Thursday, 13 January 2011

The culture that is Alberta

Alberta continues to list homosexuality as a “mental disorder” along with bestiality and pedophilia, and doctors used the diagnostic code to bill the province for treating gays and lesbians more than 1,750 times between 1995 and 2004, government records show.

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.
So noted the Western Standard's Shotgun blog, who puts it up to a Bootleggers and Baptists story. The bootleggers are the doctors providing the cure-the-gayness treatments; the baptists are, well, the baptists.
The political cost is low for keeping gayness treatments on the books, but it's moderate for getting it off the books. A fair chunk of the Alberta Tory base does think homosexuality is a mental disorder, or worse a sin according to their religious doctrines. Why modernize the diagnostic code if it's going to piss off both a small clutch of doctors and the gay-is-sin crowd? Best to leave well enough alone. Until the political cost rises.

Beneath the politicking, there's a genuine issue at stake. The overwhelming majority of us know, at least from the time of puberty, whether or not we prefer those of the opposite sex. For a small minority, finding their orientation is less clear cut.

Sorting out sexual identity is an emotionally fraught experience that can take years, even decades. There is a role for specially trained psychologists to help people work out these concerns. It's a sensitive issue that the blunt hand of a bureaucratic state is ill equipped to deal with. Homosexuality isn't a mental disorder. Believing that government health care can cure "gayness" is, however, some sort madness.

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