American Psychoanalytic Association apologizes for trauma, discrimination against LGBTQ community

American Psychoanalytic Association

PFLAG marches in the Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade along Ocean Boulevard, May 20, 2018. Photo: Stephen Carr /

The American Psychoanalytic Association has apologized for treating homosexuality as a mental illness, saying its past mistakes contributed to LGBTQ people being discrimination against and traumatized.

This effort might be the first time a U.S. medical or mental health organization has issued such an apology.

Apology issued

“It is long past time to recognize and apologize for our role in the discrimination and trauma caused by our profession and say, ‘We are sorry,’” Dr. Lee Jaffe, president of the American Psychoanalytic Association said in a statement.

Jaffe announced the apology Friday at the opening session of the group’s 109th annual meeting in San Diego. His comments received  a standing ovation from the approximate 200 people present, according to media reports.

Homosexuality not a disorder

“It’s hard to admit that one has been so wrong,” Jaffe said.

The apology coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, Jaffe said.

Although psychiatrists declassified homosexuality as a disorder in 1973 and psychoanalysts followed about 20 years later, the American Psychoanalytic Association said it is unaware of any related professional group that has apologized.

LA Pride Parade history includes hatred from LAPD

American Psychiatric Association

In 1970, the American Psychiatric Association — which had classified homosexuality as a mental illness — was scheduled to show a movie that advocated curing gays and lesbians with electro-shock therapy during the group’s annual convention at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. But, approximately two dozen members of the Los Angeles Gay Liberation Front stormed the stage and cancelled the screening in what became known as the “Biltmore Invasion.” Long Beach resident Carolyn Weathers was one of the members who protested at the event.

Los Angeles Gay Liberation Front

Later, members of the Los Angeles Gay Liberation Front sat down in small groups with members of the association and started a dialogue. Three years later, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

Conversion therapy

The American Psychoanalytic Association didn’t change its position and allow training of gay and lesbian psychoanalysts until 1991, after the group was sued in an anti-discrimination lawsuit.

In the late 1990s, American Psychoanalytic Association became an early supporter of same-sex marriage and an opponent of “conversion therapy,” the discredited practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation with prayer or electric-shock therapy, among other methods.

American Psychoanalytic Association and other professional mental health organizations view being gay as a normal variant of human sexuality.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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