ST Forum: Homosexuality: Neither a disease nor an immutable trait (8 May 2007)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

May 8, 2007
Homosexuality: Neither a disease nor an immutable trait

I WRITE with regard to the recent discussion on the issue of homosexuality. Homosexuality, until recently, was regarded as a disease.

A disease is defined as an impairment of health or condition of abnormal functioning.

Homosexuality certainly fits the definition of a disease as there is an increased mortality rate mainly from Aids; the life expectancy of a homosexual and bisexual male is up to 20 years shorter compared to a normal male (R.S. Hogg, et al, 'Modelling the impact of HIV disease on mortality in
Gay and Bisexual Men' International Journal of Epidemiology 1997).

There is also an increased morbidity rate, with a greater risk of suffering from sexually transmitted diseases, including Aids, and increased risk of psychiatric illnesses such as depression, suicides and drug abuse.

Simply put, being a homosexual (statistically speaking) puts one at risk of suffering from poor health and dying early.

In 1973, homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

The question we have to ask is: How did this come about? One would think that the APA would not have taken such a step unless there was strong scientific evidence to justify such a move.

A review of the history of events shows that the decision was not based on scientific evidence, but in fact was the response of an organisation under siege by gay activists. Ronald Bayer's book, Homosexuality And American Psychiatry: The Politics Of Diagnosis, documents the political nature of this battle over DSM.

Dr Bayer defends this move by APA, saying: 'Psychiatry may, under certain circumstances, act upon society, using its cultural influences to challenge social values and practices.'

It is clear from this that the removal of homosexuality from DSM was a political settlement and not due to scientific evidence. Thus, homosexuality should still be regarded as a disease.

The question is, if homosexuality is a disease, can it be treated?

There have been numerous documented cases of people who have changed their sexual orientation.

Dr Robert Spitzer, who was very much involved in the 1973 removal of homosexuality from DSM, found in a 2001 study, that 'there is evidence that change in sexual orientation following some form of reparative therapy does occur in some gay men and lesbians'.

It follows from this that homosexuality is neither a fixed trait nor is it immutable.

Dr Alan Chin Yew Liang