Health Hazards of Homosexuality

When homosexuality was deleted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association was motivated not by the scientific evidence but by a therapeutic desire to weaken prevailing social attitudes that allegedly damage the self-esteem of homosexuals. Consequently, much of the discussion of homosexuality by public-health officials and professional associations ignores the large body of empirical literature that casts homosexual behavior in an unfavorable light.

Yet the inaugural issue of the journal of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality offers a review of experimental evidence, clinical studies, and empirical research published in peer-reviewed journals over the course of 125 years that leads to a “singular” conclusion: “Homosexuality is not innate, immutable, or without significant risk to the medical, psychological, and relational health.”

The review of 600 reports and studies contains three review essays, two of which refute claims of the American Psychological Association that sexual orientation is fixed and that attempts to change it can be harmful. The third review finds that the literature demonstrates, contrary to another claim of the APA, that “problematic behaviors and psychological dysfunctions are experienced among homosexuals at about three times the prevalence found in the general population—and sometimes much more.” Among the significantly increased risks for mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders:

Despite knowing the AIDS risk, homosexuals repeatedly and pathologically continue to indulge in unsafe sex practices.

Homosexuals represent the highest number of STD cases.

Many homosexual sex practices are medically dangerous, with or without protection.

More than one third of homosexual men and women are substance abusers.

Forty percent of homosexual men adolescents report suicidal histories.

Homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to have mental health concerns, such as eating disorders, personality disorders, paranoia, depression, and anxiety.

Homosexual relationships are more violent than heterosexual relationships.

Social bias and discrimination do not, in themselves, contribute to the majority of homosexual maladaptivity.

Although conceding the methodological limitations of older studies, the authors include them because the research not only met the research standards of the time but also, perhaps more important, their conclusions are largely supported by the most current and more rigorously quantitative studies.

These findings may not lead to a revision of the DSM, yet they illustrate the degree to which the mental-health establishment appears animated more by political science than by hard science.

(James E. Phelan et al., “Response to the APA Claim: There is No Greater Pathology in the Homosexual Population Than in the General Population,” Journal of Human Sexuality 1 [2009]: 53–87.)