This question was ignited by Is homosexuality a mental disorder?

This post made it into the hot-questions list and people were, probably rightfully, offended by it. Being called mentally ill because of one's sexual preference is questionable at best.

In response to this post, 'revenge' posts were put in place asking whether transgenders and black people are mentally ill. These two posts were deleted pretty much instantaneously by the mod team, because of the aggressive, troll-like nature.

1. Short-term action on the above linked post
The linked post here is problematic and should, imho, be deleted as well. Admittedly, the wording of linked post could've been put more carefully. However, at this time people are still offended that their 'post' was deleted (the above mentioned revenge posts) and to close this matter once and for all, I'd recommend deleting the linked post.

Problem is:

  • The linked question has a positive vote score. Note, however, that this question became hot & therefore the upvot tally is not a solid representation of its quality or scientific merit;
  • The answers are pretty good;
  • The current comment list is still of value for this community (can be put on meta or something?);

These bulleted considerations made me decide to not delete this post, for now. I flagged the other mods, but they have not logged in yet onto this site up until now and the storm is pretty much over (luckily!). (mods- I flagged away all this stuff, but have removed those and posted this question instead). However, the post therefore still stands and this is why I am opening this meta post, such that the other mods, and importantly, the community at large can participate. I propose that the mod team deletes this question.

2. Long-term action
I suggest that this community in the future

  • Attempts to identify, close and preferably and delete questions asking whether specific social groups (gender-based, skin-color-based, religion and so forth) are mentally ill as soon as possible;
  • The regular ground forces can, and imho should, start downvoting, flagging, and voting for putting it on hold / marking it for deletion;
  • The mods should, imho, delete such questions quickly, perhaps after considering it on mod chat when in doubt.

The linked question resulted in a small in silico crisis and that is not what this site needs. Somehow our site attracts offensive gender-based and/or sexual-preference-based posts and I know of at least several users, including well-versed and knowledgeable folks, that left this site because of it and only because of it. Time for action.

  • I just had a look at the question to see what its status is at this present time, and it states that although @AliceD added a content dispute notice and locked the question, "Community" removed the content dispute notice and unlocked it 5 hours ago. The question is still on hold. What does this mean? Jun 21, 2017 at 14:56
  • Somewhat related random question: can we close the topic so that it is still available (again: good answers), but not allow there to be additional comments? If so, I'd be willing to clean up some of the responses (flag comments, etc) so that this question no longer has any traces of the junk that started filling it up.
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Jun 21, 2017 at 15:44
  • @mfloren - I've already deleted many comments. The ones still standing are sometimes quite heavily upvoted and to remove them might look like censorship further damaging our appearance. And yes, you have a very good point that l my mod time is consumed by this one question. Another reason not to keep protecting it.
    – AliceD Mod
    Jun 21, 2017 at 21:04
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    @ArnonWeinberg brings up a good point (in a comment to Robin's answer) that we could close it down for a while and then re-open in a couple of months when things have cooled off. How would you feel about that? Again: the ideal would be a "hard close", where comments can't be added anymore, but I don't know if that is possible...
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Jun 21, 2017 at 21:43

4 Answers 4


First off: thanks for opening this discussion! I think this is a good thing to discuss.

For my 2 cents: I'm on the fence.

Section 1: The Actual Content


This is random and I don't have time to find great support for it (heres a quick article from Google), but I have always held that you can't make other people feel anything. I've always used the counter that I can become unbelievably offended because someone used the word "is" in a sentence. This is not the fault of anyone, etc. Nor does this imply that others should change their behavior to accommodate me. I get that an entire community getting offended is different than my mentioned case, but these lines can be pretty subtle. To help navigate these, I'll add one more thought:

The nature of good questions

I think that, at its core, a good question is seeking to learn something. Using this, I think that the OP's post was legit, while the "revenge" posts were clutter to be removed.

I also think that good questions are not written to offend. These also relate to the revenge posts, but primarily to the OPs post.

Finally, I think that good questions have an answer. This one is huge, as homosexuality has actually been classified as a disorder in the past. I think that this adds legitimacy to the question. Perhaps an incorrect question would be asking this about other people-groups that have never been classified as a disorder. In any case, this question could be answered relatively easily (and was).

