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Montrose Voice, No. 27, May 1, 1981
File 007
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Montrose Voice, No. 27, May 1, 1981 - File 007. 1981-05-01. University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. November 25, 2020. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/5905/show/5890.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(1981-05-01). Montrose Voice, No. 27, May 1, 1981 - File 007. Montrose Voice. University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/5905/show/5890

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Montrose Voice, No. 27, May 1, 1981 - File 007, 1981-05-01, Montrose Voice, University of Houston Libraries, accessed November 25, 2020, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/5905/show/5890.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Montrose Voice, No. 27, May 1, 1981
Contributor
  • McClurg, Henry
Publisher Community Publishing Company
Date May 1, 1981
Language English
Subject
  • LGBTQ community
  • LGBTQ people
  • Gay liberation movement
Place
  • Houston, Texas
Genre
  • newspapers
Type
  • Text
Identifier OCLC: 22329406
Collection
  • University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
  • LGBT Research Collection
  • Montrose Voice
Rights In Copyright
Note This item was digitized from materials loaned by the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum (GCAM).
Item Description
Title File 007
Transcript Feature Page 6 / Montrose Voice / may l, 1981 Writer Ronald Bayer traces the gay liberation movement through the American psychiatry establishment By Dr. Charles Silverstein (Editor's note: Last week, we presented a review of Dr. Ronald Bayer's new book. Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis (Basic Books, New York). This week we present an interview with the author conducted March 22 when he met with Dr. Charles Silverstein. Silverstein's interview focused on the issues and themes raised in Bayer's study of the struggle on the part of the gay community to force the removal of homosexuality from the list of psychiatric disorders. Bayer has been an Associate for Policy Studies at the Hastings Center since 1978. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago, and is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Charles Silverstein, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in New York City. He is the author of Man to Man: Gay Couples in America, and is co-author of The Joy of Gay Sex. It was he who actually made the presentation on the reclassification of homosexuality before the Nomenclature Committee of the American Psychiatric Association.) You have just written a book on homosexuality and American Psychiatry. What makes it different from all the other books on gay topics that fill the shelves ? In the great battle between the gay community and American psychiatry—a battle over whether homosexuality should be called an illness- three themes are united in a striking fashion. First, I tried to trace the radical transformation of the self-perception of gays in the period since World War II—that is the transformation marked by increasing self-affirmation and hostility to psychiatry. The second theme has to do with the shifting attitudes of American society toward sexuality in general. Understanding the struggle for gay liberation is impossible without understanding the changing attitudes toward sexuality, a change marked by the acknowledgement that sexual pleasure is an end in itself and does not receive its justification from procreation. The third theme has to do with the shifting attitudes of psychiatrists towards sexuality and homosexuality. All three themes are part of the politics of diagnosis. What do you mean by "The politics of Diagnosis"? The American Psychiatric Association (APA)'s decision on homosexuality was politi cal. First, because it involved the play of bitterly antagonisti- cal social forces locked in controversy in a furious battle. The victory of gays was the result of that struggle. Secondly, I believe that on the most profound level all diagnoses are political; they represent social choices about human behavior and they represent decisions to classify certain behavior as acceptable or unacceptable. What made you, as a social scientist, write a book about homosexuality ? I've been interested in the relationship between psychiatry and society, between psychiatry and the law. I spent a number of years studying the problem of addiction and the way in which the medical profession tried to reinterpret the meaning of addiction, "transforming" it from a crime to a disease. Then I became interested in the psychiatric effort to explain crime and juvenile delinquency. Several years ago a psychoanalyst at the Hastings Center suggested to me that as a non-psychiatrist I might be able to write an interesting account of why psychiatry removed homosexuality from its sick list, "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual." I liked the challenge of being a professional outsider peering in. You mentioned drug addiction and crime and homosexuality—so you are really talking about a basic question of how psychiatry gets involved with social problems rather than personal problems. I don't see it quite that way. I believe psychiatry became involved with "both" social and personal problems. The two are linked. In the Twentieth Century psychiatry began to assume a very inportant role in the United States in trying to explain, to control, to cure behavior that in other periods would have been called sinful or evil. For those who were appalled by the brutality of the law, the "intrusion" of psychiatry was seen as a great advance. After all, it was better for doctors to treat addicts than to have them thrown into jails and beaten over the head. In the same way, it was thought to be an advance for psychiatrists to