An objection against the analogy between homosexuality and autism is that homosexuality is not disabling. That's fine. No analogy is ever going to be perfect. Some people think cancer is analogous to autism, despite the fact that cancer does not shape a person's way of being, and despite the fact that cancer gets gradually worse until the sufferer dies. Those same people who think cancer is analogous to autism are usually the ones who think homosexuality is a bad analogy. Go figure.
Incidentally, homosexuality has been compared to cancer.
Homosexuality is a disorder not in accord with Nature and, like cancer, heart disease or neurosis, is a reaction to circumstances non-existent in Nature but common in man-made circumstances.
What I was actually interested in researching is whether mainstream psychiatric opinion was that homosexuality is not disabling. I found some interesting parallels while doing so. The following is an excerpt of a 1967 letter to the British Medical Journal, by the authors of a paper on aversion therapy for homosexuality.
The argument that it is society that is wrong is very misguided. Which seems more unethical: To treat someone in distress, or to suggest to him that he waits until his practice is as socially acceptable as heterosexuality? The vast majority of our patients have been sad and unhappy individuals seeking help for a problem they see as central in their lives, and pleased with the results when these have been successful.
That is a familiar argument for sure. What are distress and sadness, except disabling? A similar view was expressed in retrospect by Charles W. Socarides in "How America Went Gay".
For most of this century, most of us in the helping professions considered this behavior aberrant. Not only was it "off the track"; the people caught up in it were suffering, which is why we called it a pathology. We had patients, early in their therapy, who would seek out one sex partner after another-total strangers-on a single night, then come limping into our offices the next day to tell us how they were hurting themselves. Since we were in the business of helping people learn how not to keep hurting themselves, many of us thought we were quietly doing God's work.
He then adds:
Excuse me. Gay is not good. Gay is not decidedly free. How do I know this? For more than 40 years, I have been in solidarity with hundreds of homosexuals, my patients, and I have spent most of my professional life engaged in exercising a kind of "pastoral care" on their behalf. But I do not help them by telling them they are O.K. when they are not O.K. Nor do I endorse their "new claim to self-definition and self-respect." Tell me: Have we dumped the idea that a man's self-esteem comes from something inside himself (sometimes called character) and from having a good education, a good job and a good family-and replaced that notion with this, that he has an affinity to love (and have sex with) other men?
Charles Socarides and Irving Bieber formed the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Deletion of Homosexuality from DSM-II in 1973 (source). Along with Edmund Bergler, these psychoanalysts were considered the last hold-outs of note against gay rights.
Edmund Bergler wrote a 1956 book whose title "Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life?" is reminiscent of arguments we hear today portraying the autistic self-advocacy position as one stating that autism is an "alternative lifestyle". The book apparently received positive reviews, including one in Time Magazine (source). From a review elsewhere we learn of arguments that appear familiar.
He again deplores that "Kinsey's fanstastically exaggerated figures" have done a disservice by playing into the hands of certain true (compulsive) homosexuals who tend to glorify their disorder as a "superior way of life."
The author concludes that "... to counteract this we must disseminate knowledge that there is nothing glamorous about suffering from the disease known as homosexuality."
I am not sure if there really were gay people with the sort of views Bergler refers to. I suspect the following type of reasoning in Bergler's part probably has to do with it, however: If you do not think you are inferior, then you must think you are superior. Even some autistic adults seem to reason in this manner, judging by the following passage from "Send in the Idiots" by Kamran Nazeer.
What I found myself arguing...was that it was arrogant to believe that I was better because I was autistic; perhaps it did equip me well for certain things, perhaps some of these were not trivial, perhaps, for example, something of my intelligence was related to being autistic; however, I had only reached the threshold beyond which I could even have this discussion with them Thanks, surely to professional help... and a lot of consideration, and work, and care.
Edmund Bergler was a harsh critic of Alfred Kinsey, who is considered the father of sexology. To put Kinsey in historical perspective, think of him as the Laurent Mottron or Morton Ann Gernsbacher of that period. (I would mention Michelle Dawson, but it is not clear if Kinsey was gay). Kinsey argued that homosexuality was common, natural and not harmful; and that there was a sort of sexual orientation spectrum that went from "exclusively heterosexual" to "exclusively homosexual". He came up with the Kinsey scale, which attempts to measure sexual orientation. The Kinsey scale reminds me a little of the AQ Test.
