Homosexuality and the Medical Opinion

الأحد 22 حزيران 2008

By Dr. Mohammed Dalabih

Reading Al-Ghad’s newspaper article on homosexuality in Jordan, I was shocked by how old and outdated the views of the medical officials in Jordan about homosexuality are. In this article I am trying to point out medical and scientific mistakes made by the official in that article.

The first paragraph translates as follows:

“The Ministry of Health has documented yesterday 20 cases of homosexuality in Jordan”.

The article goes on to describe at length how homosexuality is a “learned behavior”, that it is a “disease”, that it can be “cured” and that such a cure would “benefit the society”.

As a medical practitioner, I will go through the most recent medical views about homosexuality.

Q. Is homosexuality a learned behavior or a choice?

A. Medically, sexual orientation is not a choice made by the individual nor is it a result of childhood events or a specific upbringing. A homosexual person puts as much free will and choice into being gay as a heterosexual puts in being heterosexual.

Q. Is homosexuality a disease?

A. Medically it is not considered a disease. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV, the most widely acknowledged and respected source and catalog of psychiatric medical illnesses, homosexuality is not a disorder. Calling a homosexual person mentally ill is a medical and professional error. This opinion is also shared by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Medical Association and eventually the American Psychoanalytic Association.

Q. The Al-Ghad article stated that the Ministry of Health official estimates the number of homosexuals in Jordan to be 150 people. Is that medically possible?

A. Scientifically this is impossible. A review of medical studies done over the years, published in 1993 by Diamond and Colleagues found that 5-6% of males and 2-3% of females considered themselves gay, lesbian and bisexual. The Ministry of Health official did not explain how he arrived at such a figure. In other words, the Ministry of Health’s figure is statistically a joke.

Q. Can homosexuality be cured? The Ministry of Health official claims it can be cured but is difficult.

A. Over the years, various methods, from counseling to “aversion” therapy have been used. One of the most common modalities was electric shock therapy. Today, this period in psychiatric history is looked at in a very regretful way, as one of the atrocities committed against humans in the name of science and medicine. Since homosexuality is no longer considered a disease, no studies are being done on treating it. The old treatments have repeatedly proved themselves violating the basic humane aspect of medicine as well as a medical failure. No sources can be found on medical studies proving them effective. Furthermore, these methods are now limited to some rigid religious institutes mainly in the US, that preach sexual orientation change.

Q. What can a medical professional do to help a homosexual person? What is the role of modern medicine?

A. The role of modern medical practice is to resolve any anxiety and low self esteem problems that may accompany the feelings homosexual people might be facing. Homosexual people often find themselves without any social support from friends and family, and this puts considerable mental and social pressure on them as individuals.

It is very disturbing for a medical health professional in Jordan to read such comments from someone in the Ministry of Health being said in a major newspaper for what an unsuspecting audience might consider a medical fact. It is unprofessional and very damaging to individuals and society on the long term. Throughout history, social lack of understanding and religious opinions affected science negatively. In a field that is primarily aimed at helping individuals physically and emotionally, the discrimination still present among its professionals must be quite difficult for homosexual people seeking help to handle. I do not think it is the Ministry of Health’s duty to be “documenting” homosexual cases and forgetting its role in providing nonjudgmental medical help and psychiatric counseling aimed towards helping people accept who they are and deal with society’s pressure as citizens of our country with rights. I feel very strongly about this because the Jordanian healthcare system has a very strong reputation regionally, and our doctors are constantly achieving a lot internationally and locally, this article hits the core of medical professionalism.


Smith G, Bartlett A, King M. Treatments of homosexuality in Britain since the 1950s—an oral history: the experience of professionals. BMJ 2004;328: 429-0.

Avid S Reitman, MD, Department of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Instructor in Pediatrics, Children’s National Medical Center, emedicine – Sexuality and Sexual Orientation,

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