Beirut, May 17 2013- Homosexuals continue to face prejudice and discrimination within our Lebanese society. This prejudice and discrimination extend beyond the general public to some healthcare providers who continue to offer “Conversion or Reparative Therapy” with alleged goal of changing one’s sexual orientation.
The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) finds it necessary to clarify the following facts:
1. Homosexuality is not a disease – In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association, a world leader on mental health, declassified homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. The following year, the American Psychological Association declassified homosexuality as an illness. Since then, every major medical and mental health organization has come to embrace this view. The World Health Organization (WHO) declassified homosexuality in 1990.1 WHO states: “In none of its individual manifestations does homosexuality constitute a disorder or an illness and therefore it requires no cure.”2 Currently, the global consensus among healthcare providers is that homosexuality is a normal and natural variation of human sexuality without any intrinsically harmful health effects.
2. Origins of homosexuality are not known – Many theories have been proposed regarding the origins of homosexuality but definitive answers are yet to be found. Research has not been able to discover the origins of homosexuality or of heterosexuality, for that matter. Similar to left-handedness and other human attributes, homosexuality is likely manifested due to a mixture of genetic and environmental factors.
3. Homosexuality is not a choice – In the same way that heterosexuality is not a choice, homosexuality is not a choice either.3
4. Homosexuals are at higher risk for psychological problems – Homosexuality itself does not lead to mental illness. Stigma, peer rejection, discrimination, heteronormative bias, bullying, internalized prejudice, and the stress of disclosure about one’s sexual orientation to others (known as “coming out”) place homosexuals at a higher risk for psychological problems. This may include mood and anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal ideations and attempts. Such stressors cause more alienation and have grave effects on one’s health and wellbeing.4
5. Attempts to change one’s sexual orientation can be harmful – Efforts to change sexual orientation are not based on any sound scientific evidence. On the contrary, this practice has been abandoned due to proven failure and serious harmful effects. Dr Spitzer, the father of reparative therapy recanted his position on reparative therapy in 2012.5
Many health organizations have condemned these “therapies.” The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry warns about the lack of evidence that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy, and that attempts to do so may be harmful.4
The American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates.6
The American Psychiatric Association recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals’ sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to first, do no harm.7
Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that any attempt to change sexual orientation is contraindicated since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while lacking potential for achieving changes in orientation.8
The American Medical Association opposes the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy.9
On May 17th 2012, 22 years after homosexuality was removed from the WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), the PAHO (Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of WHO) released a position statement stating that “‘Reparative’ or ‘conversion therapies’ have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons. They constitute unjustifiable practices that should be denounced and subject to adequate sanctions and penalties.”2
Based on the above, the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) urges healthcare providers in Lebanon to refrain from this unethical and potentially harmful practice. We also urge health care organizations to take a strong position against such practices.
LebMASH – The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health
Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health. Position Statement on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE). May 17 2013 (Retrievable at https://lebmash.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/ps1-en)
1. World Health Organization (1994). International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (10th Revision). Geneva, Switzerland. (Retrieved on May 6 2013 from here)
2. The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization PAHO/WHO Position Statement. “Cures” for an illness that does not exist. 2012 May 17. (Retrieved on May 6 2013 from here)
3. American Psychological Association. (2008). Answers to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality. Washington, DC: Author. (Retrieved on May 6 2013 from here)
4. Adelson SL; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Committee on Quality Issues (CQI). Practice parameter on gay, lesbian, or bisexual sexual orientation, gender nonconformity, and gender discordance in children and adolescents. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 Sep;51(9):957-74.
5. Benedict Carey. Psychiatry Giant Sorry for Backing Gay ‘Cure’. The New York Times – May 18, 2012 (Retrieved on May 6 2013 from here)
6. Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. (Retrieved on May 6 2013 from here)
7. APA Commission on Psychotherapy by Psychiatrists. Position statement on therapies focused on attempts to change sexual orientation (reparative or conversion therapies). Am J Psychiatry. 2000 Oct;157(10):1719-21.
8. Committee on Adolescence – American Academy of Pediatrics. Homosexuality and Adolescence. Pediatrics 1993 Oct;92 (4):631-34. (Retrieved on May 6 2013 from here)
9. H-160.991, Health Care Needs of the Homosexual Population. The American Medical Association Policies on GLBT Issues. (Retrieved on May 6 2013 from here)