Homosexuality is a mental illness, at least according to the head of Northern Ireland’s health committee. Iris Robinson MP, who, with impeccable timing, put forth her views on a radio show while responding to the news that a local man had been badly beaten in a homophobic attack.
After apparently branding homosexuality as “disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile” she went on to recommend that “I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals – trying to turn away from what they are engaged in”.
The “lovely psychiatrist” turns out to be Paul Miller who doesn’t actually seem to defend the idea that homosexuality is a mental illness but does seem to have a sideline in assisting people to change their sexual orientation.
In a recent newspaper article Miller claims this is based on research:
Dr Miller cited a study by American psychiatrists Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse which he said concluded that people can change sexual orientation and that the process of change was not damaging.
“That was a very robust study because in the past, and rightly so, people who worked in this field were criticised for not having robust research.”
So what is this research Miller talks about? A randomised controlled trial from the peer-review medical literature? A meta-analysis of past treatment programmes? Perhaps just an exploratory outcome study?
No, it’s a book released by a Christian publisher and written by a psychologist and psychiatrist employed by a private evangelical college in the States.
In a subsequent BBC interview on her comments, Mrs Robinson well, just keeps on digging.
For those of you interested in the new fangled practice of ‘evidence based medicine’ that seems not to have caught up with Iris Robinson, one of the most influential studies on the mental health of homosexuals was published in 1957.
Conducted by psychologist Evelyn Hooker, it used several measures to profile a group of homosexual and heterosexual males and asked a number of psychiatrists to determine who was gay and straight just by looking at the data from the mental health assessments.
They couldn’t, and two thirds of both of gay and straight samples were rated as well-adjusted. This was the first of many studies that showed that there is nothing innately psychopathological about homosexuality.