Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The American Psychiatric Association meets Dr. H. Anonymous

Gay and lesbian psychiatrists would meet informally and in secret for years at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. One might lose their job or even medical license if they came out as gay.
The first organized gay-affirmative presentation at the APA occurred in 1972 at the annual APA meeting in Dallas.

John Fryer, MD presented, “Psychiatry: Friend or Foe to Homosexuals?” Also on the panel were gay activists Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and prominent heterosexual psychiatrist, Judd Marmor, who supported removing homosexuality as a diagnosis.  

Dr. Fryer appeared as Dr. H. Anonymous and disguised his appearance during the meeting by wearing an oversized tuxedo, a cloak, a rubber fright mask, and used a voice distortion device to further protect his identity.

He stated, “I am homosexual. I am a psychiatrist.” The audience was shocked. He then discussed his experience of being a closeted gay doctor in a field that classified homosexuality as a mental illness. It marked the first time a gay psychiatrist addressed colleagues at a professional meeting. 

What do you think about Dr. Fryer and his appearance at the American Psychological Association’s 1972 annual meeting as Dr. H. Anonymous? Do you think he would have made more of an impact if he didn’t have the disguise on? Or, does it signify the fear and isolation that gay psychiatrists and psychologists must have felt as they were not free to express themselves and come out of the closet without fear of losing their job or license? Thoughts, comments, ideas? 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Alfred Kinsey and the Kinsey Scale: Sexuality is on a continuum!

Alfred Kinsey’s research on sexuality was incredibly influential in the APA’s decision to remove homosexuality form the DSM. His work led to a larger cultural shift from viewing homosexuality as pathology to a more fluid view as a normal variant of human sexuality.
He developed a 0 to 6 point scale to classify sexual behavior or fantasy from “exclusively heterosexual” to “exclusively homosexual.” His research concluded that 37% of males and 13% of females had a least some overt homosexual experience to orgasm and that 10% of males and 8% of females were exclusively homosexual. This is where the 10% rule that is regularly quoted stating that generally speaking, approximately 10% of the population is homosexual. Current research has show that this number is actually lower, close to 5%.

His work (along with his colleagues) supported the idea that homosexuality was natural and widespread.

0- Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual
1- Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
2- Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3- Equally heterosexual and homosexual
4- Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5- Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
6- Exclusively homosexual

Reflecting on your own behavior and fantasies, can you think of times when you were attracted to or aroused by someone of the same sex? If you identify as gay, can you think of times when you were at attracted to or fantasized about someone of the opposite sex? Do you see any parallels between Kinsey’s fluid view of sexuality and that of Freud’s?

Freud's View of Homosexuality

  • Homosexuality arose from the Oedipus conflict and a strong fear of castration.
  • The future homosexual is so attached to their mother that they seek love objects like himself (men) so he can love them like his mother loved him.
  • Homosexuality could result from reaction formation: a sadistic jealousy of brothers and father that is safely converted into love of other men.

    Freud did not see homosexuality as a sign of illness, rather, he believed it was the conflicted expression of an innate instinct. He viewed adult homosexuality as a developmental issue arising from childhood instincts that prevent the development of a more mature heterosexuality.

    He also believed that all humans were, in a sense, bisexual and that everyone incorporates aspects of each sex. He thought that homosexuality might be a deviation from this norm.

    Freud was very skeptical of conversion among homosexuals. In his 1935 “Letter to an American Mother,” he reassures a woman asking him to “cure” her son, that:

    "Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.) ... By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way, we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies which are present in every homosexual, in the majority of cases it is no more possible."

    Do you think Freud could be considered an early supporter of gay rights? His view that homosexuality isn’t pathology is certainly different than many of his contemporaries. I'm not totally convinced, however, I am pleased to learn of his beliefs of a fluid sexuality. What do YOU think?

    The APA adds a Division devoted to the study LGBT Issues

    We’ve spent time discussing the role of the APA and the contributions of various APA presidents throughout our history and systems class. As some of you may know, the APA has a division devoted to the LGBT community.

    APA Division 44 – Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues (SPSLGBTI)

    Founded in 1985 by a group of pioneering LGB psychologists.

    Focuses on research, practice, and education on the lives and realities of LGBT people.

    Current President: Bonnie Strickland 


    • To advance the contributions of psychology as a discipline to the understanding of LGBT issues through basic and applied research
    • To promote education and training in matters of LGBT issues including special issues associated with practice, research, education and training, and the public interest.

