huffington Post: “As someone who comes from a long line of analysts who have been fighting for LGBT+ people, this felt like a watershed moment.”

Unfortunately the moment came too late for LGBT+ ally and psychiatrist Richard Green, who died earlier this year on April 6. Green was one of the first psychiatrists to speak out against labelling homosexuality as a mental disorder.

His 1972 article in The International Journal of Psychiatry calling for the removal of homosexuality from the list of mental disorders is thought to have been critical to the decision to remove it the following year.

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