Letter: Cast a vote against stereotypesStereotypes die hard, and hurtful ways of treating others, even while recognized, change slowly. I still vividly remember how, as a young clinical psychologist, I was taught to diagnose homoerotic attraction and same-sex behavior as pathological.
By: Bruce McBeath, The Republican Eagle
To the Editor:
Stereotypes die hard, and hurtful ways of treating others, even while recognized, change slowly. I still vividly remember how, as a young clinical psychologist, I was taught to diagnose homoerotic attraction and same-sex behavior as pathological.
During this period of the 1960s, our psychologists’ perspective matched well the everyday world of negative judgments on any expression of sexual interest or love by gays and lesbians.
Gratefully, many of us in clinical practice fought to keep our eyes and minds open, helped enormously by our experience with gay and lesbian patients, and by the occasional “coming out” of gay and lesbian colleagues. We “straight” psychologists learned very directly that the struggles gays and lesbians confronted were created by a damning and unwelcoming society, not by any inherent “mental health” issue.
We confronted the reality that there was in fact no pathology in being gay or lesbian, and we were forced to acknowledge a grievous diagnostic error, and offer profound apologies to a community of people whom we had hurt and helped to disenfranchise.
Now, 40 years and more than a generation later, we confront the remnants of those old attitudes and beliefs that we in mental health hoped would be consigned to a tragic bin of history. I see the cruel faces of these old stereotypes in the present attempt to legislate marriage (legally sanctioned committed loving relationships) in a manner that would have this same population continue to suffer for who they are and who they love.
Any passive acceptance of social practices that hurt and de-humanize our fellow human beings allows genuine pathology to continue to flourish, even in the face of what we know to be true about human beings and human behavior. Pathology was not to be found in the person of the gay or lesbian, it was to be found in the social stereotypes that fed intolerance and bigotry. Forty years later, we still find it there.
On Election Day, we all have one opportunity to show up and do something about it.