Hooker & Refuting Homosexuality as Perversion

The February 2011 issue of the APA Monitor on Psychology is now online. The Time Capsule section of this issue features an article by Katharine Milar on psychologist Evelyn Hooker’s work refuting homosexuality as a mental illness. “The Myth Buster” details Hooker’s study of gay men, the results of which were presented at the APA’s 1956 Annual Convention in Chicago and published the following year as “The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual”. The study would, as Milar asserts, help lead to the “removal of homosexuality as a form of psychopathology from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual III of the American Psychiatric Association” in 1973. For the study Hooker

recruited 30 exclusively homosexual and 30 exclusively heterosexual men, matched for age, IQ scores and education….Each participant took three projective tests: The Rorschach, the Make a Picture Story Test (MAPS) and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). After scoring the tests herself, she then gave the test protocols with all identifying information removed to experts in those tests: Bruno Klopfer for the Rorschach, Edward Shneidman, the inventor of MAPS, and Mortimer Meyer for the TAT. An adjustment rating was assigned to each participant based on the test scores, and then the experts were given paired Rorschach protocols, one from a gay participant, one from a straight participant and asked to identify the homosexual. As with heterosexuals, homosexuals’ adjustment varied from superior to disturbed. Two-thirds of the research participants in each group were judged as having average or better adjustment. Further, experts were unable to identify the gay participant’s protocol from the matched pairs at better than chance accuracy. There was no association between homosexuality and psychological maladjustment. One of her experts, who was sure he could distinguish the groups, asked for another chance to review the protocols, but was no more successful the second time than the first.

The full article can be read online here.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She completed her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

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