Disorders and homosexuality

This past weekend the public radio show This American Life focused on the removal of homosexuality from the DSM in 1973 (if memory is correct).

So homosexuality is no longer a disorder. Supposedly, it is even the case that treating homosexuality is considered legally unethical. If a homosexual requests treatment with the aim of becoming heterosexual, a doctor is supposed to refuse such treatment. I’d be interested if someone could verify this.

So what makes something a disorder? Notice that I didn’t say “mental disorder.” We have to know what we mean by disorder before we start dividing them in to types of disorders. But if “disorder” turns out to be too general, we can focus on mental disorders.

The radio program gave the impression that psychiatrists in 1973 came to the conclusion that homosexuality had previously been included in the DSM because of prejudice and not for scientific reasons. Well, what are scientific reasons for including a condition in the DSM? Apparently there is some criteria met by other conditions but which is not met by homosexuality. What are they?

Please keep in mind that I am not claiming their decision was unjustified. I am saying that I don’t know what the justification is. And I am certainly not attacking homosexuality or those of that persuasion.

“If a homosexual requests treatment with the aim of becoming heterosexual, a doctor is supposed to refuse such treatment. I’d be interested if someone could verify this.”

Um, if you’re bringing it up, it’s kinda up to you to verify it.

Well, I think he’s asking the question…you know, there’s an implied “I heard” in there.

I’m not a psychiatrist, but I seem to recall that the main criteria for a “disorder” is that the condition interferes with the person’s personal, social, or work life, or causes significant distress to the person.

You know, you could have posted in this thread or even this one.

Do you just want all the interested parties to cut & paste their POV here? :confused:

There’s a DSM diagnosis for being unhappy with one’s sexual orientation. However, it assumes that the problem is unhappiness with the orientation, and not the orientation itself.

So a homosexual person who wanted to become heterosexual would be treated for the desire to become heterosexual, not the homosexuality.

It’s all pseudoscience and semantics – turtles all the way down.

In regards to the earlier question:

The definition that almost everyone uses (and doesn’t admit that they use) is this: a disorder is not being what you want yourself to be, or not being what someone else wants you to be.

Thanks, but those threads look they are examining particular questions and I thought my question would just be an interruption.

That’s my impression too. I’m hoping to hear from some defenders.

Not any more specific than this thread. In fact, homosexuality was used as an example, with discussion circling around the nature of “disorders” in general. I could directly copy my posts into this thread and they would work fine, but what for? postcount++? :stuck_out_tongue:

Let’s take a concrete example. Consider people who are determined to have a perfectly healthy limb amputated. I don’t know the name of this condition but such people do indeed exist. If there is such a thing as “disordered”, this certainly qualifies.

Some of these people have no interest in “curing” themselves of their desire. What they want is to get rid of that damned alien limb they have been stuck with all their life. They just know that they cannot feel complete or fulfilled as long as they still have that monstrous leg or arm.

In what ways does this differ from homosexuality such that it qualifies as something needing “curing” – even though the subject does not want to be cured.

Why does that qualify?

There are people who want to cut off perfectly healthy bits of their children’s genitals – are they disordered?

What about people who want to have holes poked through parts of their bodies so that they can wear bits of metal in them? Are they disordered?

That’s my question. I started this thread, so I get to be Socrates. :smiley:

Most people would say the examples you give are not cases of disorder, even if they don’t like those behaviors. What sort of criteria are we applying when we make that distinction, even if unconsciously? And what criteria are the experts using?

Well, I will submit that there is one obvious distinction between earings and ampu-philes, or whatever they’re called. The people who want to amputate a limb talk about in the same way that cripples talk about walking or the blind talk about seeing, as a life-changing event. You get the sense that if they were released from years in prison, they would say, “Now maybe I can get this leg cut off.” Being able to wear earrings again is usually not one the higher priorities of a convict.

Another difference is that it’s a lot harder to live your life with just one arm or leg than it is with an earring, or being circumcized, or having a tatoo, or whatever. The one is a harmful behavior and the other isn’t.

And that’s the fundimental difference. It’s the difference between the person who wants to keep clean and the person who has to wash his hands over and over and over to keep some unknown bad thing from happening. It’s the difference between being sad and being unwilling to get up in the morning because you know your life is hopeless and all you want is to die. It’s the difference between caring how people think of you and worrying that the people you meet secretly hate you and all talk about you behind your back.

In short, it’s the difference between being able to fully function in society and being unable to fully function in society.

What? You don’t think removing a third of the penile skin is harmful? It’s even one of the more nerve-ending-dense regions on the penis, rather like the surface of the glans.

Why shouldn’t society change? If being unable to function in society is the standard, then anyone who wants to change society is by definition sick. (And that means that the doctors who first insisted on washing their hands and instruments before performing surgery – quite “unreasonably”, according to medical opinion at the time – were mentally ill.)

I can’t seem to find the definition of “disorder” from an acknowledged expert source like, say, the APA. Can anyone help me out here? Seems a simple enough question to answer.


The wish to cause harm to yourself would be a disorder. As is any mental state that causes harm or suffering to oneself or others. It is in societies interest to cure disorders within its population. Since disordered members of the population are generally poor at contributing to the population.
Homosexuality does not harm the person who is homosexual nor to others. So homosexuality is not in itself a disorder.
If a person considers their homosexuality to cause them suffering and harm, they will be required to show that this is true before there is any sense in curing that person’s situation. This is similar to the wannabe amputee, they need to prove that their limb causes them suffering and harm. Both cases offer two possible resolutions. 1, stop the person feeling that they are harmed by their present state of being. or 2. change their present state of being to the one they feel will cause them less suffering and harm. In both cases resolution 1 would seem to be simpler to achieve than resolution 2. That is because 2 would require the person to undergo a major change in what and who they are, whilst 1 would require only a change of a single attitude towards part of what they currently are. Unfortunately some people do not seem to respond to resolutions of type 1.


One can be an entire and whole human being with one’s sexuality simply being the wallpaper in the background.

How can you possibly think of it as a disorder, when it disorders exactly nothing about one’s relationship to the surrounding universe?

Other people’s judgment of and reaction to MY homosexuality can intrude on my peaceful universe, but that is 100% external to me and my relationship with the universe: the disorder is (e.g.) Fred Phelps’s, not mine.

What is harm? Suffering to one is joy to another.


Is that its primary interest? Who composes the “order” of society?


Contributing to what end? Defined by whom?


You don’t know how viscerally distressing homosexuals are for christians and heterosexual males who are the object of their advances. Think of the women, too!

Social psychiatry is fundamentally fascistic in nature, in that it represents the imposition of some socio-cultural ideology on an unwilling populace.

I get why you are angry lissener and certainly the OP looks like a poorly veiled attempt to equate homosexuality with a disorder. It is clear that if homosexuality (or anything else) does not cause harm or suffering to the person or to others then it is not a disorder.

If someone considers their own sexuality to be harmful to them, and if they can show that it does indeed lead to suffering within their own life, do they get the right to request medical and psychological help in order to try and change their sexuality? Or are there some cases where they should not be allowed to try and change their sexuality, and should instead only seek help in stoping themselves from feeling harmed by it.

Let me also note: Homosexuals experience significant difficulty when interacting with homosexuals, be it in school, at work, or in public.

Let him do it, because that is one of the better ways to show how idiotic the notion of “disorder” can actually be! Wear your “disorder” with pride, and f*ck those whitecoats who imagine themselves to be arbiters of Order. Oh, I’m sorry, that’s just my oppositional defiant disorder showing through. :rolleyes: