How the right wing is distorting the information in the DSM IV-TR in an effort to defeat the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
It is unfortunate that the DSM IV-TR is available to the general public. First of all, it is not a new model of car or an electronic gadget. It is a book.
To be specific it is the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," fourth edition text revision, and it is a handbook intended to be used by trained practitioners in mental health fields. In fact, the introduction of the DSM IV warns against its use by untrained professionals, specifically mentioning its use in legal settings as potentially dangerous.
It is published by the American Psychiatric Association, and is intended as a semantic roadmap for mental health professionals, giving them a common language.
It was an earlier edition of this book that relegated gays and lesbians to the ranks of the mentally ill, and it was a later edition that — with a few words — magically cured us all.
Of course, it took a lot of work in the background by the Caucus of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Members of the APA as well as the sincere belief by many doctors that the empirical evidence showed that homosexuality did not belong in the manual.
This very brief background is intended to give you an idea of what the DSM IV-TR is. The fact that anyone can buy a copy means it can be used by folks who have no business even opening it — folks like the Traditional Values Coalition, to be specific.
If you haven’t guessed, the TVC is a right-wing fundamentalist group with a decidedly anti-human rights agenda. They are spreading lies about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and their words are in turn being used by the Republicans to bash LGBT people.
No surprise there. These people are using the DSM IV-TR to back up their claim that if ENDA is passed it would have a cataclysmic effect.
Here is one of the big lies they are propagating:
"What you may not know is that ENDA normalizes and provides special federal protection for 30+ bizarre sexual orientations listed by the American Psychiatric Association — the so-called ‘Dirty 30.’ These 30+ fetishes include behaviors that are felonies or misdemeanors in most states.
"ENDA’s ‘Dirty 30’ includes such bizarre criminal acts as incest, pedophilia, prostitution, bestiality and cross-dressing. If we don’t act today, Obama and Pelosi will normalize these disorders by federal law on April 21!"
Of course there is a big "Donate Now" button alongside this tripe. I guess that is so they can buy additional copies of the DSM IV-TR for their friends.
What they have done is list a few of the paraphilias discussed in the DSM IV-TR. Not only are these not considered sexual orientations, the manual does not include any references to sexual orientation as mental illness at all.
Much like fundamentalists quoting the Bible, these folks are cherry-picking their quotes, and they are taking them out of context to win their point. In other words the Traditional Values Coalition must not see the 9th Commandment as a "traditional value." I guess Charlton Heston would have something to say about that!
I believe this kind of pathological lying is also referred to in the DSM IV-TR, and is listed as a symptom of several disorders. This could put the TVC directly in company with malingerers and confabulators, as well as sufferers of Ganser’s syndrome, factitious disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders and just plain delusions.
Sounds like they keep pretty dicey company.
So, while their lie about the "Dirty 30" may roll off the tongue, it is a forked tongue at best.
(My special thanks to Lillith Grey for her kind fact-checking and suggestions.)
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 16, 2010.