US psychoanalysts today apologised for previously labelling homosexuality as a mental illness, 46 years after it was declassified.
Until then, homosexuality was classified as a disease and a mental handicap – something the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) played a significant part in.
The association today held its hands up, admitting past errors contributed to discrimination and trauma for LGBTQ+ people.
In 1973, the largest psychiatric organisation in the world – the American Psychiatric Association (APA) – made history by resolving that homosexuality was no longer an illness.
This marked a major milestone for the LGBTQ+ community, although homosexuality wasn’t removed from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) list of mental disorders until 1990.
Decades later, the APsaA has officially said sorry, in what is perhaps the first apology from a US medical or mental health organisation since.
Dr. Lee Jaffe, president of APsaA, said in a statement provided to Reuters:
It is long past time to recognise and apologise for our role in the discrimination and trauma caused by our profession and say, ‘We are sorry’.
Jaffe continued, stating he would deliver the apology today (June 21) at the opening session of the group’s 109th annual meeting in San Diego.
He explained that, although APsaA has long been active in promoting LGBTQ+ rights, they had yet to put their remorse into words.
It’s hard to admit that one has been so wrong.
The association’s apology has stemmed from another apology from New York police, who recently took responsibility for the Stonewall riots 50 years ago, apologising for the raid and discriminatory laws of the time.
The riots started when frequenters of a New York City gay bar called the Stonewall Inn fought back against police harassment in the early hours of June 28, 1969. Ultimately, this acted as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.
After police took responsibility, APsaA were prompted to do the same, explained Dr Jack Drescher, an APsaA member and leading authority on the history of psychiatric and psychological treatment of LGBTQ people.
They did the work of apologising but they did not say the words. If the police commissioner of New York City could do it, why couldn’t we do something similar?
The APsaA says it is unaware of any other related professional group to have apologised.
UNILAD spoke to a Stonewall spokesperson, who said they were ‘pleased’ to hear about the recent apology.
The spokesperson said:
We’re pleased to hear the American Psychoanalytic Association has apologised for previously classifying homosexuality as a mental illness. Labelling homosexuality a mental illness suggested LGBT people were sick and gave legitimacy to conversion therapy practices.
These so-called ‘therapies’ try to shame a person into denying a core part of who they are, and this can have a seriously damaging impact on their mental health and well-being.
They have been condemned by all major UK health organisations like the NHS, psychotherapy and counselling bodies. Same-sex attraction is natural, normal and not something that can or should be ‘cured’, and it’s the same for someone’s innate sense of their gender identity.
Thankfully, and quite rightly, things have improved since 1973; homosexuality is no longer classified as a disease, Pride festivals are held all over the world in support of gay rights, and same-sex marriage is legal across many countries.
However, there is still so much more that needs to be done, made clear by the knowledge that homosexuality is still criminalised in certain countries around the globe – even being punishable by death in some.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 9am until 9pm Monday to Friday, and 10am until 6pm Saturday, Or email [email protected]
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).