Note: This post has been updated after the jump.
Mental health practitioners say they regularly confront extreme forms of racism, homophobia and other prejudice in the course of therapy, and that some patients are disabled by these beliefs. As doctors increasingly weigh the effects of race and culture on mental illness, some are asking whether pathological bias ought to be an official psychiatric diagnosis.
As Glenn rightly points out, homosexuality was itself considered a disorder deserving of psychiatric diagnosis not terribly long ago. As we now know, homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism are merely shades and hues on a broader, complex spectrum of human sexuality. Psychiatric diagnosis was less a function of objective psychology than social approval and disapproval being codified in official scientific interpretation.
While racism and homophobia should be condemned in our larger society as potentially poisonous component parts of modern ideologies, it is fair to question whether or not our current (and correct) disapproval of these behaviors rises to the level of medical and scientific codification. Mental illness is a seriously stigmatic label, implying neurological and biological disfunction in an individual.
However, as Dan (who blogs as GayPatriotWest) notes, extreme bias as a psychiatric classification would necessarily have to extend beyond our own levels of disdain for beliefs beyond social acceptability if it were to be a truly honest and objective area of study.
. . . I’ve seen a few cases of conservatives whipped into a lather at the mere mention of those dread liberals. If pathological hatred of one social group is a mental disorder, then shouldn’t we also consider pathological hatred of one’s political adversaries as a similar disorder? That type of hatred seems to be on the rise in recent years.
It's an excellent point to note that "extreme bias" is an increasingly politicized construct. As society evolves with an emphasis on politics and sociology, racism, homophobia, and sexism become increasingly marginalized modes of acceptable thought. However, humans being humans, we have always in our history felt a need to identify and oppose "the other." It is in our nature.
In America, notions of "the other" are increasingly sublimated and expressed in radicalized politics. Even cursory visits to wells of radical thought such as Democratic Underground or Free Republic reveal deep currents of extreme bias and belief systems that rely less on thoughtful consideration and logic, than a visceral, deeply imbedded hatred and suspicion of those who are different.
It is interesting to note the psychiatrists pushing for medical classification of "extreme bias" have selected politically correct targets for diagnosis, rather than take an honest, wider-ranging view of American behavior in general as expressed among the political fringes. Racism and homophobia are easy targets for psychiatric diagnosis because of the strong disapproval, but it is more than wise to question whether or not this stems from genuine scientific inquiry or whether or not politically-motivated individuals in the field are attempting to codify their personal beliefs in psychology as those who disapproved of homosexuality before them once did.
Science, by definition, should be apolitical. It seems - like their Intelligent Design counterparts on the Right - some individuals on the Left have no scruples over using science and medicine to cement their beliefs under the flimsy veil of objective observation.
We should set a long-term goal to get the psychological and psychiatric associations to officially make bigotry a mental disorder. The religious right would flip, fun in and of itself, but this would set the tone for an entire change in the culture, where prejudice of any kind of is considered the work of sick people. That would influence every debate the religious right tries to weigh in to.
I'm really quite serious. One of the large gay groups need to pick this up and run with it. It will take years to achieve, but it's the kind of long-term goal the religious right loves to embrace. A goal that ends up changing the underlying culture and helps them on EVERY issue.
The religious right is mentally ill.
Aside from the lack of self-awareness and great irony in this, I had an inkling that perhaps this direction would be an eventual consequence of the views expressed in the Washington Post article. However, I thought that might be a bit too speculative to include in my original post. Wouldn't this development, no matter how small the potential, be years off? Who in their right mind would recommend such a thing?
The Far Left.
That's right, leftist radicals are now promoting weaponized psychiatry in their political wars. The religious right Intelligent Design zealots, and the unhinged radicalized Left-wing: two sides of the same extremist, anti-science coin.
It's all so terribly progressive.
Update Update: Homomojo brings up very serious, very salient point even gay liberals should consider carefully before embracing Aravosis' views:
I think it's VERY dangerous to classify homophobia as a mental disorder. It'll only lead to criminals getting off due to their "unfortunate condition". We already have too many hate crimes being excused by so-called "gay panic".
Why would anyone who supports hate crime law as a method of reducing violence against minorities support a potentially air-tight defense for the perpetrator? Does hatred of the religious right trump justice for victims of hate crime? Apparently so.