Other Thoughts

I'll note that most of the top is judgement calls. A lot of judgement is being made about purpose, etc. Consider if the OP accepted Filippo's answer right away: I think the situation would have been much simpler. I wasn't privy to many of the comments that occurred, but it sounds like the OP was obviously pushing an agenda, which I believe is inappropriate on our forums. Note that this doesn't have to do with content, or offence, or anything other than: if I answer your question authoritatively and you don't like the answer and continue to argue it, you're being a bad community member.

All this being said, the OP did accept my answer (primary addition was ICD, secondary was a discussion of EDH (which was already mentioned by Chris)). It makes it tough to say if they were trolling, or perhaps were waiting for a reference from an international body (which agrees with the DSM about homosexuality), or perhaps something else.


In closing, I think that the actual content of the question was ok. The OPs attitude in comments would heavily affect this (and many may have gotten deleted), so I'm just going off of the information I have. If the question was asked innocently, because this has been classified as a disorder, with the OP seeking to learn something about diagnosis (which is answerable), then I think it is ok.

Section 2: The Response

Now for the nitty gritty: all of the above are my "shoulds". In this case, however, a lot of that went out the window. It sounds like there was some extremely negative comments made (most of which I missed), and people were getting offended, angry, etc. It also sounds like harrassment was going on (perhaps by the OP against some angry commenters, and perhaps by the commenters against the OP). For this reason, I completely agree with AliceD's decision to close the question. I really thought this question was interesting, and enjoyed reading some different answers to it. But if the community can't handle it responsibly, then it needs to be removed. In the same way that if ANY post devolves into name calling, insults, etc, it needs to go! It needs to go to protect our community, and to maintain a respectable level of content on a site that others may visit.

Section 3: Overall

Overall I think the question should have been closed in the way that AliceD closed it. I am sorry and disappointed that we (as a community) couldn't have a higher level conversation. Though I think that the question was fine, and again, I liked reading the answers (as AliceD mentioned: they were pretty good!), I think that the community couldn't handle it.

On the other hand, I don't think that this question should have been immediately flagged (etc.). I think it was an interesting question, and the question comes from a strong historical basis. I think that if questions devolve into insults, etc, those questions should be flagged. But I don't think that this question was the only one with that potential. Reading the comments still left, it seems like (to me) much of the angst from this question came from the OPs attitude towards it (people felt the OP was looking for someone to say that homosexuality is a disorder). If this is true, this question could have had a very different impact with a different poster.

  • 1
    I think on balance after reading this answer and @AliceD's comment after my answer I think I am going for deleting the questions overall. We don't want questions decending into abusive responses. However each case has to be viewed separately. The case of the homosexuality question leads to deletion in my view. This is going to be added to my answer Jun 20, 2017 at 17:58
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    @Chris Have to agree. I suppose the clarification for me is that it shouldn't necessarily be deleted just because it is about homosexuality (or just because someone took offense to it): it is because of the abuse that the question is generating.
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Jun 20, 2017 at 18:41
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    When reading your views, which I like, it seems that simply closing/protecting the question would suffice also. Before the escalation the question was amazing. Should we not see how the community (and the OP) responds, and if the niceness goes out of the window, close it asap and delete the not-mentionables? In short, salvage what is good, delete what isn't. For all clarity I am not trying to be stubborn and get in your ways, but I want to make sure we have thought of everything. Removing the question, is not nothing. To me, it feels as censoring and I am afraid that I can't speak freely then. Jun 21, 2017 at 8:55
  • @RobinKramer - the problem is that your proposed (delayed, salvaging) approach was exactly what was done - it didn't work, obviously.
    – AliceD Mod
    Jun 21, 2017 at 13:34
  • @mfloren - would you agree with deleting the linked question in specific? I think it's a problematic post and imo we should do something about it asap. thanks for your answer btw
    – AliceD Mod
    Jun 21, 2017 at 14:48
  • @RobinKramer I completely agree: protect should be the response to questions that may draw this attention, close should be the response if people are behaving poorly, and delete should be the response if people continue to behave poorly. I've noticed comments/etc are still open for this question (even when closed), and the community is still not being respectful in them. For this reason...
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Jun 21, 2017 at 15:24
  • @AliceD Yes: I think we should. I want to be very clear: for me, this is not about a "brand of question" and certainly not about "someone getting offended": it is solely because the community is still behaving poorly in comments. Another reason for my vote in this direction is that it will take a great deal of admin time to keep this question clean (which is another path), and I don't think this is where their focus should have to be. I'll add that I too am nervous of this decision being taken out of context, and the consequences of that (censorship, etc), thus my verbose explanations: sorry.
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Jun 21, 2017 at 15:26

Most answers already address the concern that it should be possible on this site for questions on controversial topics to be asked. We should not silence scientific inquiry merely because it might offend. This is what true tolerance is about.

