When homosexuality was a mental illness
Yes, dear lesbians, there was a time when feelings of attraction to the same sex was regarded as a mental illness. Lesbians and gays were both subjected to different kinds of therapies to control their supposed tendencies.
Remember that scene in the movie Carol, during a meeting with Carol and her husband’s respective lawyers? They talked about the therapy Carol (played by Cate Blanchett) was undergoing to cure her of her “illness.”
Because of her so-called immorality, Carol lost custody of her daughter. And to have visitation rights, she had to seek psychiatric help so that she could be “cured” of her mental illness of loving another woman.
DSM and homosexuality as a mental illness
In psychiatry’s bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), homosexuality was considered a mental illness alongside schizophrenia and manic depression – now more popularly known as being bipolar.
During the ‘30s all the way to the early ‘70s, family members caught with that proclivity were either institutionalized in the psychiatric department of hospitals or made to see a shrink.
Sigmund Freud, the great doctor himself, had defined homosexuality as a form of paranoia.
It was only in 1974 when the American Psychiatric Association dropped homosexuality from the DSM. But before then, there was a witch hunt to cure all lesbians and gays of their nature.
We’re not talking about being prescribed a drug, the way mental illness is being treated today to blow the blues away. We’re talking apparatuses that they attach to you to shock you out of your feelings for the same sex.
This method was known as gay aversion therapy– which was much like electroshock therapy and a little like hypnotism. In this therapy, they convince you that it’s “bad” to fall in love with the same sex.
(Sadly, there are still modern versions today, like conversion therapy for LGBT minors.)
Gay aversion therapy used on mental illness
When you say gay aversion therapy, it sounded so harmless. But the truth of the matter was that most of the means were very inhumane.
Some of the components in the therapy included castrations, torture drugs, shock therapies, and lobotomies.
Lobotomy was, in fact, one of the most popular forms of curing mental illness in ‘40s and ‘50s. This was popularized by Doctor Walter Freeman. In the thousands of lobotomies he’d done, almost half of this was for homosexuality.
Perversion as a mental illness
Some of the apparatuses used were also used for perverted behaviour. One of the famous machines used that time were the Farrall Instruments.
Their spiel back then was to “condition alcoholics, decondition phobias, decondition child molesters, and reinforce sex preference.”
No wonder so many members of the LGBT community preferred to remain closeted during those days, when faced with these types of treatment for mental illness.