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Goldberg, A. (2001). Depathologizing Homosexuality. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 49(4):1109-1114.

(2001). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 49(4):1109-1114

Depathologizing Homosexuality

Arnold Goldberg

Pick up any textbook on pathology and more likely than not it will begin with a definition of the field. Routinely this is presented as the study of the nature of disease. The textbook I used in medical school proceeds then to define disease as “an abstraction” that cannot itself be observed; rather, it is established by extracting and totaling the characteristics of the sick that differ from those of the norm or the healthy. As we move from pathology to disease to sickness, little else is learned until we approach the idea of symptoms, which are regarded as evidence of disease. Symptoms are represented as alterations from the norm. These may be either subjective, such as pain, or objective, such as a rash. As long as we maintain that disease is manifested as an alteration of form or function, we are regularly thrown back to (1) a statistical standard for normality, which may be common enough for quantitative factors such as weight and blood pressure; (2) a purely subjective standard such as unhappiness; or (3) a cultural one that is more vague and depends on factors such as group acceptance. The last of these standards is typically resorted to in instances of behavior disorders involving such outward manifestations as thievery or anorexia. Clearly we cannot rely on statistical norms alone, inasmuch as some conditions (e.g., dental caries) are common but are correctly regarded as pathological. Neither, however, can we rely on group agreement alone, since everything from riots by mobs to hysterical reactions in the susceptible may be supported by one's immediate peers but outside the group be considered an alteration of function. Sometimes personal opinion carries the day. The move from physical disease to psychopathology is a fragile and treacherous one.


What does it mean to depathologize something? It is a declaration of health or freedom from illness.

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