But now these facts about the 1973 APA convention are (finally) showing up in… The New Republic, and golly jeepers, who knew, huh? Wow. Tsk. Hmmm. Etc.
In the early 1970s, annual meetings of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) were home to angry showdowns between the gay rights lobby and organized psychiatry. Activists picketed convention sites, shouted down speakers, and waged ad hominem attacks on psychiatrists who sincerely believed that homosexuality was a sickness. The goal of their flamboyant campaign against the APA — an impressive display of “guerrilla theater,” as one psychiatrist put it — was to force the association to take homosexuality out of its official handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, second edition, popularly known as the DSM-II.
In December 1973, they won.
A word about the politics of diagnosis-making is in order. Over the years, DSM task forces have had to contend with bids, pro and con, for diagnoses such as masochistic personality disorder, sadistic personality disorder, pathological (racial) bias, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a.k.a. PMS). Soon, planners of the next edition, the DSM-V, tentatively scheduled for publication in 2012, will hear appeals to create categories for shopping and food addictions. Internet addiction will surely come up too — as it did this summer at a meeting of the American Medical Association. Pro-life advocates hope to get the DSM to adopt “post-abortion syndrome” (indicating pathological regret after terminating a pregnancy). Meanwhile, there is a battle over gender identity disorder, with some members of the transsexual community wanting it evicted, while others wanting it to stay in so that insurance companies will pay for sex-reassignment surgery.