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omosexuality or the LGBTQ community had been seen very differently from today within the 20th century. Everyone had to hide as they were afraid of the judgments and in some cases the punishments they would receive for their sexual preferences. Until 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed the diagnosis of “homosexuality” from education manuals, defining homosexuality as a preference and not a psychiatric illness, the world assumed that homosexuals were just crazy people.

People used to say that:“Homos are made — not born!”

Something that from a scientific perspective has been looked at and overlooked during the end of the 20th century. But until anyone researched homosexuality and its nature, they tried to find a cure for it, automatically considering that something different from what society considers normal is a disease. Famous psychologist Sigmund Freud had done plenty of research on homosexuality throughout the 20th century.

Freud believed that homosexuals could seldom be convinced that sex with someone of the opposite sex would provide them with the same pleasure they derived from sex with someone of the same sex. Patients often pursued treatment due to social disapproval, which was not a strong enough motive for change. Reaching a point where society would push someone with a different sexual preference to the point where they would question themselves “am I a disease?” should give a taste of the way society treated homosexuals and other members of the LGBTQ community at the time.

In 1969 when the clinical and scientific attention towards homosexuality within the 20th century reached its peak, a new theory became popular which referred to that “Homosexuals are born, not made”, making psychologists think that homosexuality is not a vice, but an illness that people are born with.

The Problem with homosexuality has long been considered psychological, rather than physical. Generations of psychologists, psychiatrists, and physicians accepted Dr. Freud’s view that homosexuals reflected “mirror images” of the dominant mother-withdrawn father pattern. (Quote from Uncesored Magazine Oct.1969 by Antony James)

The Cure for Homosexuality

So the society of psychiatry came up with a cure for homosexuality which to today’s standards would be considered complete inhumane torture. They even came up with different promotional campaigns for this new cure, one of them was called “Shock the Gay Away”. What they would use is a visually keyed shocker. In other words, they would use an old project in which they would represent images of naked men and women. If the “patient” got aroused from an image representing a person of the same sex, they would be electrocuted.

Here are even some posters from 1969 representing how this worked. Although they show an overall cure for many different psychiatric illnesses.

Poster advertising the Visually Keyed Shocker (Source: HuffPost)

“Considerable literature exists proving the value of behavior modification techniques in treating sex variants using the patient’s phantasy (fantasy) as a stimulus.”

Poster advertising the Visually Keyed Shocker (Source: HuffPost)

Of course that they soon found out that such treatment was not working on this “psychiatric illness” because it wasn’t an illness in the first place. It may have worked for drug addicts, alcoholics, or child molesters, but it had never worked for homosexuals. The treatment seems to have terrorized them even more and affect them on a psychological level where they would be more frightened to show their true sexual preference.

Poster advertising Cure for Homosexuality (Source: HuffPost)

But hey, at least it wasn’t as bad as in the 1940s when the cure for homosexuality was mainly lobotomy. By the end of the 1940s, lobotomies had won the acceptance of mainstream medicine and were being performed at Johns Hopkins, Mass General Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, and other top medical institutions. There is a handful of stories about people that have been disfigured and mentally destroyed because of these sorts of cures that they have lived through (mostly forced) during the 20th century.

Today we are lucky to say that societies are more open-minded towards sexual preferences, yet there are still some countries that due to their cultures are seeing homosexuality as a disease.

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