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Gay Conversion Therapy: A Dark Chapter in Mental Health Care

The field of mental health has a history of misunderstanding conditions, and for over 30 years had considered Homosexuality a mental health disorder. Gay Conversion therapy was created as a “treatment” for individuals with this “disorder”. It is the responsibility of mental health professionals to speak out and remedy the damage that has been caused by these practices. Read More

Biological theories have their limits

Really nice post, Mike! I totally agree with the overall sentiment that we as a field need to speak out against the absurdity of reparative therapy. Indeed, we have a responsibility to disseminate our knowledge of science to society.

My only quibble is an academic one – I worry that as a field and society we put ourselves in a box by stating that because something is biological it is therefore more real. While I totally understand the clear benefits of this perspective, it also has some disadvantages. For example, just because something is biological does not mean we can’t discriminate against it (i.e., witness forced sterilization, concentration camps, etc). But more relevant to today’s world, it places constraints on people and the lifestyles that they may want to lead. So, now people are either “gay” or “straight.” This is at odds with the research on sexual identity, which suggests that these categories are more fluid and porous than that. In addition to the concept of “bisexuality” there are people who identify as “straight” while having occasional same-sex relationships, people who change identities or whose attraction to a particular gender changes over the lifespan, and some people who refuse to self-identify in any way. These folks who defy easy labels have found acceptance more difficult, even in the LGBT community, given the challenge that they pose to the easy biological theory/label of sexuality and sexual orientation. Moreover, the research establishing clear biological underpinnings of sexuality/orientation is very weak and hardly definitive. So, while there are likely biological underpinnings to sexuality/orientation, it is also probably the case that environment plays an important role. And in the end, the question for us as a society should be: who cares?

As I said none of this contradicts your main message…indeed, it pushes it a bit further!

Psychiatry is just religion with a "scientific" excuse.

Psychiatry's original pathologization of homosexuality happened because it originated during the uber-moralistic Victorian era that also boiled every single one of the world's problems down to sex. "Mental illness" has always been a pseudoscientific way of legitimizing the construct of "sin" within an "academic" framework, so as not to be seen as "backwards" in our modern industrial/scientific age when natural phenomena can be explained by other factors than "acts of God" or "the devil made me do it." Nevertheless, there are inevitable parallels, probably because psychiatry had to adopt these constructs in order to be accepted by the already uber-religious in society and not just pushed to the fringes as a blasphemous theory (cf. Galileo). Imagine if Freud had said that religious belief was a mental illness. He wouldn't have lived to even flee Nazi Germany because the "faithful" wouldn't have let him live to see 1900! (Never mind the fact that they probably would have labeled psychiatry a "Jewish subversive plot"...)

This medicalization of what rational people now understand are normal variants of human behavior (and not "sin" either) has unfortunately managed to stick around just like the ugly godhead of bogus fairy tales has remained in play for 6,000 years now. Yet in certain circles, saying that Rash Limburger is more "delusional" than Ellen DeGeneres can actually get you sent to "Bible camp" to correct you of your "sinful ways." Organizations like NARTH, which claim not to have any "religious leanings," are completely incorrect in their statement because this neglects the fact that psychiatry in general will always be tied to its ugly past of rendering the "sinful" as "crazy."

Only when America -- and the world at large -- decide that religious "freedom" by a few is not worth denying personal freedom to the many, and cast off the ugly shackles of religion, burying it once and for all (or at least re-classifying the Bible, Koran, Torah, etc., in the "fiction" section) will these practices end. Sadly, the laws of supply and demand are very powerful, and people who follow the cults of Marcus Bachmann and Bill O'Reilly are proof positive we must never underestimate the power of the stupid "faithful" in large voting blocs. Gay conversion "therapists" (aka "the rapists," AMIRITE?) should be arrested and charged with abuse, and sent far away where they can never hurt anyone again.

Religious "freedom" be DAMNED.

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Michael Friedman, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist specializing in how social relationships influence mental and physical health
    
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