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 FINNQUEER   Aug 8, 1996    
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Bieber is alive and well and lives in Finland!

Olli Stålström

This article was published in the Newsletter of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists, August 1996

Finnish activists demonstrated against Bieber's theories in the streets of Helsinki in front of TV cameras in 1991. British ALGP activists demonstrated in the streets of London against Socarides when he visited the British psychoanalytic society in December 1995.

Europeans have recently organized to protest against the abuse of psychiatry to discriminate against gays and lesbians. ALGP Europe (Association of Lesbian and Gay Psychologists) was organized in 1993 in Tampere, Finland, as a network of lesbians and gay men who work in the field of psychiatry and psychology.

We feel it would be important to join forces with our American colleagues and friends who work in the field of psychiatry. Members of ALGP Europe are doing research, writing articles and books. Our British members are editing a handbook of 'pink psychology' to be published this year. I'm a member of the Finnish branch of ALPG. We are also editing a book on homosexuality, intended for psychiatrists, psychologists and other professional helpers.

I was an exchange student in New York City in the Stonewall summer of 1969, where I was impressed by the liberationist spirit. Then I became one of the founders of the Finnish gay liberation front, SETA, in 1974. Now I'm lecturing sociology at Kuopio University, Finland, and finishing my PhD in the sociology of medicine on the medicalization of homosexuality.

I'll briefly describe how psychiatry is still being used as an ideology of oppression in Finland and propose some ways to cooperate between our American and European members.

* * *

For a quarter of a century now organized Finnish lesbians and gay men have been demonstrating in the streets of Helsinki against old American psychoanalytic theories, most notably Irving Bieber, and demanded freedom of speech and other civil rights. A curious situation in a country that has recently become a member of the European Union? Finland probably has the only censorship law in the world based on psychiatric arguments.

Finnish lesbians and gay men have been demonstrating in the streets of Helsinki against old American psychoanalytic theories

Traditionally Finnish psychiatry has had close connections with religion and the American adaptational school of psychoanalysis (Rado, Bergler, Bieber, Socarides). Historically the most influential person is Dr. Stenbäck, a professor of psychiatry and a priest. He has a long track record of fighting for what he sees as Christian values. In the 1940s he exhorted young Christians to support Hitler. In the 1950s he called for the castration of homosexuals in sex education handbook for teachers. In the 1960s, as a professor of psychiatry, he presented the scientific arguments that became the official doctrines of the Church and the Supreme Court and a cause of the censorship law: homosexuality can be rapidly spread by seduction or learning unless contained by law. In the 1970s he initiated legal proceedings against people who allegedly violated the censorship law. In the 1980s he was the Member of Parliament of the Christian Party. In the 1990s he is introducing the Nicolosi-Socarides reparative therapy.

Cooperation between the church and psychiatry led to the Finnish Supreme Court to give a statement to the Government in 1969 that the State must ensure that homosexuality will be perceived as "deviant and pathological" to make sure that the homosexuals would "seek treatment" and that this would be "successful". The Supreme Court further emphasized that "homosexuality must not be accepted as any kind of minority behavior" but that it must be considered a "pathological disturbance of the total personality". In 1971 this became a law, which criminalizes "public encouragement of homosexuality".

The law was enforced by the same person who created it, professor Stenbäck. He twice reported the Finnish Broadcasting Company to the police for allegedly violating the law. The first program in 1975 was a BBC documentary on Troy Perry's Metropolitan Community Church. The second program was an interview of a lawyer and a psychiatrist, who informed that homosexuality, had been declassified in the American classification. The psychiatrist was sued for allegedly breaking the law against 'encouragement of homosexuality'.

We have demonstrated against the law in the streets of Helsinki in the 1980s, and the police has confiscated the placards as illegal and interrogated us, but nobody has been jailed yet.

Another psychiatric act that helped create a protest movement was that the Irving Bieber text in the 1967 edition of the Kaplan & Freedman Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry was translated into Finnish and published in the first edition of Psykiatria, the Finnish handbook of psychiatry, in 1971.

Bieber's psychoanalytic study became the scientific norm on homosexuality in the United States until the APA removed homosexuality from DMS-III in 1974. In some countries, like Finland, the Bieber study has remained the standard text on homosexuality until today.

The Bieber sample consisted of 106 New York gay men in psychoanalytic therapy, collected in the early 1950s, all of them having serious mental problems: according to Bieber's own statistics, 27% suffered from schizophrenia, 29% of psychoneuroses, 42% of character disorders and the rest from other mental disorders (in addition to homosexuality). The patients suffered very much because of their homosexuality, 91% wanted to hide it, 60% wanted to be "cured".

Members of the Bieber research group never actually studied the patients. The study consisted of a questionnaire sent to several psychoanalysts, in which their opinion was asked about the family backgrounds and psychopathology of homosexuals patients they were treating. The patients themselves never saw these questionnaires. There was no control group of healthy homosexuals. Bieber's theoretical basis was that "heterosexuality is a biological norm" and that homosexuality is caused by "a hidden but incapacitating fear" of heterosexual copulation. Bieber claimed to speak for all psychoanalysts by writing that "all psychoanalytic theories share the viewpoint that homosexuality is a sickness".

