“That’s Just Your Sickness Talking”: Psychiatry, Homophobia, and the Turning Point in 1973

John E. Fryer, MD, dressed as Dr. H. Anonymous at the 1972 APA conference

John E. Fryer, MD, dressed as Dr. H. Anonymous at the 1972 APA conference

It wasn’t his high blood pressure or high cholesterol that caught Matthew Moore by surprise when he went to his new physician earlier this year. Moore, a Southern California man in his mid-40s, described those conditions as “normal for me.” Nor was Moore, who is openly gay, shocked to see that his doctor noted his sexual orientation on his medical paperwork — until he saw the way that she noted it.


“The sickness label was used to justify discrimination, especially in employment, and especially by our own government.”


Listed as a chronic condition, Moore noticed “homosexual behavior” on his paperwork, followed by the medical code 302.0. As unsettling as the notation already was, Moore decided to research what the code meant, and he was left wondering how the diagnosis could happen today: “When I look[ed] up code 302.0 [I learned that it meant] sexual deviancy or mental illness, and that code has been removed or suggested heavily not to be used since 1973.”

“My jaw was on the floor,” Moore recounted. “At first, I kind of laughed, [and then] I thought, ‘Here’s another way that gay people are lessened and made to feel less-than,’ and then as I thought about it and as I dealt with it, it angered me,” he told a local news station.

Moore complained to his physician, and, dissatisfied with her response when she defended the diagnosis, he wrote a letter to the parent company of the Manhattan Beach office where his physician practiced medicine. Moore received a written apology and a refund of his co-pay.

Moore’s story made the news earlier this year because of how anomalous — and appalling — it was. But prior to 1973, Moore’s experience would have been almost inevitable, unless he took precautions to keep his sexual orientation as private and secret as possible.

Until a decision by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) changed the course of history 40 years ago this Sunday, on December 15, 1973, gay and lesbian people couldn’t escape the perception that their sexuality was a sickness. Continue reading

LGBTQ Legislation in Arizona

Phoenix Gay Pride Parade, 2010. Photo: Fritz Liess via Flickr

Phoenix Gay Pride Parade, 2010. Photo: Fritz Liess via Flickr

I’m certain everyone read yesterday’s post on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (that’s today) and thought, “I’m so glad I live in Arizona, where the state legislature and judiciary would never further oppress an already marginalized group of people!”

Right?

Right?

Of course, the reality is that even recent Arizona lawmakers have established a trend of creating legislation that further harms women, people of color, and poor people. Sadly, we can add gay people and trans* people to that list as well.

Adoption Law — While the state’s current adoption statute allows unmarried people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to petition to adopt, only a “husband and wife” may jointly adopt children. It does not provide for joint adoption by people in other domestic partnerships. In fact, if other factors are equal, current law gives explicit placement preference to “a married man and woman.” Moreover, additional legislation has been introduced at least twice — once in 2006 and once in 2010 — to attempt to require adoption agencies to give “primary consideration” to married couples seeking to adopt.

Speaking of Marriage — Queer folk can’t do that here. If they do get married in a place where the local legislation allows it, the state of Arizona won’t recognize the marriage.

Birth Certificates — The statute does allow for an amended birth certificate if the person applying for such has had “a sex change operation” (sex reassignment surgery) and a note from their doctor saying as much. Certainly this is preferable to not having the option. However, it ignores some of the realities of sex reassignment surgery — that it can actually be a number of surgeries, that it comes with risks (e.g., general anesthetic) that can make it unworkable for some people, that it’s expensive and generally not covered by insurance, that providers are few and far between. Continue reading

International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia

prideIDAHO.

That’s tomorrow — May 17.

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Homophobia and transphobia — or rather, anti-gay and anti-trans thoughts, words, and actions — are deeply rooted in many cultures, including inside the United States. In reality, they need far more than one day of discussion and recognition. One day is not enough.

When I started thinking about this post, I thought of all the ways such sentiments show up in everyday life. It’s so much that I couldn’t possibly write everything. Then I thought some more — this was when Arizona SB1432, the “show your papers to pee” bill, was topping my newsfeeds — and it occurred to me how very much of this discrimination has been coded into law, is being encoded into law even now.

Even then, I had to narrow my search parameters — to the United States, to the relatively recent past. Otherwise, it’s just too much.

And even then, a lot of the bias remains in what’s not covered — people and situations for which the law does not provide. For groups of people who are still discriminated against, harassed, threatened, assaulted, killed by individual citizens or private organizations — this lack of necessary legislation still causes active harm.

This first set examines a number of laws — some national, some state — and Supreme Court rulings from the recent past.

1960 — Is as good a place to start as any. This is because in 1960, every state in the United States maintained laws against sodomy. Illinois was the first state to repeal its statute in 1961; Arizona followed suit 40 years later.

1967 — In Boutilier v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the United States Supreme Court held that gay folk were included under those “afflicted with psychopathic personality.” They could thus be refused admission — or deported — simply for being gay. This remained in effect until immigration law was reformed in 1990. Continue reading