I acknowledge the fact that we currently don't understand the causes of homosexuality nearly well enough, but I have read about the following points:

  • That homosexuality may not be a choice and could have genetic grounds (different studies and views presented in this article).
  • That it may be a result of a traumatic experience (as this article suggests).

Without intentional cause of offense, based on these I am under the impression that homosexuality could potentially be a mental disorder.

Within psychiatry, how is homosexuality discussed or classified?

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    $\begingroup$ Tossing in an alternative evolutionary theory (unproven, as far as I know, but just to give something to think about): Since they wouldn't have children of their own, their resources can go to supporting their nieces and nephews, resulting in a survival advantage for them. Any biological component could then be passed to future generations through those nieces and nephews. $\endgroup$
    – Izkata
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ While this question itself does not sound rhetorical, many of the followup comments sure sound to me like concern trolling, aka "but are you really really sure it's not a disorder?" I am really not comfortable with the way the OP appears to be angling for us to tell him it is a disorder. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 6:21
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    $\begingroup$ If anything, human biggotry is a worse evolutionary trait, and we are still having issues trying to shave it off. Homosexuality is just a problem because society makes it so. $\endgroup$
    – T. Sar
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 11:25
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    $\begingroup$ Key word being credible studies. Because of the literally hundreds of gay men I know--myself included--I've never heard a single one of us say that. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ The question itself is not that offensive, but the OP clearly isn't interested in an answer, they already have a rather obvious opinion and simply want confirmation. And the correct answer is pretty obvious: No it isn't as it's not, in and of itself, detrimental to normal functioning (even child bearing) $\endgroup$
    – Maxim
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 23:10

6 Answers 6


To add to these great answers, I'll go on and link to this article. It discusses the DSM (as mentioned in other answers), but also includes a discussion of the homosexual classifications in the ICD (which is maintained by the WHO, as opposed to the APA). The ICD is much broader than the DSM, though. "It is distinguished from the DSM in that it covers health as a whole" (Wikipedia).

As with all other answers to this question, the answer from both of the manuals is currently "no" (though it was "yes" for both of these in the past).

However, relating to the mention of homosexuality not being a choice: if someone was homosexual, but wished they weren't (or weren't homosexual, but wished they were), this may classify under ego-dystonic sexual orientation, which is listed under the ICD-10 as a disorder of sexual development and orientation. It is not formally listed under the DSM (though it can still be implied: read the linked Wiki article for more details). This is also discussed in @Chris' answer.

The disorder here wouldn't be the homosexuality per se, but the fact that the sexual orientation clashes with the individuals ideal self image. An example may be something like this case of a homophobic homosexual (the key piece being that someone wants to be different than how they are).

  • $\begingroup$ Ego-Dystonic Sexual Orientation is another name for EDH (Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality) which I covered in my answer. It was in the DSM but was removed in 1987. The ICD differs from the DSM on many grounds, but in the US and UK the DSM is currently the go-to for diagnosis whereas the ICD is for classification for statistical purposes (for WHO economics research etc.). "In the future, [the ICD] may be viewed as an important textbook of psychiatric diagnosis rather than as the diagnostic 'Bible.'" (see link) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris Sorry, didn't see that: cross-answer mention included. I mention generically that they are distinct, and each of the references in my answer discusses this (to varying degrees). Yes, the purposes are different, but they are both official and widely used classifications (and, I thought, should both be mentioned). $\endgroup$
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ I saw your point @mfloren. While both DSM and ICD are used, it is worth noting the differences between the usage of such references which is why I highlighted that point. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris :) Ah: understood! :) I shouldn't be so titchy: too much coffee this morning, I guess... $\endgroup$
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris And re-reading that link, I think that the speaker is discussing "[the DSM]" and not "[the ICD]"... Full sentence: "But, said Reed, 'there would still be a role for the DSM, because it contains a lot of additional information that will never be part of the ICD. In the future, it may be viewed as an important textbook of psychiatric diagnosis rather than as the diagnostic 'Bible'.' " $\endgroup$
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 16:59

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed the diagnosis of “homosexuality” from the second edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) (Jack Drescher, 2015).

Theories of pathology which declared that some internal defect or external pathogenic agent causes homosexuality, have been rejected, such as the theories of immaturity which considered the homosexuality a "developmental arrest".

It is rare to find a theory of homosexuality that does not draw upon gender beliefs that contain implicit cultural ideas about the “essential” qualities of men and women. Who is a real man? Who is a real woman? Since there weren't scientific evidences to claim: "Homosexuality is a mental disorder", after a vote, Homosexuality has been depathologized.

