The Yahnke Tapes: Homosexuality as a Mental Illness.

A post by Neil Hart on homosexuality, LGBT, lesbian and gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.

The LCA College of Presidents sanctioned a seminar on sexuality which was held in the Mannum Lutheran Church South Australia in August this year. The Seminar entitled “Clear Conscience, Courageous Living” was conducted by the directors of “Doxology”, a recognised service organisation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. One of those directors is Beverly Yahnke a registered Clinical Psychologist who also serves as Professor of Psychology at The Lutheran Concordia University in Wisconsin.

Dr Yahnke conducted the first 2 sessions of the seminar which focused on homosexuality. It is disturbing that a person with attitudes such as those expressed in these 2 sessions is not only allowed to counsel young people who are gay or gender questioning but lectures undergraduate psychology students.

My previous post shows how she used a fabricated statements purporting to be the wording on a Californian Senate Bill to spread anti-gay community fear. Here is some more from the first session of the seminar.

Just to clarify, Dr Yahnke does not specifically state that she believes homosexuality should be considered a mental illness. She does not walk through that door. She does, however, lead the conference attendees down a corridor with only that one door at the end and holds it open for them to walk through.

She indicates that the change in the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) came about because of a “juggernaut of culture”. The change was not as a result of development of scientific research but due to  pressure from gay and lesbian lobby groups. She states that  70% of Psychologists at that time disagreed with the change.

Dr Yahnke indicates that the church should have been included in the discussion.  Perhaps this is the most telling statement of all. As a scientist (that is the word she uses to describe herself) and a medical practitioner would she seriously expect the church to have a say in what is and what is not considered a mental illness? Is there any other condition listed in the DSM that she believe that church should be consulted with as to its possible exclusion?

For the record, those who are interested in the body of research that led up to the removal of homosexuality from the DSM and a couple of the main players might want to read up on Evelyn Hooker and Robert Spitzer. Dr Hooker’s research in the area began in the 1950’s.  In 1991, the American Psychological Association honored Dr. Hooker with its Award for Distinguished Contribution to Psychology in the Public Interest, saying: “Her research, leadership, mentorship, and tireless advocacy for an accurate scientific view of homosexuality for more than three decades has been an outstanding contribution to psychology in the public interest.” (From boxturtlebulletin.com). It does not appear that Dr Hooker was gay or a part of any gay lobby.

Dr Yahnke,  you are clearly approaching this discussion as a person of faith from a faith perspective. That view appears to have  prejudiced you to the extent that you appear to be saying that homosexuality should still be classified as a mental illness. This is a view that places you at odds with the Association that provides you with your clinical license.  If you consider homosexuality to be a mental illness one wonders what therapies you might undertake to attempt to “fix” those in your care.

Dr Yahnke. You make light of the fact that homophobia is a very real issue faced by LGBT in general and young gay people in particular. Surely you are aware that these people suffer significant increased mental health problems including suicidal tendencies specifically because of the bullying they receive because of the homophobic societal attitude that you dismiss with a smile (accompanied by the laughter of the audience).

Definitely more to come on this…