Homosexual panic is a term, first coined by psychiatrist Edward J. Kempf in 1920, describing an acute, brief reactive psychosis involving delusions and hallucinations accusing a person of various homosexual activities. Despite the psychotic nature of the disorder, Kempf called it "acute homosexual panic". The disorder is also known in Kempf's honour as "Kempf's disease".
The condition most often occurs in people who suffer schizoid personality disorders who have insulated themselves from physical intimacy. Breakdowns often occur in situations that involve enforced intimacy with the same sex, such as dormitories or military barracks. It was most common during the mass mobilization of World War II when barracks typically provided little privacy with communal showers and often without doors or even cubicles around toilets.
Treatment usually involves hospitalization, firstly to remove the person from the situation and also because the condition may lead to suicidal or homicidal acts. Antipsychotics, either the typical or atypical, help symptoms subside if they continue much after admission. It is best to avoid further provocation and for this reason caregivers often are selected from members of the opposite sex, and invasive procedures such as injections with needles or suppositories are avoided. Return to previous levels of adaptation is common after symptoms subside, but treatment usually involves advice not to return to the type of environment that prompted the condition.
This condition has been used as a legal defence (see gay panic defense) and the validity of this has been challenged in some jurisdictions.
Gay panic defense is a term used to describe a rare but high-profile legal defense against charges of assault or murder. A defendant using the gay panic defense claims that he acted in a state of violent temporary insanity because of a little-known psychiatric condition called homosexual panic. Trans panic is a similar defense applied towards cases where the victim is a transgender or intersex person.
In the gay panic defense, the defendant claims that he or she has been the object of romantic or sexual advances by the victim. The defendant finds the advances so offensive and frightening that it brings on a psychotic state characterized by unusual violence. While never common, use of the gay panic defense has become increasingly rare as homosexuality becomes more accepted. Judges often allow the defense only to establish the defendant's honest belief in an imminent sexual assault.
Guidance given to counsel by the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales states: "The fact that the victim made a sexual advance on the defendant does not, of itself, automatically provide the defendant with a defence of self-defence for the actions that they then take." In the UK it has been known for decades as the "Portsmouth defence" or the "guardsman's defence" (the latter term was used in an episode of Rumpole of the Bailey made in 1980). In Australia, it is known as the homosexual advance defence (HAD).
The defense often sparks outrage within the gay community when it is used, where it is said to be "blaming the victim." No analogous defense pertaining to heterosexual encounters has been recorded. It is also occasionally used in cases of violence against transgender or transsexual persons.