By: Brandy Black
I just celebrated my birthday a couple weeks ago. I was born in 1973, the same year that change was declared impossible in the field of psychiatry for gays and lesbians, the year that 81 words became 263 in the nomenclature. It’s hard for me to believe that only 37 years ago, being gay was a mental illness. That notion seems like it should be centuries away from where we are today yet it was barely within my lifetime that I may have been locked up because of love for a human being of the wrong sex. I can’t possibly imagine what gays and lesbians of that time must have felt to be so deeply oppressed. It would make a person crazy don’t you think?
Susan and I sat in the car listening to NPR quietly playing on the radio as Sophia took her afternoon nap in the back. The story was about the history of the deletion of homosexuality in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and the people who fought against the psychiatric board, determined to prove that being gay is simply a variant from heterosexuality and not lunacy.
Prior to this great change in our history, homosexuality was pronounced by the Psychiatric authorities as a mental illness. “Much literature on mental health and homosexual patients centered on their depression, substance abuse and suicide.” Most of these studies were taken from prisoners and people under extensive psychiatric care. When one is not accepted for their lifestyle there is obviously a tremendous amount of stress that comes with that burden and so much so that it would likely drive you to severe depression. These arguments were passionately presented to the board of Psychiatry and at the end of it all it was determined that “social ostracism, legal discrimination, internalization of negative stereotypes, and limited support structures indicate factors homosexual people face in Western societies that often adversely affect their mental health”.
35 years later, in 2008, the year my beautiful daughter was born, we appointed for the first time in American history, an African American President. The night Barack Obama won I rocked Sophia to sleep sobbing for the amazing change of which our country is capable. I am proud to say that the only change that is impossible is that of who I was born to be- a girl who loves a girl who has a little girl that completes a happy family.