Forty-six years after another mental health group removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, the American Psychoanalytic Association has apologized for ever including it in its list of illnesses.
Back in 1968, the influential American Psychiatric Association included homosexuality as sexual deviation in its Diagostic and Statistical Manual; the APA also routinely lumped transgender people with gay and bisexual individuals. Classifying LGBTQ people as insane gave the green light for psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts, and other mental health professionals to try to "convert" LGBTQ people to straight or cisgender.
Reversing the APA's disastrous decision would become a rallying cry for the nascent gay rights movement, with activists disrupting APA gatherings and demanding revisions to the manual. After three years, and much disagreement among psychologists, the APA's board voted to remove homosexuality from its list of disorders in December 1973.
Therapists to this day, however, continue to practice discredited conversion therapy, even as states work to ban the practice. Meanwhile, the American Psychoanalytic Association was also complicit in fostering homophobia and transphobia within its ranks by maintaining a ban against openly LGBTQ therapists from training at its affiliated centers, according to Psychology Today. It also challenged the psychiatric group's decision to remove homosexuality from the list of disorders and continued deeming it a mental illness for years afterward. The Psychoanalytic Association didn't end its prohibition on out therapists until 1991, but that was the start of an impressive turnaround for the group, which endorsed marriage equality and open military service before the end of the decade.
An apology released today cements the association's efforts to make amends for its past decisions. "Regrettably, much of our past understanding of homosexuality as an illness can be attributed to the American psychoanalytic establishment," APsaA President Lee Jaffe, MD, said at the group's annual meeting in San Diego. "While our efforts in advocating for sexual and gender diversity since are worthy of pride, it is long past time to recognize and apologize for our role in the discrimination and trauma caused by our profession and say 'we are sorry.'"
APsaA released a longer, formal apology as well:
"The American Psychoanalytic Association is apologizing for their past views that pathologized homosexuality and transgender identities. The apology comes as the nation is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in New York City when patrons of that now-historic establishment fought back against anti-LGBTQ prejudice, hatred and oppression. The announcement is scheduled for this morning at the start of their 109th Annual Meeting taking place in San Diego.
"In 1969, homosexuality was considered a mental illness and sexual orientation was conflated with gender identity by the mental health field. This led to many being coerced, either by force or choice, into traumatic and harmful methods to 'cure' homosexual desires and non-conforming gender identities. This belief also contributed to widespread discrimination and prejudice in housing, employment, healthcare, and in society at large.
"'Regrettably some of that era’s understanding of homosexuality and gender identity can be attributed to the American psychoanalytic establishment,' said Lee Jaffe, president of APsaA. 'It is long past time to recognize and apologize for our role in the discrimination and trauma caused by our profession.'
"In the past several decades, APsaA has been advocating for LGBTQ equality. In 1997, the association became the first mainstream mental health organization to support marriage equality and has since been issuing position statements and lobbying to end conversion therapy, to lift the ban on LGBTQ people serving in the military, to address bullying and harassment of LGBTQ youth, and to advance civil rights overall.
"'While APsaA is now proud to be advocating for sexual and gender diversity, we all know that hearing the words 'we are sorry' is important to healing past trauma,' said Jaffe."