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In 1973, after several years of bitter dispute, the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association decided to remove homosexuality from its official list of mental diseases. Infuriated by the Board's action, a substantial number of dissident psychiatrists charged the association's leadership with capitulating to the pressures of Gay Liberation groups, and forced the board to submit its decision to a referendum of the full APA membership. Ronald Bayer presents a political analysis of (he psychiatric battle involved, from the first confrontations organized by gay demonstrators at psychiatric conventions to the referendum initiated by orthodox psychiatrists. The result is a fascinating view of the individuals who led the debate and the fundamental questions that engaged them: social and cultural values, the definition of disease, and the nature of sexuality. Available for the first time in paperback, the book includes a new afterword by the author.
Posted December 14, 2001
This book is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in the history of the gay rights movement. Ronald Bayer did an outstanding job of interviewing most of the major figures involved in the American Psychiatric Association's 1973 decision to remove homoesexuality from its list of mental disorders. Having had access to people on both sides, he also provides an important historical background to the clashing scientific opinions and colliding political forces around that event. One of Bayer's conclusions, first printed in the 1981 edition and then restated in this 1987 volume, was that psychiatry could not advance the cause of gay and lesbian civil rights. He believed that ¿...the psychiatric mainstream must ultimately affirm the standards of health and disease of the society within which it works. It cannot hold to discordant views regarding the normal and abnormal, the desirable and undesirable, and continue to perform its socially sanctioned function.¿ However, Bayer was in error. In the 90s,several years after he wrote his conclusion, the gay civil rights movement began to reach critical mass. It did take 20 years, however, to reach that stage. Nevertheless, this is a minor quibble as the book remains an important documentation of a landmark in gay and lesbian history.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.