On the other hand, the intent of questions should never be to offend, but to learn something new.

Concretely I suggest to handle similar posts as follows in the future:

  • If a post is borderline provocative but has an underlying question which is scientifically valid, close as off-topic and request the OP to remove any non-factual (unreferenced) statements and to frame the question in a more objective (non-leading) way.
  • Alternatively, edit the question yourself to do exactly this.
  • If a post starts attracting too much negative attention since it remains unedited, lock the question until the issue is resolved on meta, chat, or through further moderator intervention.
  • I am not promoting to silence scientific inquiry. I am promoting to get rid of offensive posts. My spouse (anthropologist and knee deep in this kind of stuff) was horrified by the question wording. I can live with keeping it, but then it needs drastic editing. And honestly, I have invested so much time in this question that the only proper thing to me is get rid of it by deletion. No question should scare people away and eat so much of moderator time. I'd still opt for deletion as I am incapable of re-wording a question like that. And I've been breaking my head on it, honestly.
    – AliceD Mod
    Jun 22, 2017 at 19:12
  • 2
    By the way, I tried locking it but the timer is just 60 min.
    – AliceD Mod
    Jun 22, 2017 at 19:14
  • And this question invited hate posts to appear too. The current gay post is just the smoldering residue of a lot more nasty material that appeared on the site, not to mention the heated comment strings that needed work (and received an answer too for heaven sake!). If such stuff is allowed here, other mods should step in more quickly imo. I wasn't able to reach you guys.
    – AliceD Mod
    Jun 22, 2017 at 19:15
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    @AliceD I understand you spent a lot of time on this. Sorry I was not reachable at the time. I tried editing the question now. Is this better?
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Jun 22, 2017 at 20:28
  • Hi Steven many thanks for jumping in and please no sorries. We're all here for fun in our spare time right. One way or another I'm happy you caught up on this, as I'm probably going to pull away from this matter. Anyway, imo, the question title is highly offensive, for a starters. It basically calls gay people mentally ill. Honestly, I just don't understand people don't see that. But it may be me. I have gay friends and all and if I would dare to draw their attention to this question... erm. No thank you.
    – AliceD Mod
    Jun 22, 2017 at 21:05
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    Thank you for the edit of the question. It is indeed much better (although the "I've heard somewhere"-arguments still shows a lack of research from the OP, but that is not something you can do anything about). @AliceD I can understand you feel that way about the question title. Steven's alternative phrasing of the question is much better and neutral. I will edit the title and vote to re-open. Whatever happens next is up to you (i.e. the community) Jun 23, 2017 at 6:43
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    @RobinKramer The only downside is it does not reflect the OP's original question fully (which is why I left it unedited on purpose, having SEO in mind): a misunderstanding or own interpretation of a 'mental disorder'. The OP is most definitely not alone in this, which is why it likely attracted that many visits in just a few days. The answers go a long way to clarifying to anyone holding the belief it is a mental disorder that it is not. This is exactly the type of content we want to contribute in order to 'make the internet a better place'.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Jun 23, 2017 at 10:52
  • 2
    That said, I suppose the current phrasing is a nice compromise between the two opposing views.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Jun 23, 2017 at 10:53
  • 1
    Thanks @StevenJeuris for helping to get this question reopened. I'm going in now and flagging comments for removal as non-constructive/obsolete - hopefully they can be cleaned up so the discussion can stay on topic. I learned something new from this thread: I naturally affiliated homophobia with religion, but I am quite surprised to see how many people use evolution to support their view. However, the status of a condition as a mental disorder is not determined by its evolutionary role, so all these comments should just be removed.
    – Arnon Weinberg Mod
    Jun 24, 2017 at 16:42

From a standpoint of someone in the field of psychotherapy, I feel that it is difficult to determine whether these posts should be deleted or not. To a degree, one part of me agrees with @RobinKramer that these questions should not be deleted due to the fact that although they may cause some offence, the premise of the question is something which is still prevalent in society, even though there has been a lot of effort to try and remove it from society. Removing these questions would remove the ability to challenge these viewpoints.

