Shifting Psychological Knowledge and Conservative Christian Media Controversies: Blaming the Judeo-Christian Tradition for Anti-Gay Prejudice in Psychiatry and Psychology

By Michael Thorn.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: April 28, 2014 $US5.00

Contrary to statements made in the media controversy surrounding the Christian ex-gay movement today, this paper will demonstrate that the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 did not amount to an instant “born again” conversion in psychological thought, nor did it signify the power of special interest politics trumping “true” science. An analysis of statements in multiple psychology textbooks and encyclopaedias published after 1970 will show that declassification initiated a near two-decade long “debate” in which conflicting scientific studies were used strategically and governmentally, sometimes in combination with the deployment of extreme stereotypes, to influence public and professional perceptions of an event with which many professionals disagreed. However, by the time the transformation in thought was complete—a transformation that was influenced by both the AIDS crisis and an antigay Christian media campaign—it had all but vanquished those who maintained a mental illness model of homosexuality from the disciplines of the psyche. It also culminated in the blaming of the Judeo-Christian tradition for psychiatry and psychology’s longstanding antigay prejudice and recognized the ex-gay movement as a contemporary problem for psychiatry and psychology.

Keywords: Homosexuality, Psychology, Psychiatry, Judeo-Christian Tradition, Ex-gay Movement, Reparative Therapy, Textbooks, Encyclopaedias, Mass Media, Antigay Media Campaign

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 3, Issue 4, May 2014, pp.51-77. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: April 28, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 491.720KB)).

Michael Thorn

PhD Candidate/Teaching Assistant, Joint Program in Communication and Culture, York and Ryerson Universities, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Michael Thorn is a PhD candidate in the joint York/Ryerson program in Communication and Culture and is currently writing his dissertation. His research into the discourse surrounding the Christian Ex-gay Movement will use a Foucauldian governmental approach rooted in Foucault’s so-called “late” period, a period characterized by an increased concern with the relations between knowledge, power, and technologies of the self.