Accordingly, the answer to your question is no. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder, it's just a normal sexual orientation.

For further informations i suggest: "Out of DSM: Depathologizing Homosexuality" (Jack Drescher) 2015 : LINK:


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    $\begingroup$ "Theories of pathology which declared that some internal defect or external pathogenic agent causes homosexuality, have been rejected." By whom? You also claim that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. $\endgroup$
    – Charlie
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ Wikipedia posit: On 15 October 1973 the Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry Federal Council declares homosexuality not an illness – the first such body in the world to do so; in December the American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II), based largely on the research and advocacy of Evelyn Hooker". I wish to have been more clear: to consider homosexuality as a mental illness is just an obsolete cultural heritage founded on no scientific evidences. $\endgroup$
    – Fil
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ Just as one could imagine a society that contained almost no theists (or where atheists had massive political power) might declare religious belief to be mental illness. It could make similar disadvantage arguments about religiously-motivated celibacy. It would equally be unscientific prejudice masquerading as medicine/science. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Charlie Homosexuality has no effect on fertility, therefore claiming it affects "functioning" is incorrect. Many homosexual people sire or bear children. Furthermore, claiming that reproduction is the only function of human life leads to some pretty disgusting consequences which you really need to consider before going down that road. Incest, rape, and child pregnancy are all perfectly legitimate strategies if reproduction is all that matters, and obviously we as a society reject that view. $\endgroup$
    – barbecue
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Charlie "What is a disorder except something that deviates from the typical?" Your definition of disorder is appallingly wrong. By your definition, blonde hair, freckles, and blue eyes are also disorders. $\endgroup$
    – barbecue
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 17:38

Whilst there have been arguments for the idea that homosexuality has a genetic base or a result of malformations of human development, today's consensus is that homosexuality is a normal variant of human behaviour (e.g. Gonsiorek, 1982) [not resulting in — or a result of — psychological disturbances or maladjustment], and therefore it is not a mental disorder.

Homosexuality was considered to be a mental disorder in 1973, but it is not now [as of 1987].

The history

There is an extensive write-up on the history of this on the AGLP Website, and when classifying behaviours as mental disorders, you currently need to refer to the the American Psychiatric Association [APA] publication, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM]. homosexuality had been officially classified as a mental disorder in first DSM [DSM-1] in 1952. However, the APA removed homosexuality from the DSM (AGLP, n.d.).

Presented with data from researchers such as Alfred Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker, the sixth printing of the DSM-II, in 1974, no longer listed homosexuality as a category of disorder.

Although some investigations published since Hooker's study have claimed to support the view of homosexuality as pathological, they have been methodologically weak. Many used only clinical or incarcerated samples, for example, from which generalizations to the population at large are not possible. Others failed to safeguard the data collection procedures from possible biases by the investigators – for example, a man's psychological functioning would be evaluated by his own psychoanalyst, who was simultaneously treating him for his homosexuality.

Some studies found differences between homosexual and heterosexual respondents, and then assumed that those differences indicated pathology in the homosexuals. For example, heterosexual and homosexual respondents might report different kinds of childhood experiences or family relationships. It would then be assumed that the patterns reported by the homosexuals indicated pathology, even though there were no differences in psychological functioning between the two groups.

In a review of published studies comparing homosexual and heterosexual samples on psychological tests, Gonsiorek (1982) found that, although some differences have been observed in test results between homosexuals and heterosexuals, both groups consistently score within the normal range. Gonsiorek concluded that "Homosexuality in and of itself is unrelated to psychological disturbance or maladjustment. Homosexuals as a group are not more psychologically disturbed on account of their homosexuality" (Gonsiorek, 1982, p. 74)

(Source: University of California, Davis)

After a vote by the APA trustees in 1973, and confirmed by the wider APA membership in 1974, the diagnosis was replaced with the category of "sexual orientation disturbance" and a related but less public controversy involved what became the DSM-III category of Ego-dystonic Homosexuality [EDH] (Spitzer, 1981).

During the revision process of DSM-III in the mid 1980's EDH also engendered enormous controversy. In these debates openly gay and lesbian members of the APA played a decisive role in bringing about change (Krajeski 1996). Those on the APA Advisory Committee working on the revision who wanted to retain the EDH category argued that they believed the diagnosis was clinically useful and that it was necessary for research and statistical purposes. The opponents noted that making a patient's subjective experience of their own homosexuality the determining factor of their illness was not consistent with the new evidence-based approach that psychiatry had espoused. They argued that empirical data do not support the diagnosis and that it is inappropriate to label culturally induced homophobia as a mental disorder. The APA Committee agreed with the opponents and the diagnosis of ego-dystonic homosexuality was removed from DSM-III-R (1987).


