While homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973, the attitude that it is a mental disorder prevails to this day. You don’t have to go far to see someone commenting that gay people are mentally ill on a pro-LGBTQ post or perhaps you have unfortunately encountered someone in person with that mindset. While that is unfortunate, the American Psychoanalytic Association, or APsaA, has officially apologized for including homosexuality in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, according to Reuters.
The APsaA is the first mental health organization worldwide to issue an apology such as this, as even though American psychiatrists removed homosexuality from the DSM forty-six years ago, they have never formally apologized for putting it in in the first place. The president of the APsaA, Dr. Lee Jaffe issued a statement in which he said “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,’” and that “It’s hard to admit that one has been so wrong.” Jaffe has also said that the APsaA has been active in promoting LBGTQ rights but until today has not shown remorse for the group’s wrongdoings. I am glad that people are finally apologizing for officially claiming that homosexuality is a mental disorder, but the apology should have come as soon as it was removed from the DSM. I can’t really complain though because at least there are steps being taken to right the wrongs.
After homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder in 1952, gay rights activists began increasing in number and in 1970, LGBTQ activists interrupted the American Psychoanalyst Association’s meeting and it had such an impact that homosexuality was removed from the DSM. Despite it being removed almost fifty years ago, the APsaA did not change its position until 1991 when, under fear of an anti-discrimination lawsuit, they finally allowed LGBTQ people to be trained as psychoanalysts. The APsaA has since become an opponent of anti-gay conversion therapy and a supporter of LGBTQ rights.
According to Dr. Jack Drescher, an APsaA member and leading authority on the history of psychiatric and psychological treatment of LGBTQ people, the apology was prompted by the NYPD apologizing for the raids on gay bars and discriminatory laws that were in place in the past. Drescher said “They did the work of apologizing but they did not say the words… If the police commissioner of New York City could do it, why couldn’t we do something similar?”
It is nice to know that people are proud enough to admit that they were wrong and apologize to the people that were affected by their mistake. However, in the minds of many people, being gay is still considered a mental disorder. Will this apology shift the attitudes of such people or will they continue to believe what they believe? Regardless, this is undoubtedly a good thing, as we all have to learn to crawl before we learn to walk. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.