Homosexuality as a Mental Disorder Simply Not Backed Up by Science
Yesterday, APA President Renée Binder, M.D. and I co-signed a letter to the leadership of the Indonesian Psychiatric Association (IPA) urging them to reconsider their position on homosexuality. The IPA recently classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, an incorrect label refuted by a great deal of scientific evidence to the contrary.
Indeed, the latest and best scientific evidence shows that sexual orientation and expressions of gender identity occur naturally, and pose no threat to societies in which they are accepted as normal variants of human sexuality.
The prevailing opinion within the scientific community is that there is a strong biological component to sexual orientation, and that it can be influenced by the interaction of genetic, hormonal and environmental factors. In short, there is no scientific evidence that sexual orientation, be it heterosexual, homosexual or otherwise, is a freewill choice.
As I wrote in a recent blog, efforts to change an individual’s orientation through so-called “conversion therapy” can and often do cause real harm. In fact, the risks associated with “conversion therapy” include depression, suicidality, anxiety, social isolation and decreased capacity for intimacy. For these reasons, the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not classify people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender as intrinsically disordered.
After a review of scientific evidence, the APA determined that homosexuality is not a mental disorder in 1973 and removed it from the DSM in the same year. Since that time, the APA has held the position that there is no rational basis, scientific or otherwise, to discriminate against or punish LGBT people. Furthermore, we hold that encouraging the use of “conversion” or “reparative therapy” will only lead to coercive “treatments” and potentially even violence against LGBT people.
The detailed letter that Dr. Binder and I sent to the IPA lists a number of studies that support and affirm APA’s position on this issue. The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) has released a similar statement that reaffirms their belief in evidence-based treatment, and points out the abject lack of any evidence that sexual orientation is a choice that can be changed. Based on this, and the wealth of available scientific evidence on the subject, we sincerely hope that the members of the IPA will reconsider their decision.
You can read the full text of the letter that Dr. Binder and I sent to the IPA here.