To the editor:
In a recent letter to the Independent, not to mention an exhaustive series of previous letters, Phil Drietz questioned the scientific basis for the removal of homosexuality from the official list of disorders by the American Psychiatric Association. By lucky coincidence, I happen to have a little knowledge in this area, so I will attempt to answer his question now. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the standard reference book used by mental health professionals, a mental disorder is a clinically significant pattern of behavior that is associated with distress or disability, or with significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or loss of freedom. The key issue here is that mental disorders involve a clinical level of pain, suffering, disability, or impairment. These features are associated with measurable symptoms, such as depressed mood in the case of major depression, or hallucinations and delusions in the case of schizophrenia.
Homosexuality is not a "disorder" because it does not have any symptoms, does not cause suffering and does not cause any disability or impairment whatsoever. It was formerly considered a disorder, but this classification never had any "scientific" basis. Hysteria in women was also a disorder at one time, along with other antiquated concepts. And let's not forget that being left-handed was once considered abnormal and something to be treated. But being left-handed, or having red hair, or being in a minority group, or having a different sexual orientation is only that, a difference. Homosexuality is not a disorder, but it's easy to understand why gays and lesbians might sometimes experience suffering and distress. Imagine being tormented at school or disowned by your parents because of an opinion about Leviticus. Imagine not being able to hold the hand of the person you love in public for fear of how other people might treat you. Isn't it time to stand up for our friends and family members and say that we love them and accept them, regardless of what bits of anatomy they happen to prefer?
I, for one, am not obsessed with peoples' personal lives. I don't really think it's anybody's business, and I don't think we need laws and regulations about what kinds of people are allowed to commit to each other and spend their lives together. That's why I am going to vote NO in November on the constitutional amendment to define marriage.