AGLP, n.d. The History of Psychiatry & Homosexuality [Online]
Available at: http://www.aglp.org/gap/1_history

Gonsiorek, J. C., 1982. Results of psychological testing on homosexual populations. In: W. Paul, J. D. Weinrich, J. C. Gonsiorek, & M. E. Hotvedt (Eds.), Homosexuality: Social, psychological, and biological issues (pp. 71–80). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage

Krajeski, J., 1996. Homosexuality and the mental health professions. In: Textbook of Homosexuality and Mental Health, ed. R. Cabaj & T. Stein, pp 17-31. Washington: American Psychiatric Press.

Spitzer, R.L., 1981. The diagnostic status of homosexuality in DSM-III: a reformulation of the issues. American Journal of Psychiatry. 138(2): pp 210–215.
PMID 7457641. DOI: 10.1176/ajp.138.2.210.

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    $\begingroup$ What is a non-normal variant of human behavior? Every kind of human behavior and every mental disorder has occurred throughout history. Is all behavior therefore normal? $\endgroup$
    – yters
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ "They argued that empirical data do not support the diagnosis and that it is inappropriate to label culturally induced homophobia as a mental disorder"? There's something off about this sentence. I know what it's trying to say, but... $\endgroup$
    – spender
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Charlie If you're looking for a claim with evidence as objective as something like physics, I don't believe you're going to find any in the cognitive sciences at this point in history. The mind poses significant challenges to that sort of analysis. The answers here have given you a good indication of the current opinion of cognitive science experts. You are not under obligation to believe their analysis is unbiased or correct, but this is about as good an answer as a cognitive scientist can give you. $\endgroup$
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 4:23

The idea that homosexuality is disadvantageous from an evolutionary perspective is, in my view, an example of how cultural bias is confused with biological process. While there is evidence that sexual identity has some genetic basis, it is certainly a complicated feature of our identity that cannot be explained by a single gene, and should not be oversimplified into saying 'gay men had so and so trauma'. To me, that sounds similar to the argument 'vegetarians were never taught to hunt', i.e we're taking a complicated matter and trying to explain it using an argument that is based on shaky and highly individual grounds. It sounds like you're not offering any evidence on this (correct me if I'm wrong), but instead basing your claim off of some stereotypes and anecdotes about gay men. Well, how about gay women? Or bisexual people?

Crucially, we cannot, in a just society, consider homosexuality (or any sexual or gender identity) as a mental disorder, because that denies individuals the right to self-identify. If everyone who is gay is said to have a disorder, then we take away the right of those people to speak for themselves and describe their own experiences.

Finally, we shouldn't base our mental disorders off of the question 'does this help one achieve the goals of living and breeding?' This would be an example of teleological thinking about evolution, that is, assuming that evolution has a specific end goal in mind. Evolution, instead, is a natural process based off of random chance. It does not make sense to assume that what is good for our species (classically, surviving and breeding) should be the same as what is good for an individual member of the species.

I hope this answer was a helpful addition to the discussion.

  • $\begingroup$ Some of the things you have objected to on my post were actually edited in, I didn't write them. But in response to saying that homosexuality shouldn't be called a disorder, I believe that it would help one better understand why they feel the way they do and potentially help them better understand themselves. I believe this is more productive than simply saying "it is what it is". Regardless of whether we call homosexuality a disorder, the way we currently perceive homosexuality is not constructive. $\endgroup$
    – Charlie
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 22:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Charlie Here's my concern: are you gay? No need to answer. I am. I can tell you that someone saying that homosexuality is a disorder does not help me understand my identity. Maybe that helps straight people understand. If a gay person thinks their identity is a disorder, then that is their feeling and is valid for them. However, if you're suggesting that considering gayness a disorder would make life easier for all gay people, then I must strongly disagree. I think that is exactly the kind of practice which leads to gay and trans people committing suicide at a such a high rate. $\endgroup$
    – M_B
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Charlie The notion that homosexuality is a net loss from an evolutionary perspective isn't something that's been officially (from a scientific perspective) "sorted out". Richard Dawkins, for example, discusses the "gay uncle" theory, as one possible theory for the survivability of the "gay gene", if inherent homosexuality can be reduced to a single gene. Also, bisexuality provides a plethora of discussions on the same note. $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 23:52

Not by the standards of the DSM-IV-TR. Other answers discuss the case of homosexuality specifically, but the general principles of psychiatric diagnosis also rule out the idea of homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The DSM-IV-TR characterizes a mental disorder as "a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual [which] is associated with present distress… or disability… or with a significant increased risk of suffering." It also notes that "no definition adequately specifies precise boundaries for the concept of 'mental disorder'… different situations call for different definitions". It states that "there is no assumption that each category of mental disorder is a completely discrete entity with absolute boundaries dividing it from other mental disorders or from no mental disorder" (APA, 1994 and 2000).

