By Dr. Omar Fattal
On March 30, 2017, the Arts, Sciences and Technology University in Lebanon hosted a seminar organized by the Muslim organization "Jamiyat al Irshad wal Islah al Khayriya al Islamia" during which Dr. Raef Rida spoke about homosexuality. The event was previously scheduled to take place at the American University of Beirut the week prior but was cancelled due to mounting pressures from various student groups.
During this seminar, Dr. Rida who presented himself as a urologist and an expert in sexual health put into question the removal of homosexuality from the DSM as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in "1973" and insisted that homosexuality is classified as a behavioral disturbance and therefore homosexuality is “deviant” and “not natural”. He did not clarify what he bases this claim on. He also claimed that the removal of homosexuality from the DSM was done solely due to pressure from “gay groups” in the United States.
He said that the APA forbids anyone from talking about homosexuality because talking about homosexuality will upset homosexual people. He did not clarify how the APA actually forbids people from discussing or researching homosexuality and did not provide any proof or examples.
He also insisted on the benefits of conversion therapy (therapy that claims to change one’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual). He specifically argued that homosexual people should be subjected to behavioral “electrical shock therapy” and “desensitization” to change their sexual orientation.
He stated that he proudly practices electrical shock therapy to convert homosexual people and claimed that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence supports this kind of therapy and that in China: “80% of patients subjected to shock therapy were cured of homosexuality”.
Below are helpful links that clarify the context in which the APA removed homosexuality from the DSM in 1974. Even though this decision was catalyzed by the work of advocacy groups, it was ultimately made based on scientific evidence that showed that homosexuality in and of itself did not cause any impairment. Since 1974, there have been no studies that proved the opposite i.e. that homosexuality is a disorder.
Conversion therapy is an antiquated and obsolete form of therapy. It’s obsolete because it’s based on the premise that homosexuality is a disorder that needs to be fixed, which is false. But it is also ineffective. Many studies have proven the futility of this kind of therapy and more importantly showed that it could have serious negative effects on individuals that receive it.
In addition to the APA, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society (LPS) and the Lebanese Psychological Association (LPA) asserted in 2013 that homosexuality is not a disorder and they both spoke out against conversion therapy and warned of its negative effects. The LPS stated: “In fact, there is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of “reparative therapy” as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation. More importantly, altering sexual orientation is not an appropriate goal of psychiatric treatment. Some may seek conversion to heterosexuality because of the difficulties that they encounter as a member of a stigmatized group. Clinical experience indicates that those who have integrated their sexual orientation into a positive sense of self-function at a healthier psychological level than those who have not.”
On the APA’s decision to remove homosexuality from the DSM:
On conversion therapy:
For Lebanese Psychiatric Society position statement on homosexuality and conversion therapy:
For Lebanese Psychological Association position statement on homosexuality and conversion therapy: