A shocking history of sexual bigotry


Until relatively recently even consensual homosexual sex was a crime in the UK – and the US viewed homosexuality as ‘an illness’ as late as 1973. The startling history of sexual prejudice against those who express different gender orientations is explained by Dee Swinton of Dorset Mind.


Anyone can experience a mental health problem. But people that identify as LGBTQI+ are more likely to develop issues such as low self-esteem, depression, social anxiety, eating problems and misuse drugs and alcohol.

They are also more likely to develop suicidal feelings as they battle isolation and difficult experiences coming out. February sees LGBTQI+ History Month, where the UK celebrates and raises awareness of LGBTQ+ history and the many accomplishments of people from their community.

What does Lgbtqi+ stand for? Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) persons face specific obstacles when it comes to accessing many of their rights, including their right to social protection.

But, it’s important to recognise that the fight for equality and respect is far from over. Many LGBTQI+ persons still experience hate crime,

mental illness in their manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It’s still used to diagnose stigma and discrimination today. Simply for being who they are – and loving who they do. Sadly, the
mental health profession has contributed to this stigma through the pathologization of people who are not heterosexual or cisgender (someone who’s gender identity Is the same as their sex assigned at birth). Here’s a potted history of mental health professionals and the LGBTQ+ community.

Being gay is ‘an illness’

Until 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) classed homosexuality as a mental illness in their manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It’s still used to diagnose mental disorders today.
The first edition of the DSM characterised homosexuality as a ‘sociopathic personality disorder’. This perspective of homosexuality provided by the influential authority in mental health validated the prejudices of businesses and the government. It gave them excuses to discriminate against and repress LGBTQI+ people.

Even worse, this classification provided medical support for abusive treatments, such as electroshock therapy and lobotomies to ‘treat’ homosexuality. Fortunately, thanks to the tireless work of remarkable LGBTQI+ activists, the APA voted to remove homosexuality from the second edition of the DSM. But the effects of pathologization are still evident in society today.

Mental health today

The fight towards equality is still not over. You might have heard of the phrase ‘conversion therapies’ recently. According to NHS England, conversion therapy – or ‘reparative therapy’ or ‘gay cure therapy’ – tries to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The NHS and other professional bodies have deemed all conversion therapies ‘unethical and potentially harmful.’

Despite acknowledging the devastating traumatic effects of these ‘therapies’, it still takes place today.
Recent research by Stonewall indicated that people from the LGBTQI+ community still experience discrimination in healthcare settings. About 14% of those surveyed avoid seeking healthcare due to fear of discrimination from staff. Evidence like this confirms that healthcare has a long way to go to ensure that LGBTQI+ persons can experience the same level of care and respect as everyone else. And particularly with their mental health.

Same-sex marriage became legal in the UK in 2014.
Being LGBTIQ+ doesn’t cause mental health issues. But some things LGBTIQ+ people go through can affect their mental health, such as discrimination, homophobia or transphobia, social isolation, rejection, and difficult experiences of coming out.

image by Dorset Wedding Photographer

Dorset Mind

Dorset Mind charity delivers a safe, confidential and accepting space for LGBTQI+ people experiencing mental health issues.

MindOut is delivered pan-Dorset every other week online. It comprises recovery-based peer and guided support with time to share experiences with others, followed by inclusive workshops.

Visit Dorset Mind’s website at https:// dorsetmind.uk/help- and-support/support- groups/lgbtiq/ for more information.

If you find yourself in a crisis, call 999 – or the Samaritans FREE on 116 123 if you need emotional support – it’s available 24/7. Dorset Connection helpline is also 24/7 and can help FREE on 0800 652 0190 or by dialling 111 and selecting mental health.
For additional non-urgent mental health resources, support, and information, visit dorsetmind.uk.


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