Intended for healthcare professionals

Bmj Usa Editorial

The pseudoscience of sexual orientation change therapy

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 15 April 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:E287
  1. Marshall Forstein (, director of psychiatric residency training
  1. The Cambridge Health Alliance Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Harvard Medical School Cambridge, MA

    An “old” problem with relevance today

    In the United States, as in Britain, homosexuality was medicalized and then pathologized in the early part of the last century. The diagnosis of homosexuality as a disease was based on untested and unproven theoretical psychoanalytic concepts that evolved in the Victorian era and were supported by religious doctrine. This led to the application of the physically and emotionally painful, and ultimately, harmful treatments described in the two articles published in this issue of BMJ USA (pp 155, 158). That such intrusive, dehumanizing treatments were even tolerated in the medical profession is testimony to the powerful social stigma and moral indignation surrounding homosexuality.

    equal rights for gay and lesbian people, social customs and religious institutions will continue to create unhealthy social conditions for people who come to accept their sexual orientation.

    In 1957, American psychologist Evelyn Hooker, using validated and reliable psychological testing methods, demonstrated that reputable psychologists blinded to the sexual …

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