Document Type


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Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology


Johns Hopkins University Press

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Arts and Humanities


The diagnostic revolution that culminated in the third edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1980) began with the publication in 1972 of the Feighner criteria, a set of rules for the identification of 16 disorders. While Feighner et al. claim that their diagnostic categories rest on solid data, the fact is that one was soon to be removed by the APA from its classification of mental disorders: homosexuality. However, the anomaly of an extinct category in a list of supposedly validated diagnostic criteria never became a point of discussion, quite as if the topic were unmentionable. It was in fact even more of an embarrassment than either side in the homosexuality debate seems to have realized at the time. Upon examination, the evidence offered by Feighner et al. in support of the diagnosis of homosexuality proves to be nil. Had there not been an informal embargo on discussion of the status of homosexuality in the Feighner document, the makers of DSM-III might have recognized that the diagnosis fails all Feighner tests of validity. Had they attached greater importance to these tests, the concept of a disorder that was built into DSM-III might have taken a different shape.


This article first appeared in Philosophy, Psychiatry. & Psychology, 2020.


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