History of the United States : Homosexuality
Throughout the history of the United States, homosexuality has always been recognized as a lifestyle that is deviant from the norm. Being alienated from the rest of society can, of course, take a toll on a person. However, it was the oppression, both politically and legally that made life especially heinous for the gay community in the early 1900’s. In 1952, there seemed to be light at the end of the LGBT tunnel. The first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association was published, and it recognized homosexuality as a “sociopathic personality disorder” (Eaklor). At first, it seemed as though this medical appreciation might open new doors for the LGBT community; homosexuality would no longer be this clandestine lifestyle that people chose to live. Optimism ensued when new terms were conceived such as heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual because prior to the medical model, there were not any nonderogatory terms in place which could be used to describe people who had same-sex desires (Eaklor).
Also, by giving gay people a concrete, objective identity, a sense of acceptance might arise amongst the people who shared the same identity. Although the Medical Model of homosexuality offered validity to the community, it also brought about a new set of obstacles. Being gay no longer came with the same criminal implications as before, instead it was affiliated with mental impairment. This begs the question; would you rather be treated as an unlawful deplorable or face the societal reproof of being a mentally handicapped person? While criminals face allegations, people with sociopathic disorders must undergo curative measures. The latter of the two proved to be quite wretched. Although the Medical Model created new vindication for the implementation of curative therapy, it was not a unique intellection. There is evidence of curative therapy recorded in academic literature that dates back to the 1890’s (Mallory). With the addition of homosexuality to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, curative therapy was no longer just a practice to be enforced by extremist who opposed same-sex love, but instead it became a dignified countermeasure to help alleviate symptoms of the psychological disease that was homosexuality.An array of institutions claim to be able to cure individuals of their homosexual desires, however, methodologies employed by groups range greatly in austerity and elaborateness.
Once homosexuality was officially deemed a psychological disease, the medical community began to experiment with curative measures. Because medical doctors are expected to carry a certain level of expertise, people trusted their biological countermeasures would offer compelling results. Biological attempts could be surgical, convulsive, or hormonal (Morrow). Some of the most aggressive biological conversion methods included clitoridectomy, castration or ovary removal, lobotomy, electric shock, and radiation (LeVay). In addition to medical doctors, therapist and psychoanalyst also attempted to cure homosexual patients. Psychoanalyst claimed this developmental disorder evolved as a result of a child not having strong enough relationships with their parent or peers of the same sex, creating a mentality in which the child looks to the same sex for intimacy rather than friendship (Morrow). In order to combat this developmental abnormality, therapist and counselors would recommend support groups and “gender lessons,” which would typically consist of clients taking on stereotypical gender roles. Participants would also be put through forced platonic relationships with members of the same sex in order to repair the mental defect developed as a child (Nicolosi).
Throughout history, many religious groups have denounced homosexuality, and still today many conversion therapy organizations are rooted in the religious belief that heterosexually is the only way god intended his people to love. Although many institutions have recognized a lack of supportive evidence for the success of conversion therapy and almost diminished their attempts at conversion, religious conversion therapy organizations have only heightened their efforts. In fact, the most eminent Christianity based group, “Exodus International”, claims to have grown to 135 ministries in 17 countries.
Other religious groups report similar trends (Morrow). Religious groups tend to employ conversion methods which exploit an individual’s spirituality and moral integrity. Examples of countermeasures include a need to follow god’s plan, reflective prayer, biblical testimony, threats of an eternity in hell, and unequivocal guilt (Morrow). One other group that has not slowed its efforts to revoke homosexual desires in the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). This group of psychotherapists use a range of methods including hypnosis, behavior and cognitive therapies, sex therapies, and psychotropic medication (Born Perfect). The methodologies employed by these organizations in almost all case have proven to be unsuccessful in “curing” homosexuality, however, they have had other, more consequential, effects on participants.
Across the board, the nation’s most respected medical and phycological associations have refuted the validity of curative therapy. The American Psychiatric Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and The Pan American Health Organization have all publicly released their criticism of curative therapy and the health professionals who choose to offer it at their practice (Born Perfect). Not only is it not respected, but curative therapy is also protested by many due to its detrimental and sometimes fatal effects. The aftermath of curative therapy has been researched by a variety of institutions.
It is important to note that most of the data is on white, homosexual males because that was the demographic of people who were typically enrolled in conversion therapy. There are some reports of a minority of patients experiencing decreased sexual desire for same-sex partners and increased sexual desire for partners of the opposite sex, which were typically short lived. The majority of data recorded reports an overwhelming amount of negative side effects. The American Psychological Association assembled a task force in 2009 in order to analyze the effects, both positive and negative, of curative therapy which the term “sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE.)” In many of the early treatment studies in the late 1900’s, participants would dropout in the beginning stages of treatment.
This only goes to corroborate the suggestion that treatment was not a favorable experience for the participants. In a nonexperimental study conducted by Bancroft in 1969, there were numerous negative side effects reported by male patients who underwent SOCE. The study consisted of data recorded from 16 participants. 20% reported treatment-related anxiety, 10% reported suicidal ideation, 40% reported depression, 10% reported impotence, and 10% reported relationship dysfunction. In totality, Bancroft’s study recorded harmful side effects from 50% of the men who participated in the study (American Psychological Association).
In studies performed more recently, participants report self-reports of anger, anxiety, confusion, depression, grief, guilt, hopelessness, deteriorated relationships with family, loss of social support, loss of faith, poor self-image, social isolation, intimacy difficulties, intrusive imagery, suicidal ideation, self-hatred, insomnia, digestive health problems, and sexual dysfunction (American Psychological Association). It is estimated that about 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S. alone have received curative therapy (Mallory). With that number in mind, one can imagine the ramifications of such “treatments” on the wellbeing of the LGBT community, especially the youth, when studies like Bancroft’s have proven that 50% of participants are burdened with new problems beyond the systemic obstacles that someone of a minority group already experiences.
Even with little supportive evidence of the occurrence of an enduring change in sexual orientation, there are still organizations which argue for the perpetuation of curative therapy. The major stance taken by those in favor of curative therapy is that homosexuality is a choice and therefor, susceptible to modification (Morrow). This argument is typically put forward by anti-LGBT groups who believe being gay is unnatural, and, therefore, should be eliminated from society. Religious groups argue that homosexuality is sinful, while psychoanalyst argue that it is a sign of mental instability. Some participants have experienced beneficial effects from curative therapy such as increases in spirituality and self-esteem, which offers the opportunity to advocate in favor of curative therapy.
Those who are against curative therapy obviously point out the fact that positive experiences during and after treatment are significantly less common than negative. In addition, it is argued that much of the research that supports curative therapy is seriously methodologically and conceptually flawed (Morrow). Another common stance of anti-LGBT groups in favor of curative therapy is that taking away someone’s ability to undergo treatment is a direct violation of their constitutional right to freedom of speech (Born Perfect). To this, anti-curative therapy groups refer to the fact that there is other legislation in place designed to protect the rights of patients when dealing with counselors and therapist.