Anti-Gay Myths, Part 8: Gay people are more prone to be mentally ill and to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Copied from:  Southern Poverty Law Center

By Evelyn Schlatter and Robert Steinback

Ever since born-again singer and orange juice pitchwoman Anita Bryant helped kick off the contemporary anti-gay movement some 40 years ago, hard-line elements of the religious right have been searching for ways to demonize gay people — or, at a minimum, to find arguments that will prevent their normalization in society. For the former Florida beauty queen and her Save Our Children group, it was the alleged plans of gay men and lesbians to “recruit” in schools that provided the fodder for their crusade. But in addition to hawking that myth, the legions of anti-gay activists who followed have added a panoply of others, ranging from the extremely doubtful claim that sexual orientation is a choice, to unalloyed lies like the claims that gay men molest children far more than heterosexuals or that hate crime laws will lead to the legalization of bestiality and necrophilia. These fairy tales are important to the anti-gay right because they form the basis of its claim that homosexuality is a social evil that must be suppressed — an opinion rejected by virtually all relevant medical and scientific authorities. They also almost certainly contribute to hate crime violence directed at the LGBT community, which is more targeted for such attacks than any other minority group in America. What follows are 10 key myths propagated by the anti-gay movement, along with the truth behind the propaganda.

 


MYTH # 8

Gay people are more prone to be mentally ill and to abuse drugs and alcohol.

THE ARGUMENT

Anti-LGBT groups want not only to depict sexual orientation as something that can be changed but also to show that heterosexuality is the most desirable “choice,” even if religious arguments are set aside. The most frequently used secular argument made by anti-LGBT groups in that regard is that homosexuality is inherently unhealthy, both mentally and physically. As a result, most anti-LGBT rights groups reject the 1973 decision by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Some of these groups, including the particularly hard-line Traditional Values Coalition, claim that “homosexual activists” managed to infiltrate the APA in order to sway its decision.

THE FACTS

All major professional mental health organizations are on record as stating that homosexuality is not a mental disorder.

The American Psychological Association states that being gay is just as healthy as being straight, and noted that the 1950s-era work of Dr. Evelyn Hooker started to dismantle this myth. In 1975, the association issued a statement that said, in part, “homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, reliability or general social and vocational capabilities.” The association has clearly stated in the past that “homosexuality is neither mental illness nor mental depravity. … Study after study documents the mental health of gay men and lesbians. Studies of judgment, stability, reliability, and social and vocational adaptiveness all show that gay men and lesbians function every bit as well as heterosexuals.”

The American Psychiatric Association states that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and that all major professional health organizations are on record as confirming that. The organization removed homosexuality from its official diagnostic manual in 1973 after extensive review of the scientific literature and consultation with experts, who concluded that homosexuality is not a mental illness.
Though it is true that LGBT people tend to suffer higher rates of anxiety, depression, and depression-related illnesses and behaviors like alcohol and drug abuse than the general population, that is due to the historical social stigmatization of homosexuality and violence directed at LGBT people, not because of homosexuality itself. Studies done during the past several years have determined that it is the stress of being a member of a minority group in an often-hostile society — and not LGBT identity itself — that accounts for the higher levels of mental illness and drug use.

Richard J. Wolitski, an expert on minority status and public health issues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, put it like this in 2008: “Economic disadvantage, stigma, and discrimination … increase stress and diminish the ability of individuals [in minority groups] to cope with stress, which in turn contribute to poor physical and mental health.”

Even as early as 1994, external stressors were recognized as a potential cause of emotional distress of LGBT people. A report presented by the Council on Scientific Affairs to the AMA House of Delegates Interim Meeting with regard to reparative (“ex-gay”) therapy noted that most of the emotional disturbance gay men and lesbians experience around their sexual identity is not based on physiological causes, but rather on “a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment.”

In 2014, a study, conducted by several researchers at major universities and the Rand Corporation, found that LGBT people living in highly anti-LGBT communities and circumstances face serious health concerns and even premature death because of social stigmatization and exclusion. One of the researchers, Dr. Mark Hatzenbuehler, a sociomedical sciences professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, said that the data gathered in the study suggests that “sexual minorities living in communities with high levels of anti-gay prejudice have increased risk of mortality, compared to low-prejudice communities.”

Homosexuality is not a mental illness or emotional problem and being LGBT does not cause someone to be mentally ill, contrary to what anti-LGBT organizations say. Rather, social stigmatization and prejudice appear to contribute to health disparities in the LGBT population, which include emotional and psychological distress and harmful coping mechanisms.

Gary:  As of yet, I have not seen any LCMS pastors use this myth in demonizing gays and lesbians, although they frequently insinuate that gays are not happy people.  I’m still reviewing LCMS blog posts, so let’s see if this anti-gay myth eventually comes up on an LCMS pastors’ blog.

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