Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) Presents Deceptive and Misleading Information about the American Psychiatric Association
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality as a mental disorder from the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II).
The Traditional Values Coalition makes the following claim about the decision. "[Activists] have continued to claim that the APA based their decision on new scientific discoveries that proved that homosexual behavior is normal and should be affirmed in our culture. This is false and part of numerous homosexual urban legends that have infiltrated every aspect of our culture."
As you will see, their claim is an outrageous distortion of the long process undertaken by the APA to study the research available to them before they made their decision. In fact you will see that although the TVC claims to have used the Ronald Bayer book, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry, as a reference, it appears that they didn't bother to read it.
Anyone who actually reads the Bayer book will know that the work of numerous
individuals was reviewed by the APA. Charles Socarides and Irving Bieber
presented their theories. The research studied by the APA included the work of
Seymour Halleck, Dr. Wardell Pomeroy, Alfred Kinsey, Alan Bell, Evelyn Hooker,
Charles Silverstein, Sigmund Freud, Ford and Beach, Judd Marmor, Richard
Green, and Martin Hoffman.
The TVC next indulges in what can only be described as a "Self-Martyrdom
Moment." They claim "Dr. Bayer documents the first attack by homosexual
activists against the APA in 1970 when this organization held its convention in
San Francisco. Homosexual activists decided to disrupt the conference by
interrupting speakers and shouting down and ridiculing psychiatrists who viewed
homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 1971, homosexual activist Frank Kameny
worked with the Gay Liberation Front collective to demonstrate against the APA’s
convention. At the 1971 conference, Kameny grabbed the microphone and yelled,
'Psychiatry is the enemy incarnate. Psychiatry has waged a relentless war of
extermination against us. You may take this as a declaration of war against you.'"
Anyone who took the time to read Bayer's book would know that the earliest
protest took place in 1968, not in 1970 as claimed by the TVC. In 1968 a meeting
of the AMA was leafleted on the occasion of a Socarides lecture. The leaflets
demanded that viewpoints other than Socarides' be presented at the next meeting.
A similar protest took place the same year at Columbia University College of
Physicians and surgeons protesting a lecture by Lawrence Kolb. (Bayer, p. 92)
They also don't tell you that the anti-gay atmosphere of the APA was so intense
that one of its members called for police to come and shoot those protesting a
lecture on "aversion therapy" techniques during the 1971 convention.
(Bayer, p. 103)
And they don't tell you that a good deal of the pressure for re-evaluation came
from within the profession itself. They 'forget' to relate the address by "Dr.
Anonymous" at the 1972 APA convention. Dr. "A" spoke for 200 gay members
of the association and for gay people at large when he spoke of the APA's
repressive homophobia: "As psychiatrists who are homosexual, we must know
our place and what we must do to be successful. If our goal is high academic
achievement, a level of earning capacity equal to our fellows, or admission to a
psychoanalytic institute, we must make sure that we behave ourselves and that
no one in a position of power is aware of our sexual preference and/or gender
identity. Much like a black man with white skin who chooses to live as a white
man, we can't be seen with our real friends, our real homosexual family, lest our
secret be known and our doom sealed ... Those who are willing to speak out
openly will do so only if they have little to lose, and if you have little to lose,
you won't be listened to." (Bayer, pp. 109-110)
And regarding the 1971 conference, here's the rest of the story according to Bayer.
There was a demonstration at the APA meeting of May of 1971 that attracted a
fair amount of attention when activists demanded a commercial display of
implements of aversive behavior modification methods be removed from the floor.
(Bayer, p. 105) At the same convention, there was a panel discussion titled
"Lifestyles of Non-Patient Homosexuals". Frank Kameny was a member of that
panel. Only one attendee voiced any criticism of the homosexual panelists.
His complaint was that the panel painted the entire psychiatric profession as
being followers of Socarides and Bieber. The panelists' response was to issue a
challenge to those in disagreement with Socarides and Bieber to refute their
theories. (Bayer, pp. 106, 107)
TVC next makes the following claim. "Prior to the APA’s 1973 convention, several
psychiatrists attempted to organize opposition to the efforts of homosexuals to
remove homosexual behavior from the DSM. Organizing this effort were Drs. Irving
Bieber and Charles Socarides who formed the Ad Hoc Committee Against the
Deletion of Homosexuality from DSM-II."
The TVC implies that the APA was forced to update its nomenclature by gay
groups. But there's a lot more to it than that.
They fail to note that various allied mental health groups were also re-evaluating
their position on homosexuality. In fact the APA was somewhat behind the
curve in this regard. In October of 1970, the Executive Committee of the National
association for Mental Health adopted a declaration against the criminalization
of consensual sexual activity between adults of the same gender. Also in 1971,
the San Francisco Association for Mental Health issued a declaration stating that
"homosexuality can no longer be equated only with sickness, buy may properly
be considered as a preference, orientation, or propensity for certain kinds of
lifestyles." In 1972, the Golden Gate Chapter of the National Association of
Social Workers adopted a resolution affirming the 1971 declaration of the
San Francisco Association for Mental Health. (Bayer, pp. 144-115)
Traditional theories started with the homophobic assumption that homosexuality
is a pathology. Various theories were built upon that assumption. And finally
some rather questionable 'aversion therapy' techniques were developed in support
of the assumption. And this is where the old theories began to experience trouble.
In light of the work of Evelyn Hooker, the profession came under scrutiny and
criticism during the 1950's and 1960's for the inhumane "aversion therapy"
techniques and its extremely poor results. (Bayer, pp. 77-83) The
previously-mentioned objection to the instruments of "aversion therapy"
techniques is but one example. [An excellent first-hand account of these
techniques is found in Martin Dubermans autobiographical book, Cures.
In May of 1970, in response to the criticism and shortly after the disruption of
the film on aversive conditioning techniques at the Behavior Modification
conference, Charles Socarides approached the leadership of the New York
District Branch and asked for the establishment of a Task Force on Sexual
Deviation. Following established procedures, the request was granted. Socarides
was appointed chair of the committee with power to select its members.
The 1972 meeting of the APA was a controversial one. One of the members,
Judd Marmor, issued a strong condemnation of Charles Socarides for having written
a "monstrous attack on homosexuality" for JAMA and for some traditional
psychoanalytical societies. Dr. Marmor additionally spoke about intense
antihomosexual bias within the profession. "The cruelty, the thoughtlessness,
the lack of common humanity, in the attitudes of many conservative psychiatrists
is I think a disgrace to our profession." (Bayer, pp. 110-111)
Shortly after the 1972 APA meeting, Dr. Richard Green, director of the UCLA
Gender Identity Research and Treatment program wrote a lengthy summary of
the issues in the dispute over the classification of homosexuality in the DSM.
His article, "Homosexuality as a Mental Illness," published in the International
Journal of Psychiatry, charged that there was no existing data to support the claim
that homosexuality is a disease or that sexual relations between opposite sex
partners are preferable to those between same sex partners. Dr. Green's article
included six formal invitations for response, four of them designed to highlight the
extent of the division between the traditional theory and the newer theories based
on work of Evelyn Hooker and others. Two of the invitees were Judd Marmor and
Charles Socarides. (Bayer, pp. 112-113)
And this brings us back to Charles Socarides and his Task Force on Sexual
Deviation. In March of 1972 Charles Socarides Task Force on Sexual Deviation
completed its report after nearly two years of preparation. In April it presented its
findings to the council of the New York District Branch. The council rejected
Socarides report finding that its extreme reliance upon psychoanalytic theory was
And here's where the REAL story of politics begins. Socarides claimed that the
rejection of his findings was not due to their non-factual basis but due to the
corruption of psychiatric science with politics assuming preeminence over truth.
(Bayer, p. 114) And to this day, more than 30 years later, Charles Socarides still
hasn't produced any data to support his homophobic theories.
During October, 1972, the New York Gay Activist Alliance leafleted the meeting of
the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy with a flier titled "Torture
Anyone?” The Alliance called for an end to aversion techniques to "change the
natural sexual orientation of human beings." 100 demonstrators protested on the
streets. During one presentation of aversion therapy techniques, a small number
of Alliance members challenged those present to acknowledge the antihomosexual
bias inherent in their therapeutic theories. (Bayer, p. 115-116)
Dr. Robert Spitzer of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, a member of the
APA's Committee on Nomenclature was in attendance at that session. It was his
first contact with homosexuals demanding a review of traditional psychiatric
theories. Impressed with the arguments of the activists, Spitzer arranged for a
formal presentation of their views before a full meeting of his committee and agreed
to sponsor a panel at the APA's 1973 convention on the question of the DSM
classification. (Bayer, p. 116
The next TVC claim is, "After much political pressure, a committee of the APA met
behind closed doors in 1973 and voted to remove homosexuality as a mental
disorder from the DSM-II. Opponents of this effort were given 15 minutes to protest
this change, according to Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, in Homosexuality and the Politics
This is nothing but an outrageous and deliberate misrepresentation of what actually
took place. As Bayer documents, the APA's Nomenclature Committee met in
February of 1973. Among those present at the meeting, Dr. Seymour Halleck
stressed that there was no scientific evidence supporting the theory that
homosexuality was a developmental disorder. He stated that homosexuality
should be considered a "common behavior[al] variant." He stated that "deletion
of the diagnosis of homosexuality is not only a humanistic step, it is dictated by
the best scientific information available." Dr. Wardell Pomeroy, a collaborator with
Kinsey, presented sections of the 1948 study that had been sharply critical of
psychiatric orthodoxy. He suggested that psychiatry should have accepted those
conclusion 25 years earlier and said "I have high hopes that even psychiatry can
profit by its mistakes and can proudly enter the last quarter of the twentieth
century." Dr. Alan Bell or the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University
presented his own work and that of Evelyn Hooker. He stated that well-adjusted
homosexuals and heterosexuals have more in common than disturbed and
well-adjusted persons of either sexual orientation. Charles Silverstein presented
the work of many scientists showing that the DSM classification was not consistent
with a scientific perspective. His presentation included the work of Freud, Evelyn
Hooker, Alfred Kinsey, Ford and Beach, Marmor, Green, and Hoffman. In
conclusion, Silverstein stated "I suppose what we're saying is that you must
choose between the undocumented theories that have unjustly harmed a great
number of people and continue to harm them and ... controlled scientific studies..
