This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 16 table of contents.

Is Homosexuality Natural for Some People?

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association decided to drop homosexuality from the list of sexual deviations in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Revision Version III (DSM-III). The DSM manual, described in Chapter 12 (Abnormal Psychology), is used by clinicians to describe mental and behavior problems. In the 1973 resolution, the association declared: "A significant proportion of homosexuals are clearly satisfied with their sexual orientation and show no signs of psychopathology (mental illness)." Therefore homosexuality was officially removed as a category of abnormal behavior. This decision was based on a majority vote, but there were dissenters, and to this day some psychiatrists and psychologists regard homosexuality as abnormal.

Why was homosexuality removed as a "mental disorder" in DSM-III? What similar findings were uncovered in a four-year project involving 31 psychologists?

In the late 1970s, a four-year project by 31 psychologists, some gay and some heterosexual, found that homosexuality was not significantly associated with psychological problems. The project's research coordinator, William Paul, summarized some of the conclusions in an interview.

—Most gay people are not exotic or strange; their similarities to straight people are greater than their differences.

—Many homosexuals raise children "and contribute to family cohesiveness just as straight people do."

—Most gay parents wish to keep their children's sexual orientation options open, not necessarily wishing them to be homosexual.

—Most gay parents are discrete with their lovers around the children. Many fear having the children taken away by the courts.

—The psychiatric profession has an anti-homosexual bias which has slowed public acceptance of objective findings about homosexuality.

Paul added, "There simply is no evidence demonstrating that homosexuality or tolerance of it is either a symptom or a cause of social decline, decadence, or the fall of civilization." ("Report says homosexuals really aren't different...," August 20, 1981)

Why does the APA position upset some people?

Some people have religious or moral objections to homosexuality based on sincere beliefs. They may be offended at accusations of homophobia. Sometimes they are upset by the "liberal bias" of the national associations such as the American Psychological Association. Letters to national publications such as The APA Monitor (a newsletter for members of the American Psychological Association) periodically express this type of sentiment: "Where did the APA get the idea that homosexuality is normal? This does not represent my beliefs..." However, the APA has taken a strong stand, based on decades of research, that homosexuality is for some people a natural orientation and is not in itself a sign of psychological disturbance or abnormality.

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