In psychoanalysis, is homosexuality regarded as a symptom of "perversion" or as an acceptable variation of human sexuality?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Parting from the point of view of the father of psychoanalysis himself, Sigmund Freud, the information that is contained in his letter to the American mother of a homosexual man printed in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1957, Freud defines homosexuality mainly as a behavior resulting of parental projection rather than any kid of morbidity.

Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function produced by a certain arrest of sexual development.

As the main proponent of psychoanalysis, it would be Freud's view that would add the more weight on the issue of what exactly is homosexuality. Based on the words above, it is not a symptom of perversion, nor is anything to be ashamed of. Freud goes on further

Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime, and cruelty too....

The paternal-maternal-filial relationship is what, ultimately, seals the fate in the psyche. According to Freud, this "triadic relationship"is influential in that the projection of the father as a role and the mother as a role will affect the child significantly. Hence, Freud merely attributes fatherly aloofness and maternal over-protective, seductive, or possessive mother.

Fisher and Greenberg conducted extensive research debunking the tenets proposed by Freud. It is well-known to date that homosexuality is an inherited trait, however, the psychologists observes the effect of homosexuality within the immediate parameters of their environment, that is, support systems, social support, the influence of family and personality traits. Their conclusion is that, pre 1977, all studies conducted on homosexuality by clinicians already were biased because they worked with homosexuals who had other issues, were institutionalized, or (by whatever coincidence) just happened to come from bad homes. Hence, the idea that homosexuality was "bad" was infiltrated as the pivotal factor that moved studies forward, not considering homosexuals who are perfectly healthy and lived in great circumstances.

The post-1977 material we have reviewed concerning male homosexuality has narrowed the apparent support for Freud’s formulation in this area. Previously, we regarded the empirical data to be congruent with with Freud’s theory that male homosexuality derives from too much closeness to mother and a distant negative relationship with father. As noted, the increased pool of data available reinforces the concept of the negative father but fails to support the idea of the overly close, seductive mother…So we are left with only one of the major elements in Freud’s original formula concerning the parental vectors that are involved in moving a male child toward homosexuality.

Concisely, the researchers are saying that Freud's tenets still point to the importance of parental influence, although not under the context that Freud had primarily insisted upon where mothers and fathers supposedly influence a child differently. Therefore, it all goes to show that homosexuality is anything BUT a symptom of perversion in psychoanalysis. In Freud's own parting words in the letter to the American mother.

"If [your son] is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed....