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24 December 2011

History: 1973 and the APA Changes the DSM

One of the assumptions that some people are making about me as the author of this blog is that I have spent my life as a homosexual activist.  While I have been a quiet supporter for equal rights for all of my adult life, I have not been an activist.  The research that I do as part of writing here has me learning about homosexuality all the time.  I was recently challenged in a private dialogue regarding the change in 1973 of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of the American Psychiatric Association to no longer list homosexuality as a disease.  The challenger, prominent in one of the hate groups that I sometimes rail against, claimed that the change was fraudulent, brought about by homosexual activists without any science behind the change.  So, it was time for me to learn about what happened before and during 1973.

The best single resource I found is a 2002 episode of This American Life, titled 81 words.  If you have an hour to listen, I would encourage you to enjoy the entirety of it.  Based on this and a few other references that I will link in, I think I have a better understanding of the history of the change and why it is correct.

Prior to the 1973 change, most psychiatrists based their treatment of homosexuals on the works of a medium size group of experts, among them Edmund Bergler, Irving Bieber, Sigmund Freud, and Charles Socarides, all of whom had a significant flaw in their methodologies.  The homosexuals that these doctors studied tended to come from either prisons, those released from the military dishonorably, or men who hated their sexuality enough to seek treatment to change who they are.  There were no well-adjusted, normal, gays among those studied.

There were two researchers before 1973 who studied homosexuals with less or different bias.  The better known is Alfred Kinsey, who released a report in 1948 that was incredibly controversial.  The most controversial aspect was, perhaps, that he found that 37% of men had experimented with sex with other men and is the source for the claim that 10% of the population is homosexual.  It is, of course, more complicated.  Far more complicated because the two largest groups of participants in the Kinsey studies were prison populations, similar to the studies by Dr. Bergler and the others cited above, and a second group being male prostitutes.  Like those who found homosexuality to be a pathological condition, Dr. Kinsey used biased samples, not quite as normal as one might have hoped.

The second researcher was Evelyn Hooker, who wrote a paper in 1957 based on homosexuals who were functioning in ordinary society.
She administered psychological tests to groups of self-identified homosexuals and heterosexuals and asked experts, based on those tests alone, to select the homosexual people. The experiment, which other researchers subsequently repeated, demonstrates that most self-identified homosexuals are no worse in social adjustment than the general population.
This experiment was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and was probably the first study of homosexuals conducted without obvious bias.  In blind studies, researchers found an equal percentage, about two-thirds, of homosexuals and heterosexuals to be well-adjusted.

Dr. Hooker and Dr. Kinsey provided the foundational science behind the activists who did disrupt APA meetings in the early 1970s.  Disruption tends to alienate, not to attract allies.  So, claiming that the change was forced by disruptions alone is absurd on its face.  There was also first person testimony from a gay psychiatrist, John Fryer.
Dr Fryer's speech started with the words "I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist" and continued to describe the lives of the many gay psychiatrists among the American Psychiatric Association who had to hide their sexuality from their colleagues for fear of discrimination, and from fellow homosexuals owing to the disdain in which the psychiatric profession was held among the gay community.
A year after Dr. Fryer spoke under the pseudonym Dr. H. Anonymous, the change was made.  Homosexuality was no longer considered an illness.  Other medical organizations studied the change in policy at the APA and made changes to their policies over the following twenty years. 

81 words, which I cited near the top, is by the granddaughter of John Spiegel, who was president-elect of the APA at the time of the change.  His granddaughter, Alix Spiegel, bases her piece on an interview of her grandfather and she also interviews many of the major players.

My conclusion is that there was a great deal of activism in the early 1970s, without which the studies of Dr. Hooker and Dr. Kinsey would not have been considered.  There was also a generational change in progress, with younger psychiatrists who had other concerns than the status of homosexuality challenging the older conservatism.  Science traditionally changes slowly and painfully, as seen from Galileo Galilei to Charles Darwin to Hooker and Kinsey.  That people are upset by the changes does not make the science wrong.  In this case, the APA was correct to change.

Let me conclude by personalizing this.  I have never been incarcerated and am honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy.  My relationship with my parents is fairly normal.  I was neither excessively beaten as a child nor was I overly coddled.  I have never been raped and never been molested (other than by the TSA, as is the case for many when flying these days).  Most people passing me on the street would probably guess that I am straight as I don't tend to lisp or swish or any of the other stereotypical behavior associated with homosexuals.  I was born under Eisenhower, thus I have well exceeded the life expectation of disproven studies like that of Paul Cameron.  Neither my partner nor I have any sexually transmitted diseases.  We have been together since 2005. 

In other words, the reasons to consider homosexuality a pathological condition are not apparent in me, in my partner, or in any of our friends.  The only problems with our relationship as I type this are that we cannot be recognized legally.  The problem is discrimination, not who we are.

23 December 2011

Praise: Sean Chapin on Ex-Gay Therapy


The music is not exactly to my taste, but the message is solid.  Ex-gay therapy, also known as conversion therapy or reparative therapy, does not work.  It is against the ethical codes of the National Assocation of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychological Association, the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and nearly all other medical professional organizations.

Prediction: Ron Paul on Racism

It is all over the news that Dr. Paul wrote, or had written in his name, newsletter articles in the 1990s that were racist.  The story was broken in 2008 by James Kirchick at the New Republic.  This is rediscovered news, not new news.  They have a collection of the newsletters online from that time if you want to wade through the vitriol.

The Republican Party was the party of Emancipation at the end of the Civil War.  Sometime since, they swapped sides with the Democratic Party.  By the time of Nixon, the GOP was using what is called the Southern Strategy.  As one who grew up and lived in the South at that time, I remember racism as normal.  Some people were less expressively racist than others, but it was pretty common.

Side note:  if you have never seen it, watch Everyone's a Little Bit Racist.

My guess is that Dr. Paul is a lot less racist today than he was a few years ago.  But, he is a product of his time and growing beyond being outwardly racist is not always easy.  I am not saying this by way of apology, but of explanation.  Racism, particularly when legislated, is wrong.

Back to the concept of the Southern Strategy.  We have been hearing Republican debates that are not racist in words.  The scapegoat this time is homosexuals.  This was perhaps most clearly evident by the booing of Captain Stephen Hill.  The flavor changed slightly, but the Southern Strategy is visibly in full play. 

There are a lot of White Americans who want to think of themselves as not racist but who would rather not see a Socialist, Muslim, Kenyan, Communist, Gay-Loving President.  (Mr. Obama is many things, but none of the aforementioned are accurate descriptors).  In other words, and they wouldn't say it in these words, but they don't want to continue having a Black President.

So, here's my prediction.  Dr. Paul will continue to disclaim without denouncing the newsletters until he is the Republican nominee.  (I am not predicting that he will win the nomination, but it is possible).  It is only after securing the Republican nomination that Dr. Paul will renounce the racism of those old letters.  Even then he will couch his words so that it is obvious that he has nothing against Black people and yet can do a better job in office that someone who is Black.  He will denounce overt racism in a way that appeals to that little bit of racism in Southern Whites.

I really hope that my prediction is wrong, but there it is.

22 December 2011

Praise: Barack Obama -- One Year Anniversary of Repeal of DADT

Today the White House sent out a note commemorating the signing of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT).


The e-mail included links to the following videos:

Until her retirement in 2007, Retired Navy Commander Zoe Dunning was one of the only openly gay service members in the country, having successfully fought an attempted discharge in 1993.  For many of those years, she served on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network as an advocate for the repeal of DADT. 

Retired Staff Sergeant Eric Alva joined the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 19 years old.  He served honorably for 13 years until 2003, when he became the first American soldier wounded in Iraq.  SSgt Alva was subsequently medically retired, and for his heroism, received a Purple Heart.

Retired Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer , RN, PhD, is a Vietnam Veteran and Bronze Star recipient who spent much of her life advocating against the original ban on gays in the military and later against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Her autobiography, “Serving in Silence,” was recognized by the National Education Association and later made into an Emmy Award winning movie starring Glenn Close and produced by Barbra Streisand.  Today, Col. Cammermeyer also serves on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS).

Former Army Captain Jonathan Hopkins graduated at the top of his West Point class and was deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan, earning three Bronze Stars, including one for valor.  Fourteen months after being outed, he was honorably discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in August 2010.

Former Army Captain Sue Fulton graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1980 – the first class to include women.  Today, she is the Executive Director of Knights Out – an organization of West Point LGBT alumni, staff, and faculty – and she also serves as a Member of the West Point Board of Visitors.

The White House offers the LGBT updates upon request.
You can sign up for email updates here , and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with your comments, suggestions, and ideas.
It is a great pleasure to share the videos of these American heroes.  Many thanks to President Obama for keeping his promise on DADT.

FollowUp 1: 100 Orthodox Rabbis Against Same-Sex Marriage

On 12 December 2011 the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest organization of American Orthodox rabbis, published five points that clarified their positions on homosexuality, same sex marriage, and so-called reparative therapy.
1. The Torah and Jewish tradition, in the clearest of terms, prohibit the practice of homosexuality. Same-sex unions are against both the letter and the spirit of Jewish law, which sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.
The wording here is very precise.  There are two lines of Torah that prohibits homosexuality, Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13.  As I discussed previously, many, including Rabbi Steve Greenberg, believe that these are specific references to anal sex, not to homosexuality in general.