The other part of me is saying that these questions should be deleted due to the fact that

  1. You cannot just single out specific answers from the standpoint that they may cause offence. This to me would have a horrible (for want of a better word) feel to it as it silences a section of society and creates a skewed view of society from a sociological standpoint.
  2. Although the questions may cause offence, and there are excellent answers which try to show that these people are not suffering from some sort of mental disorder, the accepted answer which @RobinKramer pointed out could be seen to show that the field of psychology as a whole still sees these social groups as having some sort of mental disorder.

As someone who is bound by codes of ethics banning sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE, reparative, conversion or reorientation therapy) or similar therapies by other names (e.g. NCS Code of Ethics), the accepted answer has pointed out to me a contradiction of standpoints in the field which needs addressing and I have contacted relevant organisations in order to try and get these contradictions addressed.

Another thing from the wider viewpoint which may need to be looked at is how is CogSciSE, the cognitive science fields, and maybe even StackExchange going to be seen by the wider public? Are the wider public going to see us as being homophobic, racist, xenophobic... etc. as a result of this and other questions along with future questions left on the site without deletion?

I too will be interested to see the answers from others on this.

Edit after further thought

I think on balance after reading @mfloren's answer and @AliceD's comment after my answer I think I am going for deleting the questions overall. We don't want questions decending into abusive responses. However each case has to be viewed separately. The case of the homosexuality question leads to deletion in my view.

  • Thank you for this. A quick response to the last sentences - there were people seriously offended and they did not feel welcome here [anymore]. +1
    – AliceD Mod
    Jun 20, 2017 at 13:56
  • I really like your careful views on the matter. Thanks for looking into this.
    – AliceD Mod
    Jun 21, 2017 at 13:32
  • Chris: to clarify, when you say "the case of the homosexuality question", are you proposing that all homosexuality questions lead to deletion (e.g., because these question are naturally more heated)? Or that this case, that happens to relate to homosexuality, leads to deletion? :) My interpretation of your comment is the latter, but I want to clarify!
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Jun 21, 2017 at 15:32
  • To clarify, I mean the homosexuality question we are talking about. (Is Homosexuality a Mental Disorder?). Where questions cause offense whereby it is obvious that the OP is looking for a validation to state that it is true (i.e. that Homosexuality is a mental disorder) they need deleting for reasons stated in my answer. Without mentioning names, ...(Cont.) Jun 21, 2017 at 16:05
  • (Cont.)...Looking at the whole situation, you have one person in the comments saying "While this question itself does not sound rhetorical, many of the followup comments sure sound to me like concern trolling, aka but are you really really sure it's not a disorder? I am really not comfortable with the way the OP appears to be angling for us to tell him it is a disorder." and in response to another person, the OP said "Its OK, I just think this isn't the place for your views as they complicate the question.", it seems he/she is not looking for anything which says "no". Jun 21, 2017 at 16:06
  • If they want to ask "but are you really really sure it's not a disorder" ... they can do so in a follow-up question, which, however, should either ask more details about what defines a disorder currently, or clarify their understanding why they feel it should be classified as a disorder so these more specific viewpoints can be debunked or discussed.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Jun 23, 2017 at 11:01
  • Questions seeking validation of views they currently hold are just a different phrasing of "testing a hypothesis". Many laymen questions are like this, and I myself have been 'at fault' of this too then; take this question for example. As long as the OP is transparent in their argumentation, the answer can clarify the error in their reasoning (if any). Any follow-up discussion arising from this should be addressed in separate questions and should not be discussed at length in comments. Any non-conducive discussion should simply be removed.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Jun 23, 2017 at 11:06

Short answer

Let me just start with saying that I completely disagree, to get that out of the way.

Long Answer

As I mentioned in the chat I find it very odd that one's feeling can get in the way of a scientific, unbiased question. In my experience, it feels like we cannot talk about facts anymore, just because someone is sad or mad about the topic. Say someone is offended by all the "Vaccines do not cause autism" research. Must we stop discussing it then? Must we accept one's views based on one's feelings? Well the answer is simple: Never!


