I remember when I first learned that homosexuality used to be listed as a mental disorder in the DSM. While I am a heterosexual woman (with all the privilege that comes from being straight and cisgender), I was so horrified and saddened to discover that homosexuality was not always an accepted and welcomed orientation in my field of practice.
Luckily, in 1973, homosexuality was finally removed from the DSM and no longer considered a mental illness, but it was not until last week that the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) has officially come forward and apologized for labeling homosexuality a mental illness.
“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,’” said the President of the APsaA, Dr. Lee Jaffe. “It’s hard to admit that one has been so wrong.”
Many people are calling this official apology a watershed moment, while others are left cold by the admission of guilt, feeling it is too little, too late.
I think the truth can be somewhere in between. The importance of this official statement cannot be overstated, as the trauma caused by the APsaA’s former approach to homosexuality is untold and immeasurable. Labeling homosexuality a mental illness gave the government, the police, and society as a whole the right and the rationalization to treat gay people as less than human and to consider homosexuality ‘insane’ or even sinful.
But, I also think something huge and healing comes from their apology. Any time we can acknowledge our wrongdoing and make more room in our society for acceptance and love, it impacts all of us on an energetic level. That is why parents who show up at Pride events and offer ‘Free Mom Hugs’ or ‘Free Dad Hugs’ are so deeply moving for the LGBT+ community and everyone who witnesses this expression of right-doing.
We can’t go back and fix the harm caused by bigotry, and we can’t make every family and every parent embrace and offer unconditional love to their children, but we can take part in small, love-filled actions every day.
We can be that person offering ‘free hugs’ to the child who might have been turned away from their parent simply for being who they are.
We can be the person who is willing to apologize and express honest regret when we harm someone, even if the mistake feels almost too huge to face.
We can be the person who accepts the apology, not because the action was okay or able to be erased, but because we know that choosing love and light is the only way to build the future we both desire and deserve.
As we look back at the trauma caused by these bigoted viewpoints, I hope we can both honor the pain and empathy we feel…but also rejoice to know that the world is changing. And we all get to be part of that change. How awesome is that?