Jewish tradition is not limited to Jewish law, so the rest of what is written is completely accurate.
2. Attempts to ritualize or celebrate same-sex unions are antithetical to Jewish law. Any clergyman who performs or celebrates a same-sex union cannot claim the mantle of Orthodox Judaism.
Better phrasing would be that the RCA does not recognize those marriages as Orthodox Jewish marriages and they denounce those who claim to be Orthodox Jewish rabbis, specifically Rabbi Greenberg, who perform such weddings.  There is not hierarchical organization to Judaism and the RCA cannot and does not speak for all Jews, not even for all Orthodox Jews.
3. While homosexual behavior is prohibited, individuals with homosexual inclinations should be treated with the care and concern appropriate to all human beings. As Rabbis we recognize the acute and painful challenges faced by homosexual Jews in their quest to remain connected and faithful to God and tradition. We urge those Orthodox Jews with homosexual tendencies to seek counsel from their Rabbis. Equally, we urge all Rabbis to show compassion to all those who approach them.
Very big of them. 
4. On the subject of reparative therapy, it is our view that, as Rabbis, we can neither endorse nor reject any therapy or method that is intended to assist those who are struggling with same-sex attraction. We insist, however, that therapy of any type be performed only by licensed, trained practitioners. In addition, we maintain that no individual should be coerced to participate in a therapeutic course with which he or she is acutely uncomfortable.
This is an interesting statement.  Those who seek so-called reparative therapy are those who are struggling with who they are, struggle because of pressures from society to be other than who they are.  Pressures from those like the RCA who make homosexuals feel less than whole and less than welcome.  Licensed counselors who practice reparative therapy are doing so despite the ethical codes of the National Assocation of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychological Association, the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and nearly all other medical professional organizations.
5. We pray that God will ease the way for all who struggle with a full heart to feel His presence in their lives.
The prayer would be less necessary if the RCA were not creating a greater struggle for gays.

The RCA has its opinion, succinctly written and published.  I support their right to deny marriage to anyone they wish, including myself.  As a patriotic American, I embrace the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  If my partner and I wed, we will seek a officiator who welcomes us, not one who merely tolerates and "shows compassion" of us.

They still do not get to decide that someone who is a rabbi loses that status.  A rabbi may be unwelcome in their group, but that rabbi is still a rabbi.

Maybe one day the RCA will be enlightened and see the errors of their decisions, but I do not anticipate it within my lifetime.

Thanks to Joe My God for the heads up.

6 December 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.

Praise: Keith Ablow on Marriage

I find myself quite surprised to be agreeing on something with Dr. Ablow.  During the 2011 Dancing With The Stars, which included Chaz Bono (possibly the most famous transgender man on Earth) this year, Dr. Ablow made a number of disparaging remarks on Fox News, implying that watching Mr. Bono might change one's inner gender or that transgender might be contagious or something like that.  No surprise that Cher came to her son's defense.  Dr. Ablow was also criticized at Psych Central and in the Atlantic in addition to numerous bloggers writing for and against his take on transgender people.

Moving ahead to the present, Dr. Ablow wrote an opinion column at Fox News yesterday about marriage.  When I read this I expected a lot of misinformation and material that I could use to blast him in a blog post here.  What I read was reasonable and intriguing.  After discussing the decline of marriage in the United States, he offers the following.
The solution is obvious: Get the state entirely out of the marriage business. No more marriage licenses. No more special treatment of married couples by the IRS or any other facet of government. No state ever had a legitimate claim to issue marriage licenses, to begin with, since marriage is a spiritual commitment and quite often, a religious one. And it is, fundamentally, an intensely personal one based in autonomy—until city hall gets involved and messes everything up.
>In the new paradigm I suggest, every couple wishing to get married would state that intention to their house of worship or their community of family and friends. They would take meaningful vows in front of gatherings of loved ones. Then they would—like knowledgeable and competent adults, rather than state-dependent, incompetent children—sign financial documents they generate together (while represented by attorneys or knowledgably waiving that right) which would govern how their assets should be pooled during the term of the contract and how they should be divided in the event they decide to end the contract. The state’s interest would be limited to enforcing laws about fair amounts of child support and fair visitation rights which must be included in such documents when children are born.
That’s it. The state would protect kids financially and emotionally from parents who fail to protect them. Otherwise, they would have no business getting involved in people’s marriages at all. They never had any business getting involved in them, to begin with.
Trust me, if marriage were thus structured as a union of heart and mind between competent adults making reasoned decisions, rather than abdicating their autonomy and infantilizing themselves, it would have a much better chance of surviving in our culture. 
As worded, this allows for same sex marriage and opposite sex marriage.  This even allows for transgender people to wed, despite Dr. Ablow's previous misgivings about them.  This would be a version of true marriage equality.  There is no mandate on any religion and couples who can't find a religion that will accept and marry them can turn to their family and friends.

The flaws in Dr. Ablow's proposal include the loss of special treatment by the IRS for married couples, not something that I have considered in the past and I'm not sure I agree with him on this.  I like the idea of the government using taxes to encourage marriage.  I believe that having more stable couples in society is beneficial to the whole of society. 

I'm surprised that the social conservatives at Fox are not upset in the media yet.  There are a few negative responses.  From Law To Grace denies the premise, failing marriage.  Most of the responses in the blogosphere are from the liberals.  It is an interesting idea.

Praise: Sailors Embrace

This is already all over the web, but it really is nice to see how widespread a picture of love can be.  The picture by Brian Clark of the Virginian Pilot is wonderful.