Monday, 16 November 2020

From Ridiculous to Cruel ... Conversion Therapy

Albert von Schrenck-Notzing (1862-1929) was specialised in the hypnotic treatment of so-called sexual deviations such as homosexuality which he thought was mainly caused by a pathological weakness to resist the deviant urge that was acquired and hence could be cured - by hypnotherapy, for instance (Sommer, 2012). In 1899, he allegedly turned a gay man straight through hypnosis and by taking him to the brothel a couple of times. Eugen Steinach's (1861-1944) approach was different. According to his theory, homosexuality was rooted in a man's testicles, the cure: testicle transplantations, i.e., castrating a gay man and replacing his testicles with "heterosexual ones" (via and via).

Some of the scientifically dubious, ethically irresponsible and appalling therapies, ranging from ridiculous to cruel, were or are: electroconvulsive therapy, lobotomies, shock through electrodes combined with hired sex workers and hetereosexual pornography, aversion therapy (taking chemicals that make you vomit while looking at photographs of your lover or electrical shocks to the genitals while watching gay pornography, inducing nausea or paralysis, snapping an elastic band around the wrist when becoming aroused to same-sex erotic images, orgasmic reconditioning, etc.), changing thought patterns, social reinforcement to increase other-sex sexual behaviours, praying at gay conversion camps, and many more (via).

"I didn’t start coming out until I was in college. I went to a Christian college, where I was actually outed by my roommate. So I was placed in conversion therapy by the university, and I had to undergo a lot of different interventions with different departments at the school. They did exorcisms with holy water, kind of baptizing to try and get the demon out. For one of my classes I had to write a paper talking about why I was going to Hell for being gay." 
Brooke, 25, New Mexico

"My last year in college I did one-on-one therapy — during that, I was encouraged to look at straight porn quite often, which was also strange to me. It was against the rules, but they were like, “It’s to make you straight. You’re the exception to the rule.” I had been raised to believe that porn is horrible and awful and terrible, but they were like, “No, we need you to watch straight porn, and specifically focus on the vagina and whatnot, and how it would feel to be in a vagina.” It made porn so awkward. Not that porn isn’t already awkward to some extent, but it’s getting analytical about it. Every week and they’d be like, “Did you look at porn? Did you enjoy it?”" 
Samuel, 28, Washington State

“We were searching for a sin I’d supposedly committed in a past life that might have ‘made me gay.’” 
a survivor from the United Kingdom

“As an adolescent who experienced same-sex attraction, she was raped in her bedroom by an elderly man her mother had brought home from church one evening in 2005. The mother, who heard her daughter’s screams, shouted: ‘Pearl, you are making noise. Shut up.’ [...] This happened regularly over several months until, eventually, the mother asked him to move in and be Pearl’s husband. ‘He raped me almost every day from when I was 12 to 16 years old. My mother didn’t want me to be gay so she asked him to be my husband and hoped it would change me.’” 
a survivor from South Africa

"Being brought up in a Christian fundamentalist family, I knew from the get-go that I was not going to be accepted. A big part of my conversion therapy happened within my own family walls. The church played a big role, too. There was one really abusive act, where three ministers held me down for six and a half hours and were screaming in my face, trying to get the gayness out of me. I asked them, “Does this mean that I’m not going to be gay anymore?” They were like, “Yes.” I was like, “Wait a minute, so that means I’ll no longer be attracted to women?” They were like, “Yes. Well, there is this thing called gaydar …” — some parts of the church believe gaydar is the ability to see a demon in another person. Seriously. When I started questioning this probably about five and a half hours into this process, I realized their logic didn’t make sense. The person who has become my wife was in my life at that point, and I knew that what they were saying didn’t add up. I really did love her, so it was at that moment I stopped this process. I walked out the door. They screamed at me, “You’ve chosen Hell.” Then I left the church for about a decade." 
Jane, 38, US

- - - - - - - - - - -
- American Psychological Association (2009).Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, LINK
- International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (2020). It's Torture Not Therapy. A Global Overview of Converion Therapy: Practices, Perpetrators, and the Role of States, LINK
- Sommer, A. (2012). Policing Epistemic Deviance: Albert von Schreck-Notzing and Albert Moll. Medical History, 56(2), 255-276.
- image (Ratched, scene showing hydrotherapy to "cure" a lesbian woman) via