It is no sin to have made an error in the past, but surely you will mock the principles
of scientific research upon which the diagnostic system is based if you turn your
backs on the only objective evidence we have." (Bayer, pp. 118-121)
Socarides and Bieber were quick in their attempt to resist the winds of change.
They formed an Ad-Hoc Committee Against the Deletion of Homosexuality from
DSM-II. On April 9, Bieber wrote to the medical director of the APA requesting that
a committee be formed to review any decision of the Nomenclature Committee.
Socarides and Bieber enrolled some psychoanalytical societies to their foundering
cause. In March, 1973, the Council of the Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine
passed a resolution in opposition to change in the DSM-II citing the old theories
and without presenting factual data. One week later the board of trustees of the
Karen Horney Institute (followers of Socarides and Bieber) passed an identical
resolution to that of the Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine... also without any
supporting data. In May, the American Psychoanalytic Association voted to urge
a delay in any action regarding the classification of homosexuality in the DSM-II.
(Bayer, pp 121-122)
In March of 1973, the APA's Northern New England District Branch passed a
resolution calling for the deletion of homosexuality from the DSM-II. Shortly
afterwards, the Northern New England District's resolution was endorsed by the
entire APA Area Council 1, including all of New England, Quebec, and Ontario.
The APA's Nomenclature Committee went through an 11-month process by
preparing a report recommending the change in DSM-II. It was first presented to
the APA's Council on Research and Development. The Council unanimously
recommended deletion of homosexuality from DSM-II. Next, it was taken to the
Assembly of District Branches, where it was again approved. The next step was
the APA Reference Committee, composed of the heads of the various APA councils
and the president-elect. The Reference Committee endorsed the proposal, leaving
the approval of the board of trustees at the December meeting as the final step.
(Bayer, pp. 132-138)
Midway through the 11-month process, Robert Spitzer presented a panel
discussion at the May 1973 meeting of the association. The members of the panel
were Charles Socarides, Irving Bieber, Judd Marmor, Richard Green, Robert Stoller,
and Ronald Gold. The session had a huge attendance. At its conclusion, it seemed
apparent to observers that the old theories would not prevail. (Bayer, pp. `24-126)
For the final stage of the process, the APA Board of Trustees invited the three most
vocal opponents of change, Socarides, Bieber, and McDevitt, to present their case a
third time on December 10, 1973. Bieber restated the old theories without presenting
data. Socarides and McDevitt complained that the change in classification was
motivated by politics, not by scientific studies. Following those presentations, the
Board of Trustees met in executive session and voted to approve the removal of
homosexuality from DSM-II. (Bayer, pp. 135-138)
Ronald Bayer notes (p. 139) "Stung by the significance of the ideological rebuff they
had suffered, those who continued to view homosexuality as pathological perceived
themselves as having been expelled from the center of psychiatric authority."
TVC then quotes another huge distortion of truth written by Jeffrey Satinover.
"Satinover writes that after this vote was taken, the decision was to be voted on by
the entire APA membership."
Again, this is nothing but an outrageous distortion of the truth. As Bayer
documents, Socarides and Bieber once again mobilized their Ad-Hoc Committee
Against the Deletion of Homosexuality from DSM-II. They poured over the
associations by-laws and found a provision designed to provide some democratic
control over the association's corporate life, and then forced a petition demanding a
referendum of the Association's membership. Amazingly, those who accused the
APA of capitulating to political pressure were now themselves forcing a political
maneuver and using a loophole in a provision for non-scientific matters to accomplish
their end. They obtained 200 signatures on their petition. After much discussion and
criticism of the unseemly political maneuvering of Socarides' committee, the
association decided to let them have their way. Ballots were mailed out during April,
1974. Of those responding, only 37% were opposed to the removal of homosexuality
from the DSM-II. It was a clear endorsement for the change. (Bayer, pp. 141-144)
Copyright February 6, 2005, by Rainbow Alliance. All rights reserved, except that
free distribution via any medium is permitted as long as author's credit is given and
no profit is involved.
The TVC Propaganda Piece is located here.