Already in the 1960s both Bieber and Socarides warned against the dangers of accepting homosexuality as normal. When gay liberationists zapped the annual meeting of the APA in May 1970, Bieber declared: "I don't want to oppress homosexuals. I want to liberate them from what causes them pain - their homosexuality". In the same way professor Stenbäck and Achté helped create the Finnish movement. Having deprived us of the freedom of speech and comparing us to rats the leading psychiatrists radicalized the gay and lesbian movement in Finland.

As Foucault would put it, psychiatry has created what it tried to repress - a social protest movement.

The censorship law was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Committee for three year before it came to the conclusion in 1982 that, due to its internal limitations the Committee "cannot review in abstract whether national legislation contravenes the Covenant, although such legislation may produce adverse effects". In other words there has to be private person whose right have been violated before the United Nations can act. The law has not been used after in the 1990s, but we feel that its mere existence is a violation of human rights.

We have written several critiques on the Bieber text in the gay and lesbian but also the medical press, starting in the early 1970s. In 1991, to mark the death of Bieber, I reviewed the history of the Bieber text in Finland. It had been reprinted seven times essentially unchanged, although it was slightly shortened. The fact that homosexuality was declassified as an illness did not show in any way, nor was the research reviewed that led to the declassification. I also reviewed school books and noted that their chapters on homosexuality were derived from the textbook of psychiatry, i.e. that homosexuality is a disturbance caused by faulty parenting.

On August 29th, 1991 Bieber's eulogy was published in the leading British newspaper the Guardian. According to the eulogy "Bieber could never admit that he had made any mistakes.--- The criticism he had to face in his final years was painful, but he never changed his views".

Professor Achté, now retired, never changed the Bieber text.

Professor Achté, now retired, never changed the Bieber text. Finnish lesbians and gays are still classified as 'deviant', 'disturbed' , 'fixated', 'developmentally arrested' who have mental problems and difficulties forming relationships. Attitudes have improved in this decade and an anti-discrimination law has been passed. There is increasing discussion of legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples. But this has alerted the religious right and there is increasing pressure to remedicalize homosexuality.

The Nicolosi-Socarides reparative therapy movement has been introduced by the man behind the censorship law, professor Stenbäck in 1993. He reviews the causes of homosexuality: dominating mother and weak father (Bieber), preoedipal fears of an engulfing mother (Socarides). He cites their "cure rates": 1/3 to 1/2 of homosexuals can be 'cured'. He proves that homosexuality can be 'shaken off' by citing religious conversion therapies. According to professor Stenbäck homosexuality is learned by practicing it. Therefore it can be unlearned by not practicing it. The theories are not really taken seriously by psychiatrists but they have a strong influence among the religious right, which is politically powerful.

Dr. Päivi Räsänen, a physician and a Christian Member of Parliament has started a campaign against the legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples by claiming that "increasing numbers of homosexuals are turning to reparative therapy to get healed". Being afraid of the religious right, the minister of justice refuses to introduce the legislation, although most parties in the government support it. Dr Räsänen just wrote in the newspapers that homosexuals are dangerous because they recruit and molest children.

The leading psychiatrists are old and their extremist attitudes cannot be generalized. What is more disturbing, however, is that their theories are carried on by a new generation psychiatrists. A new edition of the largest medical handbook will be published by Weilin + Goos in the fall of 1996. Their psychiatric expert, a young woman, intends to write that the psychoanalytical theory defines as a perversion all other sexuality than heterosexuality, including homosexuality, zoophilia or paedophilia, which are sexual 'object disturbances'. "A person suffering from a disorder of sexual preference, has never grown up to be an adult". The cause of all perversions is a strong castration anxiety. Perversion is also, in this new medical handbook "sexual behavior where sexuality is an expression of hatred towards the object of sexual desire".

I protested against labeling homosexuality a 'perversion' and 'disturbance' and submitted an alternative text describing Freud's relatively liberal position, the Kinsey-institutes studies, and new ideas, such as Judith Butler's 'heterosexuals matrix' and Richard Isay's non-pathologizing psychoanalytic observations. The publisher's psychiatric expert dismissed these as 'unscientific' and they intend to go on labeling homosexuals 'disturbed' well into the next millennium.

I'm afraid we will have to protest again when that book is published in the fall. Can you give us support?

* * *

Although Finland is probably an extreme example, there is still a lot to do with European psychiatry and psychology. We would very much appreciate receiving articles, letters and ideas from you. Please let us know what publications, articles and books are forthcoming.

The following topics are among the most important right now: 1) Critique of the psychoanalytic theories that homosexuality is 'arrested development', 'fixation' and 'regressions', 2) The position of lesbian sexuality within contemporary psychiatry, 3) Studies of the family background of lgbt people, 4) Critique of the abuse of psychiatry to violate civil rights, 5) How to get psychoanalytic institutions to adopt anti-discrimination clauses like the American Psychiatric Association has done, 6) What is the state of the medicalization of homosexuality today?

Please send articles, letters and ideas to me, email or write letters and I will distribute your material throughout the European ALGP network.

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