Features

From mental disorder to civil-rights cause

Interview | Psychiatrist and Princeton law professor traces the advances of the gay-rights agenda in science and the law to a common source: political intimidation

Issue: "Social Security breach," Feb. 19, 2005

PRINCETON, N.J.-A big contributor to the gay movement's political success is the portrayal of homosexuality as an orientation over which individuals have no control. Jeffrey Satinover, author of Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Baker Books, 1996) and other books, has practiced psychiatry since 1986 and come to a different understanding, which he explained at a recent conference of the Witherspoon Institute here.

Dr. Satinover is a graduate of M.I.T. (Humanities and Science), Harvard (Clinical Psychology), and Yale (Physics), and received an M.D. from the University of Texas Medical School. He presently conducts research into complex systems at the National Center for Scientific Research at the University of Nice in France and teaches civil liberties and constitutional law part-time at Princeton.

WORLD: You've argued, against today's conventional wisdom, that the idea of "sexual orientation" is a fiction. What's the scientific evidence?

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JS: A nationwide University of Chicago study of sexuality in America in 1994 concluded, ". . . it is patently false that homosexuality is a uniform attribute across individuals, that it is stable over time, and that it can be easily measured." Studies across the globe that have now sampled over 100,000 individuals have found the same.

We now know that in the majority of both men and women, "homosexuality," as defined by any scientifically rigorous criteria, spontaneously tends to "mutate" into heterosexuality over the course of a lifetime. The proportion of people who adopt a homosexual identity and the length of time they persist in holding on to it are affected primarily by environmental factors clearly identifiable in these epidemiologic studies. These factors-deemed "cultural" or "demographic"-include effects such as social networks, education, early sexual experiences, childhood sexual abuse, and cultural beliefs.

WORLD: How and why did the American Psychiatric Association misrepresent the evidence concerning homosexuality?

JS: In 1957, with quiet political support largely from the prominent UCLA psychiatrist Judd Marmor, Evelyn Hooker, an experimental psychologist (her expertise was with mice, not people) at UCLA, published a scientifically bogus paper that supposedly showed no differences in the psychopathology of homosexual and heterosexual males. In the late '60s she chaired a task force that excluded anyone who believed that there was anything in the least problematic with homosexuality-meaning she excluded the entire body of clinicians who until then had devoted their careers to the subject. She similarly ensured that all its mental-health members were collaborators of Alfred Kinsey.

Under the guise of its being a "mental-health" panel, and using the false cover of the Kinsey Report (which claimed to be scientific, but which even then had been long condemned by the American Statistical Association as invalid), Hooker's Task Force issued a set of "policy" recommendations based on the claim that homosexuality had been shown to be normal, a degree of bisexuality was the universal norm, and whatever unusual distress homosexuals might display was due to social prejudice. The elimination of all forms of social prejudice against homosexuality was a "mental-health" prerogative for the nation.

By the early '70s, Judd Marmor was on his way to the vice presidency of the American Psychiatric Association. He and a number of allies in the APA arranged to have outside gay activists disrupt APA meetings to protest the persistence of homosexuality as a diagnostic category within the APA's list of disorders. Eventually, these protests led to a series of meetings with the APA's "nomenclature committee" at which "research" was presented purportedly demonstrating no connection between homosexuality and psychopathology. These presentations were tendentious, the "research" consisting largely of Hooker's bogus work and Kinsey's data. With that, along with political pressure and the "civil-rights" argument, homosexuality was removed from the diagnostic manual.

Anyone who actually reads the studies examining the association between homosexuality and psychological disturbance will find a very strong association. What has never been clear until, perhaps, recently, is why. Perhaps the same problems that cause increased psychological distress also cause homosexuality. Perhaps homosexuality is an intrinsic psychopathology. Perhaps the social stigma experienced by being homosexual causes the psychological distress. Perhaps some unknown proportion of each. Perhaps some unknown proportion of each and a complex, nonlinear interaction among them over time. None of the early studies addressed these very obvious questions. They merely presumed the ideologically correct responses.

WORLD: How have Supreme Court decisions fit in with such misrepresentation?

JS: The mental-health organizations have submitted briefs to courts at every level, and have profoundly corrupted our understanding of human sexuality tacitly via their general influence. They influence judges' understanding before they become judges so that when a man or woman becomes a judge he is, for all purposes, an ignoramus with respect to homosexuality, full to the brim with sentimental platitudes.

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