Sexual orientation differences as deficits: Science and stigma in the history of American psychology

  • Herek G
  • 96


    Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
  • 49


    Citations of this article.


This article briefly describes how psychology, psychiatry, and the mental health professions (here collectively referred to as Psychology) treated sexual orientation differences as deficits for much of the 20th century, as well as some of the negative consequences that practice had for sexual minorities. The 1970s witnessed a remarkable turnaround when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the American Psychological Association called for psychologists to work to remove the stigma historically associated with homosexuality. This history illustrates not only how cultural institutions play a central role in legitimating stigma, but also how they can recognize their own complicity in this process and work effectively to undo its harmful effects. It is argued that Psychology still has an important role to play in challenging the differences-as-deficits model in contemporary policy debates.

Author-supplied keywords

  • And bisexual people
  • Gay
  • Heterosexuality
  • History of psychology
  • Homosexuality
  • Lesbian
  • Sexual orientation
  • Stigma and prejudice

Get free article suggestions today

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research

Sign up here
Already have an account ?Sign in

Find this document


  • Gregory M. Herek

Cite this document

Choose a citation style from the tabs below

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free