Queering Psychology? What does it mean?

the American Psychological Association (APA) officially embraced and encouraged the use of the singular "they" as the gender-inclusive alternative to "he" and "she" (more on that in future posts).

Queer Psychology

"Queering," in this context, means to look at the field of psychology, common terms, definitions, and concepts through the lens of queerness—outside the framework of heteronormativity, which is the cultural assumption that heterosexuality is the norm and that everyone fits the gender binary. It means looking at psychology through a culturally sensitive lens, responding in affirming ways to minority gender and sexual identities.

In 1973, the APA ruled in a historic moment that being gay was no longer a psychiatric illness, stating, "Clearly homosexuality does not meet these requirements: Many homosexuals are satisfied with their sexual orientation and demonstrate no generalized impairment." It wouldn't be until 1987 that it was fully removed from the DSM, and one Psychology Today author describes the history of this quite succinctly. In 1998, the APA issued a firm statement: "The APA opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as 'reparative' or 'conversion' therapy." The Trevor Project, an organization focused on suicide prevention for the LGBTQ community, notes that conversion therapy amplifies the shame, self-hatred, and stigma so many LGBTQ people already experience, leading to increased rates of depression, attempted suicide, and self-destructive behavior.

In 2001, United States Surgeon General David Satcher issued a report stating, "There is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed." This was significant progress, undeniably paving the way for a society that would allow important civil rights to follow.

But, there is a distinction between not seeing gayness as a mental disorder and treating and tending to the mental health needs of the LGBTQ+ community with skill and grace. The APA has affirmed the need to tend to the LGBTQ communities' mental health needs in a more nuanced way. In 2000, the APA issued its first set of guidelines specific to our community.


There are certain social constructs which are held as key identifiers for quantifying individuals; gender, sexuality, class status, for example. The universality that is placed upon these identities are painted as contrasting the hegemonic norm of cis, straight, male, and white. Such assumptions create harmful stereotypes that evolve and become the token understandings of diverse groups of people and cultures, which manifest in the minds of the majority. We see this reflected not just in the United State’s; this phenomenon has began to occur all over the globe. For as long as psychology has existed as a scientific field, it has had to fight to be respected as well as it’s counterparts in the hard sciences. As a social science, it seeks to pride itself on empiricism and fall back on the scientific method to maintain as close to epistemology as possible. However, Damien Riggs argues that we ought to view psychology as a “cultural practice” (2014). In his article, “challenging the monoculturalism of psychology”, we are taught to understand how social sciences create information that is based on specific representations of behaviors, cultures, and identities. In turn, the knowledge is produced by scholars who are more often than not in the seat of power when writing ethnographies and epistemologies; positionality comes into play quite frequently when writing about marginalized communities and too often scholars reproduce oppressive ideologies in their work. This information is then generalized to entire populations, without respect to the diversity that exists among groups we deem related. Queering Psychology 10 The masses are taught to find meaning in these categories of identity and begin to believe these things are inherently factual; in reality, these “truths” are based out of our unique understandings, comprised of the schemas we have put together. To be able to render information strictly unbiased is something that would take many levels of peer review, from scholars of various different backgrounds- even then, we can never be too sure.

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