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81 Words and It’s Effect on Gay America
Myc’Kell Greg Toney
University of Michigan Ann-Arbor

Imagine an alternate universe where it was seen as morally reprehensible to consume cheese. What if brie, cheddar, and worst of all pepper jack, were considered abominations and any American who was caught consuming or producing the delectable dairy product would be deemed societal deviant and could be jailed indefinitely or thrown into a mental ward until medical professionals decide that you have been adequately cured of your dairy addiction? It seems strange that something that comes across so naturally can be decided by a majority to be deviant and outside of the norm; yet this was exactly how many in the gay community felt in the early seventies when being homosexual was considered to be a mental disorder. In 81 Words (Spiegel 2002), an episode of the popular radio show This American Life, Alix Spiegel, granddaughter of former American Psychological Association president-elect John P. Spiegel, discusses the climate during the demedicalization of homosexuality from being a mental disorder.

The Diagnostic Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, is probably second only the bible when it comes to texts that have had a profound impact on the public perception and the history of the gay community and movement. The DSM is a manual that lists all of the mental disorders that have been diagnosed by the APA, the association of the leading psychologists and psychiatrists in the country; the tome is taught to all up an coming mental healthcare professionals and was instrumental in the medicalization of homosexuality (Spiegel 2002). Medicalization is the process in which distinctly non-medical aspects of life are diagnosed in medical terms, usually as an illness or disorder (Conrad pg.1110). According to 81 Words (Spiegel 2002), with homosexuality listed as a clinical mental illness that could be diagnosed, psychiatrists skyrocketed up the...
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