Mental disorders are defined by distress, disability, and suffering, not by nebulous concepts like evolutionary fitness. Likewise, they are not defined by choice or nature or nurture.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi brad, welcome at CogSci. I like your addition to the other answer. I do think, however, that one could argue that homosexuality is a "disability" to form proper relations with a woman. I do not agree with this view, but it is possible that someone perceives it in that manner. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 6:59
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    $\begingroup$ @RobinKramer I find your use of the word "proper" to be rather troubling. Also, you seem to be assuming that only men are homosexual. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ Hi @DavidRicherby, just to clarify: the potential point of view that I described is not one I share. I just said that, given Bradd's explanation, multiple interpretations are possible, also one where "proper" is used in a troublesome manner. Thus, it was exactly my point to use it in that manner. And obviously the same argument can be used for female homosexuals. For the sake of simplicity of brevity of the argument, I chose one as an example. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 8:53
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    $\begingroup$ As someone from the psychology field, I have to agree with @RobinKramer so I have up-voted his comments as useful. He was courteous, saying that the answer was useful, which it is, +1 for the additional answer too and welcome to CogSci, and as pointed out, that while the comment on "proper relationships" is not his point of view, it is a point of view shared by many people. Different people have different points of view, but as the answers given here indicate for well explained reasons, homosexual preference(s) are not considered mental illnesses within the field of psychology. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ At least no more so than heterosexual preferences. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 18:01

For something to be a disorder, it must of itself cause a negative outcome for the individual.

(As an aside: "...there is a recurring theme among men who live a homosexual lifestyle that they had an absence of a father figure and attempt to overcompensate..." Evidence required, please?)

"...as gay couples can not generate offspring..." This statement implicitly assumes that offspring can only be generated as part of a relationship, which is clearly and categorically untrue. Of course two gay people cannot (without medical help) produce offspring, but a gay person is perfectly at liberty to have heterosex if they choose. This may be as part of a relationship (as Kinseyshowed first, homo/hetero preferences are a sliding scale and not binary), because they enjoy heterosex but do not form heterosexual relationships, or simply holding their nose and doing something distasteful because they want the results. In the latter case, "the results" doesn't just include children but also social acceptance in a homophobic social environment.

Naturally it is physically easier for a woman to have heterosex without enjoyment than a man. Even so though, it is perfectly possible for a man to keep a mental fantasy going which does allow him to perform, even if he doesn't find his partner attractive. A genetic cause for homosexuality therefore cannot be "evolved out", because there is no limit to homosexual people of either gender having children. This therefore puts homosexuality into the same category as lefthandedness - a deviation from the majority, certainly, but not one which makes an evolutionary difference.

This all purely relates to whether homosexual people are physically able to conceive children. Survival and life chances are also highly relevant to whether a child prospers though, after the child has been conceived. This is hard to analyse, but studies of outcomes since gay couples have been allowed to adopt suggests that they are at least as good parents as heterosexual couples.

So your proposition fails. Homosexuality cannot be a disorder, because it does not by itself produce any negative outcomes for the individual.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Graham, Welcome at CogSci. Do you have any scientific references that could back up the claims you make? Without grounding, it is difficult to verify the truth of these remarks. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ Hi @Graham and welcome to CogSci. Whilst you put forward an interesting answer, I feel through reading your answer that you may be a little confused with the question, however I may be wrong as again it is down to interpretation...(Cont.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ (Cont.)...Whilst your argument on Kinsey's Heterosexual–Homosexual Rating Scale "a gay person is perfectly at liberty to have heterosex if they choose" holds true for those whose rating is 5 or below, (1 - 5 being bisexual), those whose rating is 6 are exclusively homosexual; and whilst there are exceptions, generally speaking they would not entertain a heterosexual encounter just as much as a 0 rated person would not entertain a homosexual encounter. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ @RobinKramer Added references to Kinsey and a reference to comparisons of gay/straight adopters. For historical figures who maintained marriages whilst being gay though, there are too many to choose from, but I'll try. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 11:09

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