Is the history of ‘homosexual aversion therapy’ a history about men? A broad reading of the international medical literature from the 1950s to 1970s might suggest as much. A vast majority of published attempts to reorient or ‘cure’ homosexual desire only reported male patients. Yet many of these patients were married to women, had girlfriends, were women themselves, or indeed had more complex stories to tell about their gender identity. Even though – following the Kinsey Reports – a dimensional, rather than categorical theory of sexual orientation was central to behaviourist treatments, the significance of these other factors was typically left unexplored in the published papers of psychiatrists, sexologists and therapists, especially in the Anglophone world. Female partners were seen as props on a patient’s path to recovery, and cases of ‘transvestism’ were generally lumped into discussions of ‘homosexuality’. In my talk, drawing instead upon psychiatric literature from 1950s Czechoslovakia, I will ask: Is it even possible to write a history of ‘homosexual’ aversion therapy that is not also, or primarily, a trans, lesbian, feminist and queer history? How can historians of sexuality give our subjects a more trans*dimensional treatment?
Dr Kate Davison is Lecturer in the History of Sexuality at the University of Edinburgh. She holds a BA (Hons) and a PhD in History from the University of Melbourne, and an MA in English Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin. Prior to commencing her post in Edinburgh, she was the DAAD Lecturer in Queer History at Goldsmiths, University of London, and has previously taught at the Universities of Melbourne, Latrobe, Potsdam and FU-Berlin. From 2008 to 2021 she held various roles in the Centre for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, where she was also Program Director for the 'Queering Memory': LGBTIQ+ Archives, Libraries, Museums and Special Collections (ALMS) conference hosted by the Magnus Hirschfeld Society in 2019. Her first book, Aversion Therapy: Sex, Psychiatry and the Cold War, will be published by Cambridge University Press.
- this seminar is free
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