The Politics of Homosexuality

The World and I, April 1997 | Go to article overview
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The Politics of Homosexuality


Deconstructing the APA

Perhaps few organizations have had more impact on society's growing acceptance of homosexuality than the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Until the early 1970s, the APA classified homosexuality as a personal affliction, resulting from a possible inner conflict or family dysfunction.

The APA claims its decision to sanction homosexuality was made on the basis of new science. But that's not exactly the whole story. In fact, the APA was lobbied from both inside and out by homosexual activists who sought "normalcy" of their lifestyle. Of the ten thousand votes cast, barely half in the APA voted for the change.

This month clinical psychologist G.E. Zuriff provides a rare glimpse into the APA's evolving resolutions on homosexuality, the debates they provoke, and the battles that rage within the organization.

Nowadays, the prevailing view in the mental-health field is to help homosexuals "accept who they are," sexual orientation believed to be immutable. One's sexual problems are thought to stem mostly from the negative attitudes of society toward homosexuality and/or a mistaken desire for the heterosexual life of family and children. Since there is nothing to doctor, changing society's backward ways is viewed as an effective way to help those struggling with their homosexuality.

Most would agree that American society has grown more open in the decades since the APA decided to normalize homosexuality. Laws have been passed prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals; corporations have created new policies recognizing same-sex unions for employees and their beneficiaries.

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