How a Vote Transformed Views on Homosexuality and Psychiatry
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How a Vote Transformed Views on Homosexuality and Psychiatry

Fifty years ago, something significant happened in the world of psychiatry that changed how people viewed homosexuality. It all started when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) made a big decision.

On December 15, 1973, the APA board, made up of 15 members, unanimously voted (with two members abstaining) to stop considering homosexuality as a mental illness. This decision was a big deal and made headlines in newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post. One newspaper even joked that “20,000,000 Gay People [Were] Cured!”

However, not everyone was happy about this change. Some APA members still believed that homosexuality was a problem that needed to be fixed. They wanted to undo the board’s decision, so they asked all APA members to vote on it.

On April 8, 1974, the APA announced the results of the vote: 58% of the more than 10,000 members who voted supported keeping the decision to stop considering homosexuality a mental illness.

This decision was a turning point for LGBTQ rights. Dr. Petros Levounis, the current president of the APA and an openly gay man, says it was a big moment for him and many others.

These votes came after years of pressure from LGBTQ activists and internal efforts to change the APA’s views. During the 1960s, many movements for civil rights were happening, and people wanted to challenge the control that psychiatrists had over society, especially through psychoanalysis.

Regina Kunzel, a history professor at Yale University, says psychiatrists had a lot of power over how people saw themselves during this time. She wrote a book called “In the Shadow of Diagnosis: Psychiatric Power and Queer Life,” which talks about how psychiatrists influenced the treatment of gay and lesbian people in the mid-20th century.

Kunzel says psychiatrists didn’t just want to help people; they also wanted to keep their own power and control. They worked with the military and the criminal justice system to discriminate against gay people, and their ideas even influenced government policies.

The backlash against gay people grew after Alfred Kinsey published his report in 1948, which shocked many Americans with its findings about male sexuality. Psychoanalysts played a part in this backlash.

Overall, the votes by the APA changed how homosexuality was viewed in society and marked a step forward for LGBTQ rights.

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