Alfred Kinsey's views were attacked furiously by Bergler in a 1948 article titled "The Myth of a New National Disease". Some excerpts follow.
Consciously, these sick persons realize only their "righteous indignation," leading to self-defense and self-pity. They repress completely the fact of their own initial provocation, which began the sequence, as well as the masochistic enjoyment of self-pity. Thus the ego-strengthening illusion of "aggression" is maintained, and the dynamically decisive masochistic substructure is hidden. Those neurotics are "injustice collectors."
Sometimes homosexuals assert that they are completely "happy," the only thing bothering them being the "unreasonable approach" of the environment. That is a convenient blind. There are no happy homosexuals; and there would not be, even if the outer world left them in peace. The reason is an internal one: Unconsciously they want to be disappointed, as does every adherent of the "mechanism of orality." A man who unconsciously runs after disappointment cannot be consciously happy. The amount of conflict, of jealousy for instance, between homosexuals surpasses everything known even in bad heterosexual relationships.
Strangely enough, Kinsey sees only the antithesis: acceptance of homosexuality as a biologic fact vs. senseless segregation. He speaks disparagingly of treatment of homosexuality (he puts it ironically into quotation marks). The third possibility, namely to declare homosexuality a neurotic disease, does not even occur to him.
The fact remains that today homosexuality is a curable neurotic disease, requiring specific therapeutic techniques and prerequisites.
If these figures are only approximately correct (Kinsey sticks to percentages, and does not translate them into actual numbers), then "the homosexual outlet" is the predominant national disease, overshadowing in numbers cancer, tuberculosis, heart failure, infantile paralysis. Of course, Kinsey denies that the "homosexual outlet" is a disease in the first place. But psychiatrically, we are dealing with a disease, however you slice it.
Last but not least, Kinsey's erroneous psychological conclusions pertaining to homosexuality will be politically and propagandistically used against the United States abroad, stigmatizing the nation as a whole in a whisper campaign, especially since there are no comparative statistics available for other countries.
There were voices of relative reason besides Kinsey. See, for example, the work of Herbert Greenspan and John Campbell as early as 1945.
Both the psychiatric and social status of the invert is becoming increasingly more clear with the advancement of clinical psychiatry, and it is encouraging to note that society is being weaned away from the fallacy that homosexualism is a crime. We are gradually coming to the realization that the homosexual suffers from a regrettable sexual anomaly, but otherwise is a normal, productive individual, who is neither a burden nor a detriment to society. We hope that the recognition of the true nature of his problem will lead to a more rational and practical therapeutic approach, and that a more humane, understanding attitude will result.
The popular media began to take notice of social changes sorrounding homosexuality in the 1960s apparently. A 1966 Time Magazine article titled "The Homosexual in America" approaches the issue in a way that was probably considered "balanced" at the time.
That is the crux: most homosexuals apparently do not desire a cure. A generation ago, the view that homosexuality should be treated not as a vice but as a disease was considered progressive. Today in many quarters it is considered reactionary. Homophile opinion rejects the notion that homosexuals are sick, and argues that they simply have different tastes. Kinsey had a lot to do with this, for to him all sexual pleasure was equally valid. "The only unnatural sex act," he said, "is that which you cannot perform." His coauthor, Wardell Pomeroy, also argues that homosexuality should be accepted as a fact of human existence, and claims to have known many happy, well-adjusted homosexual couples.
Interestingly, the article includes some shadows of "epidemic" talk.
Whether the number of homosexuals has actually increased is hard to say.
It concludes as follows.
As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding and, when possible, treatment. But it deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste – and, above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness.
There's no question that the prevalence of overt homosexuality increased considerably at some point. In 19th century England, for example, homosexuality was extremely rare and criminalized (source). No doubt there was a "hidden horde" of gays and lesbians, if you will.
A well known medical similarity is in the type of treatment, which usually involves behavioral intervention. Some psychoanalysts claimed they could turn around 30% of homosexuals into full heterosexuals. O. Ivar Lovaas co-authored an article about the behavioral treatment of "deviant sex role behaviors" in children. The article was published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis (source).
The historical and political similarities are clearly substantial.