    Have any of you heard of Division 44 before? What other roles should it assume besides the ones listed above to increase awareness of LGBT issues? 

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    Journal of Homosexuality

    The Journal of Homosexuality is one of the most reputable and frequently referenced peer reviewed journals that researches same-sex issues including sexual practices and gender roles in a variety of contexts (cultural, historical, interpersonal, and modern social contexts).


    • Established: 1976
    •  Publisher: Routledge
    • Impact Factor: .590
    • Over 50 volumes published
    •  Editor and Chief: John Elia, San Francisco State University

    Other scholarly journals include:

    •  The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review
    •  International Journal on Transgenderism
    •  Journal of Bisexuality
    • Journal of Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education
    • Journal of Gay & Lesbian Politics
    •  Law and Sexuality
    • National Journal of Sexual Orientation Law 

    Have you ever used this journal while conducting research?

    Albert Ellis - Early Supporter of Gay Rights

    Albert Ellis, one of the founders of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and the creator of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), is also famous for his work as a sexologist and sex and love researcher. He is generally considered a proponent of gay rights, despite that his book, Homosexuality: Its Causes and Cure, saw homosexuality as a pathology that could be cured. He clarified his view of homosexuality in his book, Sex and the Liberated Man, by stating that treatment of homosexuality should not be attempted in most cases because it is not inherently good or evil. In his more recent work, Sex Without Guilt in the Twenty-First Century, Ellis even dedicated a chapter of his book to giving homosexuals advice and suggestions on how to more fully enjoy and enhance their sexual love lives. 

    Ellis has argued that, "gay people should be able to choose whatever kind of sex-love relations they preferred-barring, of course, children and mentally deficient adults."

    More generally, his liberal view of sexuality and love and his promotion of sexual freedom resonated with the gay community.

    What do you think of Ellis' support of gay rights? What other psychologists should be listed as early supporters? 

    Conversion Therapy

    Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy or reorientation therapy, attempts to change the sexual orientation of a client from homosexual to heterosexual. While this type of therapy has sparked intense debate and controversy, today it is often regarded as an ineffective and sometimes harmful. The organizations that still promote this homophobic pseudo-therapy are often connected to conservative religious organizations (but not always). 

    Statement from APA

    The American Psychological Association has come out against conversion therapy and released this statement in August 2006:

    “For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure. The APA’s concern about the position’s espoused by NARTH and so-called conversion therapy is that they are not supported by the science. There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

    Robert Spitzer's Research

    Proponents of conversion therapy such as the prominent psychiatrist, Robert L. Spitzer, who has conducted questionable research on the topic, believes it is possible for some gay people to become heterosexual. Below you will find the abstract from one of his research articles as well as a video of him defending his work.


    "Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation"

    "Position statements of the major mental health organizations in the United States state that there is no scientific evidence that a homosexual sexual orientation can be changed by psychotherapy, often referred to as "reparative therapy." This study tested the hypothesis that some individuals whose sexual orientation is predominantly homosexual can, with some form of reparative therapy, become predominantly heterosexual. The participants were 200 self-selected individuals (143 males, 57 females) who reported at least some minimal change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation that lasted at least 5 years. They were interviewed by telephone, using a structured interview that assessed same sex attraction, fantasy, yearning, and overt homosexual behavior. On all measures, the year prior to the therapy was compared to the year before the interview. The majority of participants gave reports of change from a predominantly or exclusively homosexual orientation before therapy to a predominantly or exclusively heterosexual orientation in the past year. Reports of complete change were uncommon. Female participants reported significantly more change than did male participants. Either some gay men and lesbians, following reparative therapy, actually change their predominantly homosexual orientation to a predominantly heterosexual orientation or some gay men and women construct elaborate self-deceptive narratives (or even lie) in which they claim to have changed their sexual orientation, or both. For many reasons, it is concluded that the participants' self-reports were, by-and-large, credible and that few elaborated self-deceptive narratives or lied. Thus, there is evidence that change in sexual orientation following some form of reparative therapy does occur in some gay men and lesbians."

    Author: Spitzer, Robert L. 
    Citation: Archives of Sexual Behavior; Oct 2003, Vol. 32 Issue 5, p403-417

    If conversion therapy is indeed effective, why wouldn’t more gay people pursue it? Generally speaking, being heterosexual in our society is easier than being homosexual, so why wouldn’t more gay individuals want to pursue a more accepted and supported heterosexual lifestyle if it’s possible?

    What do you think of conversion therapy and Dr. Spitzer’s research?