Mercedes Allen

Alberta Delists Homosexuality as a Mental Disorder

Filed By Mercedes Allen | December 22, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Alberta, Canada, mental disorder

After several steps backward with the delisting of health care coverage for gender reassignment surgery,albertacoatofarms_2.jpg a parental rights bill that enables parents to remove their kids without penalty from classes not consistent with their beliefs, an outright refusal to include trans people in revisions made to the Alberta Human Rights Act, and an Alberta Health Act that still leaves many glaring questions, the province may finally take a baby step forward.

Thirty-seven years after homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Alberta says (again) that it will finally remove homosexuality from its diagnostic code. According to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by human rights activist Rob Wells, between 1995 and 2004, the diagnosis was used 1,782 times.

The province has known about the classification for more than a decade and the Conservative government first promised to change it in 1998. On Tuesday, Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky repeated that promise.

Alberta uses a code system that is somewhat based on the ICD-9, which was written prior to the delisting of homosexuality. The Alberta Health and Wellness codes are available via the Edmonton Journal. Wells has filed a human rights complaint, noting that several attempts have been made to address the oversight:

Whereas I have raised this issue with my Member of the Legislature in 1997, and whereas the Minister, (then the Hon. Halvar Jonson) acknowledged my concerns, in his July 27, 1998 letter to Alberta Liberal Health Critic Mr. Gary Dickson Q.C. MLA, and wrote "One concern pertains to diagnostic code 302.0-homosexuality. Alberta Health uses a clinical modification of the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revsion (ICD-9) for diagnostic coding. This coding was developed by the World Health Organization and is used world wide. A new coding structure has been developed which Alberta Health is considering. This new coding will address the concerns regarding the classification of the diagnostic code for homosexuality."

Which, of course, is a promise that sounds remarkably like the one made on Tuesday.

(Crossposted to DentedBlueMercedes)


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Could you please avoid implying that that a very small potential gain for gays and lesbians somehow balances out repeated, tremendous blows against trans people?

I don't think that was her implication. I think she was just trying to catch up a mostly American audience on Alberta politics.

Believe me, I would have been a lot more forceful if I believed that was her intent! It's easy to accidentally imply things that you don't consciously mean, and unfortunately those implications are no less real than what you actually meant.


I wasn't saying that it benefitted trans people (and likewise, Bill 44's parental rights and the Alberta Health Act changes don't target only trans people), but that it's a step toward progress in general. Because none of us or our communities' struggles exist in a vacuum.

I sure as hell didn't get that from your post, Mercedes. I think it's just a case of the oppression olympics. It's so much easier to pitt gay vs trans as if it's a competition when sometimes they just have nothing to do with each other.

Oh, I have a substantive question: what did they use that diagnosis for? Was that prisons? People with other mental disorders? People who needed mental health care access?

I'm just wonder, because I don't think Alberta was paying for conversion therapy for gays.

I don't have those specific details in any of the media that has come out so far, but I have heard over the years of therapy happening for people struggling with their orientation and guilt, and I don't know if that has been channelled under treatment for homosexuality or treatment for depression / anxiety etc. It's conceivable that some reparative therapy may have occurred (although not in an Alberta Health -co-ordinated kind of way), through the biases of individual therapists. The concern with the listing, though, is that it certainly opens the door to that kind of exploitation of the medical system by anti-gay and ex-gay adherents.