The Influence of Evelyn Hooker


Removal of Homosexuality as a Mental Disorder in the DSM-III

     Up until the publication of the DSM-II in 1973, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals.  While it was technically “removed”  from the DSM , it got replaced with “sexual orientation disturbance”.  This created much controversy, which led the DSM-III to remove “sexual orientation disturbance”, and instead have a disorder called Ego-dystonic Homosexuality.  This disorder was characterized by someone wanting to have heterosexual relationships, but being unable to overcome their feelings towards the same sex, as well as them showing considerable distress over this issue.  In 1986 this disorder was completely removed from the DSM.        ( Herek, 2011) .

When the DSM I was first created, homosexuality was viewed as an abnormal and warped mental state that many people believed needed to be “treated”.  However, by the time the DSM-III came around it was about time for mental health professionals to recognize the changing times, and to accept that homosexuality is not a mental disorder.

     One of the prominent forerunners to proving that homosexuality could not be considered a mental disorder was Evelyn Hooker (1907-1996).  When Hooker applied for a grant to study differences in homosexuals versus heterosexuals in the late 1950’s she was warned that she may not receive the grant because at the time there were legal penalties for homosexuality, as well as strong beliefs in homosexuals being severely mentally ill.   However, she did receive the grant, and through that was able to begin her research that proved no significant difference in psychological adjustment capabilities between homosexuals and heterosexuals (Herek, 2011).

     For her testing she used a sample of both homosexual and heterosexual males, and had mental health experts (to keep it a single blind experiment, so that she would not have any biases to her research) administer the Rorschach, Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), and Make-A-Picture-Story (MAPS) test.  None of these experts were able to distinguish the homosexual males by their responses on the Rorschach, nor was there any significant difference on the other tests to imply that there are psychological differences in homosexuals versus heterosexuals. This was ground breaking research, as it supported the gay and lesbian groups of the times, by providing them with scientific backing for their demands for legal rights and equal treatment as homosexuals.  Hooker’s research  had the greatest impact on the removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973.

( Herek 2011).

Evelyn Hooker picture retrieved from

This page was created by Mary Hannick

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