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4 Key Ways APA Supports the LGBT Community: Happy Pride Month!

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By Clinton Anderson, PhD (Director, APA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns Office)

When one has worked on anything for as long as I have worked on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues for the American Psychological Association—26 years in August—I think it is helpful to remember some history.  It has been 40 years since a few gay psychologists stood up at a program on homosexuality at the 1973 APA convention in Montreal and said “enough.” No longer would it be OK for psychologists to talk about lesbian and gay people unless lesbian and gay people were involved in the conversation.

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, and in celebration I want to review four ways in which APA supports LGBT Pride and the health and wellbeing of LGBT people.

1.       APA Opposes Anti-LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace and Schools

The same psychologists who stood up in Montreal went on to demand that APA take a stand against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which APA did in 1975.  Even though many states and other jurisdictions, as well as many private employers, have adopted non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity, there is still no federal protection from discrimination in schools and in the workplace.  APA supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to a list of classes protected from discrimination in employment and in schools.

In an encouraging sign, both pieces of legislation have been introduced in the House and Senate this year.  APA will continue to advocate strongly for fully inclusive versions of ENDA and SNDA. You can help! Join our Public Policy Advocacy Network to receive alerts on these and other priority issues.

2.       APA Advocates on Behalf of the Transgender Community

It took APA more than 30 years to fully incorporate issues of gender diversity and transgender people into its work, but transgender people now have APA’s attention and an increasing amount of attention from psychological researchers and practitioners.  APA has published a public education brochure on transgender people and gender identity.

In its 2008 report, APA’s Task Force on Gender Identity and Gender Variance recommended that APA adopt the Resolution on Transgender, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Nondiscrimination. The resolution supports the legal and social recognition of transgender individuals and calls for insurers to cover gender-transition medical treatments.  The Task Force also recommended that APA adopt guidelines for psychological practice with transgender and gender-diverse clients, which are currently being developed.

3.       APA Supports Marriage Equality and Parental Rights of LGBT People

APA’s journey to address LGBT parenting rights and marriage equality mirrors the emergence of these issues in the wider culture.  In 1976, APA adopted a short, but clear policy – Child Custody or Placement, followed in 2004 with Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children. This second policy statement not only stated that the science indicates that lesbians and gay men are as fit to be parents as heterosexuals, but that discrimination against them is what negatively impacts their children.

In 2004, the organization weighed in on the national, and now global, same-sex marriage debate with the Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Marriage.  In 2011, APA declared its support of marriage equality and now offers several resources on marriage and family issues for same-sex couples.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s imminent rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 could affect millions of Americans. APA recently filed amicus briefs stating that there was “no scientific basis for prohibiting same-sex marriage.” Research shows that sexual orientation is “not chosen and resistant to change” (Hollingsworth v. Perry), and that “denying federal recognition to legally married same-sex couples stigmatizes them” (U.S. v. Windsor).

4.       APA Opposes Sexual Orientation Change Efforts

APA has had significant impact upon the contentious social issue of sexual orientation change efforts, also known as “conversion” or “reparative therapy.”  The organization first addressed the matter with its 1997 policy, Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation grounded from the perspective of ethics, and then again in 2009 when APA’s Task Force of the same name issued its report and recommended the policy, Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts, adopted in 2009.  This issue, too, has taken on global relevance and APA’s position and science-based reasoning is proving valuable for health care professionals, advocates, and policy makers far beyond our borders; something which those psychologists standing up 40 years ago probably could not have imagined.


APA commends the U.S. Supreme Court rulings finding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and dismissing California Proposition 8. Read APA’s amicus briefs in both cases.

We want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments:

What are you doing to celebrate Pride Month?

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