Saturday, September 12, 2015

Lillian Faderman's "The Gay Revolution"

Lillian Faderman is an internationally known scholar of lesbian history and literature, as well as ethnic history and literature. Among her many honors are six Lambda Literary Awards, two American Library Association Awards, and several lifetime achievement awards for scholarship. She is the author of the New York Times Notable Books, Surpassing the Love of Men and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers.

Faderman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle, and reported the following:
Gay and lesbian civil rights activists always knew that as long as the psychiatrist’s “bible,” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, classified homosexuality as a mental illness their movement couldn’t get very far: crazies weren’t granted first-class American citizenship. The challenge to social prejudice that passed as “science” began in 1953, when Dr. Evelyn Hooker applied to the National Institute of Mental Health for a grant to study whether homosexuality was a legitimate “diagnostic category.” That’s the story I begin to tell on page 99 of The Gay Revolution.

Dr. Hooker got her grant (though NIMH’s staff jocularly referred to her study as “The Fairy Project”). It involved thirty homosexual men who were a 5 or 6 on the Kinsey scale—exclusively or predominantly homosexual; and thirty heterosexual men who were a 0 or 1. None of them was ever to have been in psychotherapy. She gave each subject an IQ test and then the three standard psychological projective tests: the Rorschach inkblot test; the Thematic Apperception Test (the subjects had to make up stories about human images); and the Make-a-Picture-Story Test (the subjects had to place cut-out figures in various settings and tell a story about them). Next, she matched homosexual with heterosexual for education and IQ. Then she assigned each subject a number and removed from his test all identifying information. Finally, she got the leading experts in each of those tests to try to distinguish between the matched pairs of homosexuals and heterosexuals. If the experts could discern from the tests who the homosexuals were, then homosexuality was legitimately a “diagnostic category.” But if they couldn’t discern—it wasn’t.

The experts agreed only sixteen times. And most of the time they were wrong. Dr. Bruno Klopfer, the worldwide Rorschach expert complained, “There are no clues. I just have to guess.” “These are so similar,” Dr. Mortimer Meyer, the Thematic Apperception expert admitted. Dr. Edward Schneidman, the Make-a-Picture expert said, “If you showed me the protocol for thirty schizophrenics, I’d be surprised if I didn’t get twenty-eight right. But to identify the homosexuals…” The experts were convinced: homosexuality is not a diagnostic category.

The American Psychiatric Association didn’t get around to deleting homosexuality from its bible until 1973. But as an APA president, Dr. Judd Marmor admitted, Dr. Hooker’s research twenty years earlier was “the reference point to which we had to keep coming back.”
Visit Lillian Faderman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue