Before 1973 homosexuality was described as a mental illness in the DSM — the diagnostic and statistical manual.
This really boggles my mind. It means that in my life-time when doctors — people who had been to medical school — had to make a list of illnesses they could go “Cancer. Common cold. Homosexuality.”
It’s a strange idea. People and those with professional training could look at another person who expressed love and intimacy with another person and think “Aha! That’s just like cancer!” or “Aha! That belongs in the same conceptual basket as compulsive hand-washing.” They think “Yes we all suffer from horrible loneliness, and to love someone, and take solace from their physical naked body takes an amazing leap of trust. But in this particular instance of it I classify it in the same category as somebody who can’t get in an elevator without throwing up.”
It’s hard for me to put myself in that person’s shoes, the shoes of the psychiatrist who looks at the gay man and says “Their minds are ill!”. I can only think that such a person is motivated by some sort of unconscious terror. “If those people are actually okay expressing intimacy and vulnerability to each other that threatens me. It is an assault on the integrity of my mind and of my body. My sexual self is going to open me up to the maelstrom — maybe to death — if I don’t take the sexual relationship between those two and classify it as illness.” And all this conversation going on beneath the surface of consciousness, so to the conscious mind it seems like “I’m just being a scientist here! Nothing to see here! Move along!”
Which is a psychologically ill thing to think, clearly.
I imagine two time travelers from the future getting out of their craft who have lost their way in time. They don’t know what era they have landed in. They ask two questions “Is homosexuality a mental illness?” The native person they are talking to says “No, I don’t think so.” And one time traveller says “We are not in prehistoric times.” And then they ask “What about homophobia, the view that homosexuals are mentally ill — is that a mental illness?” And the person says “No. That’s just a personal point of view. Some very admirable, religious people think that. My parents think that and they’re not crazy.” And then they realize “Aha. We are not in prehistoric times, but we are not in historic times either. We are still in the Dark Ages, the time when humanity rolls around on its bed and its eyelids flutter, but it is still asleep.”