THE MOST IMPORTANT achievement of the early gay liberation movement was its pressure on the American psychiatric establishment to reexamine its evidence for classifying homosexuality as a mental illness. It was important because if gays weren’t mentally ill, it was hard to justify any kind of discriminatory policies or treatment.

I’ve talked about this before. Social issues are medicalized, and folks suffer for it. It’s real. And it’s worth resisting. Queer communities ought to contest the way in which their lives are made the subject of this kind of talk. What we must be careful to ask is how we are to resist.

Because the power relations that class sane and insane are still present after such a “liberation.” In fact, they are rendered all the more believable if medicalized labels reflect social practices. A liberal society that treats a gay man as a hysteric is thought to be archaic, but if they apply the same treatment to a woman who has been traumatized…well, that’s just good medicine.

Don’t fight the label. Fight the system that assigns it.


Hat tips to Allison Hymes and Flawed Plan.