This is the part where I will bring some nuance in my answer. As mentioned above, scientific and unbiased questions should never be deleted because someone's feelings got hurt.

In this specific situation, the question was not unbiased. It is rather clear that the OP hoped to confirm that homosexuality is indeed a disorder. This became especially clear when the answer was accepted that gave one minor hint of a disorder (the conflict between wanting to be homosexual or not vs. actually being homosexual or not). However, despite this bias, an overwhelming amount of arguments and proof was provided against. In other words, the truth came forth (which even corresponds with societal views). Why is that an issue?

Course of action

What should we do to prevent these kinds of question to explode like this? Simple: prevent them to be so biased-laden. We have closed quite some biased questions (Reference needed) and can (and should) do so still. This allows us to make the question less bias-laden, so that we can have an open, normal, objective discussion about it. Sensitive subjects are not unspeakable subject, and if we start censoring open discussions, we'll be living in 1984.

What should we do with this specific question about homosexuality? We need to improve the question: remove bias, possibly add credible hypotheses, etc. The question is an important for science (and for CogSci), and removing it cannot be justified to the answerers who put time and effort to write up such amazingly nice answers.

This question, and its result, is exactly why you guys started CogSci: multiple answers with different points of view and different sources, either competing or cooperating.

  • All very well, but last night's stuff wasn't easily dealt with. I've had one person on the email for quite a while and people take offense. Imo a line must be drawn and certain questions should be banned for the sake of keeping this platform a welcome place to everyone. This is not about people feeling sad, this is not about people feeling bad on the topic. No, it's because people are being tagged mentally ill because of their sexual preference, gender, skin color and what not. People take offense to that, and that repels folks from this site.
    – AliceD Mod
    Jun 20, 2017 at 9:50
  • But, as I stated, every single answer confirmed what the people believe (also those who took offense). A question was asked, and debunked. The way the question was asked was indeed offensive (being so biased), but an objective question cannot be offensive because it takes no side. It merely asks, and answers were provided. Jun 20, 2017 at 10:09
  • I do understand the hassle of yesterday and that you do not want to have it escalate like that anymore. I also want everyone to feel welcome, I really do. However, should we then ban questions, of should we moderate them and make them better? Jun 20, 2017 at 10:10
  • This question was moderated and edited. I was on top of it all along to no avail. I'm opting for more drastic measures.
    – AliceD Mod
    Jun 20, 2017 at 10:13
  • Let's see how others feel about it. Jun 20, 2017 at 10:49
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    I love the "bias laden" focus of your response: I think it really clarifies the behavior we should try to avoid. We shouldn't avoid opposing viewpoints (that is science!), but we should avoid this attacking stuff (which are bias laden, no factual support, etc). On the other hand, I also think we should avoid "Your a f***** idiot: see this study" (the first part is not supported, biased, etc; the second part may contribute something useful; but the answer as a whole is unacceptable)
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Jun 21, 2017 at 15:38
  • 2
    +1 for this, no sympathy for the moderators (just kidding!). This question gets asked, that's how it is. If we don't post the "right" answer here, then where should people go? Reddit or Facebook? I'd rather get the traffic here, and do a good job. I'm betting that the initial response will eventually settle down, and it would be a shame to close such a good and popular question because of the short-term pain it causes. My recommendation is to close such questions down immediately, let everyone settle down, edit as needed, and then reopen a few days (or weeks) later.
    – Arnon Weinberg Mod
    Jun 21, 2017 at 20:07
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    @AliceD I may have thought of a solution. Instead of deleting this question, we could edit the question in such a way that it is does not single out one group. We could rephrase the question like: "given that the majority of people are heterosexual (reference), can an alternative sexual orientation/identification be seen as a disorder". The answer is then "No, it is not" and we can use the question to close/delete closely-related question. We thus salvage this question, and prevent similar ones from being asked. In the long run, it might bring more peace on this site. Jun 22, 2017 at 12:11
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    @RobinKramer That does seem to be a well-spotted hidden premise in the OP's question ("given that the majority of people are heterosexual, can an alternative sexual orientation/identification be seen as a disorder"). Ill-founded questions can be put on hold for this, and it is through comments such hidden premises can surface so the question can be edited in shape. It is up to the OP, however, to express whether this is the reasoning they had in mind. Often, it is simply the case they did not reason about it yet at all.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Jun 23, 2017 at 11:11

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