Forty-four years ago yesterday, on April 8, 1974, the American Psychiatric Association took homosexuals off its sick list.
No. Instead they created a new category of disorder, namely homosexual clients who have trouble coping with society’s stigma — the same stigma to which the APA had long given its imprimatur.
In Brecht’s play “Galeleo” two fellows have just witnessed the shenanigans of the hierarchy and one, stunned, asks, “How do they do it?” The other replies, “It is easy once you get the knack of it.”
I am enormously grateful that my parents were Baptists and held a healthy distrust of psycho babel. Had they been Episcopalians they might have subjected me to months and months of reparative therapy.
I got an inkling of what that alternative entails when I went for therapy at the Psychological Clinic of the University of Alabama while coping with the stresses of graduate school. The clinic offered me a choice: either a “regular” therapist to cope with stress, or, if I preferred, an aversion therapist to help me cope with my homosexuality.
The latter would connect my genitals to a gadget that administered varying degrees of electronic shock. Once wired, they gave male clients naked pictures of persons of their own gender. If the clients grew tumescent, the machine responded with a jolt of shock. The goal was to make homosexual objects anathema for the clients.
Aversion therapy was practiced all over the country, not just in the backwaters of the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa.
“I am quite comfortable with my homosexuality, thank you very much,” I responded, “and I do not need shock treatments to engender the anathema which I already experience for aversion therapists.”
Two or three decades later, as one of Tuscaloosa’s most published graduates, I asked the chair of the Psychological Clinic what the University of Alabama had done to help the victims of the, by then, long discredited aversion techniques. She never replied.
“I’m sorry” is the new “unspeakable.”