work on homosexuality. After all, if homosexuality was an illness, it was wrong to punish homosexuals. From the vantage of 1980, that may seem strange, but it was only thirty years ago that gay men and women themselves were debating the question of whether homosexuality was a disease. Then what went wrong with this idea? Or do you think anything did go wrong? Because society remained hostile to homosexuality, medicine became part of the apparatus of social control and condemnation. The psychiatric outlook became a key element in society's continuing hostility to homosexuals. On a social level, psychiatry served to bolster the status quo. The label "sick" provided justification for outrageous social practices—though, for instance, Freud always opposed the anti-homosexual restrictions of his time. You mentioned a couple of minutes ago how sin became translated into sickness. In researching this book, you spoke with quite a few psychiatrists and psychoanalysts. On the basis of your experience with them, did you find that they were in fact talking about sin but calling it sickness, or do you think they really had a more objective view? Many psychiatrists believe that the advance of psychiatry investigation of homosexuality can't tell us that homosexuality is an illness. In what ways did psychiatry have an impact on the way gays viewed themselves? In the early 1950s many gays believed that they were sick. There were great debates on the issue in the Mattachine Society and in the Daughters of Bilitis. Often gay groups invited proponents of the sickness theory to address them. One of the tasks of my study is to trace the way in which gays first accepted, then struggled with, the psychiatric perspective. Like Albert Ellis? Yes, Albert Ellis, who madeit very clear that he thought that homosexuality was a neurosis, was a key figure at meetings of the Mattachine Society—he was a guest of honor at conventions! Mattachine would invite him over all the time, and he would stand up there and tell them how sick they were and they would applaud. What accounts for the change? How did gays come to reject Ellis and the other psychiatrists ? I believe that the struggle of gays for a shift in their status in American society was dramatically influenced by the powerful political upheaval of the 1960's—the struggle of blacks for civil rights, the feminist movement, the anti-war movement. Of course there as a "science" has made possible the replacement of values by "objective truth." They believe that disease like the "disease of homosexuality" exist in nature, are discovered like microbes. I think they are wrong. In fact, the point of my book is to show how social values determine our beliefs about health and illness. When Irving Bieber says "all psychoanalytic theories 'begin' with the assumption that homosexuality is an illness," he proves my point. There is no question for me that the psychiatric classification ot homosexuality as an illness reflects the cultural-religious values of our society—so does the classification of schizophrenia. Psychoanalytic investigations seek to explain how homosexuality comes into existence. The psychoanalytic were forces inside the gay movement, too, but the character of the gay struggle would have been very different in ways that are scarcely imaginable without those other movements. lean remember that many of us looked upon the black movement in particular, ana the beginnings of the ^mens movement as our guide. The feeling was that they were a model for us. How did gay groups successfully force psychiatrists to re-think the issue of homosexuality? That story is the central concern of my book. Briefly, the mobilization of the energy of social protest—energy that was both intellectual and forceful, rational and coercive, compelled official psychiatry to rethink the issue. But psychiatrists did not simply capitulate in the face of a powerful assault. They began, under gay pressure, to rethink the question of homosexuality. It is inconceivable that the change could have occured without that pressure. Psychiatrists who claim that the change was the result of research and changing theories are wrong. They mystify the process. There is no question that the APA change made a lot of gay people in this country, and perhaps around the world, feel better about themselves. They claim that if we admit that they have the right to declare we are not sick, we implicitly give them the right to declare anything they want to about us. To take that position, one has to assume that psychiatry as a social institution isn't very important. I think that ignores the power that psychiatry as a social institution has in the United States. Despite the claims of critics like Thomas Szasz, psychiatry is not as dominant as the church in other periods of history, but it is powerful and its influences are very important. Sometimes those influences are subtle, somtimes not so subtle. The decision to focus on psychiatry was a terribly important one. Gays, like Frank Kameny (pioneer Washington, D.C. gay activist), chose it as an important target Ronald Bayer PHOTO: RICHARD NEUGEBAUER in fashioning a movement for social liberation. Your position then is that anyone who feels or felt that we shouldn't fight for those changes is ignoring the fact that the APA is very powerful, and it is better to have them as friends. At least not as enemies. More important than the change in official labels, however, will be the consequences. How will psychiatrists be taught about homosexuality? What will their textbooks say? How will "gay" psychiatrists be treated by their colleagues? What role will official psychiatry play in opposing »"ti-«ay ■oc,al nractices? These are some i»sue» i fy t0 to"1* on ln my book. It is still too soon to *answer any of these questions in a definitive manner. They are crucial, however.
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