Everyone who has heard of ex-gay therapy (aka conversion or reparative therapy) knows that it mostly involves “aversion therapy” — getting people to associate their same-sex attraction with painful, sickening or humiliating stimuli, usually in the form of electric shocks, nausea-inducing drugs or mockery from the “therapist”. Another popular “treatment” involves work camps — abusive labor farms where some kids literally get worked to death.
But very few folks know about other horrible reparative therapies throughout history. For example, one old-fashioned cure for homosexuality involved testicular replacement. Homosexual men would have one of their nuts removed and replaced with one from a heterosexual donor. We imagine both guys felt pretty disappointed when the recipient woke up wanting to have his new, heterosexual testicle sucked on by gay men.
But that’s just one of several horrifying methods. Here’s 10 more you should know about (especially since our upcoming Vice President seems to support it)!
Sexologists would encourage gay and bi men to have sex with female sex workers; sometimes the men would end up with sexually transmitted diseases. Sometimes they would just wake up happy (but still mostly attracted to men)
Yeah, because we know lots of gay men who turned straight after marrying women (-snark).
New York researcher Dr. William Hammond suggested using fire, silver nitrate or other acids to burn homosexuals every 10 days “[at] the nape of the neck and the lower dorsal and lumber regions”. Kinky.
Catholics and Mormons still basically believe that lifelong celibacy will eventually cause same-sex attraction to go away. It won’t. It’ll just make your life more boring and sexually frustrating.
John D. Quackenbos, a well-known New Hampshire quack, used hypnosis to treat nymphomaniacs, chronic masturbators and other “gross impurities”. We wonder what he’d think of being dicknotized.
Freudian psychotherapy helped popularize the idea that all gay men had absent fathers and domineering mothers, but even Freud himself considered most people bisexual and eventually discouraged the idea that same-sex attraction could or should be changed. The American Psychological Association agreed with him and removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1974.
Some doctors believed “glandular hyperactivity” caused “promiscuous homosexual urges.” One New York doctor (La Forest Potter) thought that exposing the overactive thymus to x-ray radiation could atrophy the gland and suppress the “overactivity of its function.” He bragged that he could have cured Oscar Wilde. Poor deluded doctor — there is no cure for fabulousness.
If men are acting like women and women are acting like men, injecting them with more male or female hormones will “butch up the boys and femme up the girls”, right? Wrong. In some cases, it makes people sterile or gives them cancer. Fail.
Lobotomy (trigger warning: not for the squeamish)
Through the 1950s and ‘60s, some state hospitals actually used “ice-pick lobotomies”, inserting a spike through the patient’s eye sockets to sever the connection between the brain’s thalamus and their frontal association area. Notably, this procedure did actually succeed in taking away patients’ same-sex desires… along with their identities, memories and entire personalities.
In his 1957 book, Is Homosexuality A Menace?, physician and criminologist Dr. Arthur Guy Mathews talked about curing a lesbian by getting her hair did, letting her put on makeup and having a fashion expert (“not a male homosexual,” he adds) “select the most elegant feminine styles … to bring out the charm and beauty in her body” . We bet she looked like one hot femme; the butch dykes would gone wild, had she not been shamed into it.
And believe it or not, there are even weirder kinds of conversion therapy that we’ve written about in the past.
Most major American psychological associations have disavowed ex-gay therapy as a needless form of torture. Sadly, it’s still legal in 44 U.S. states, though there’s a recent campaign to help change that.
(NOTE: We used Don Romesburg’s old article “Thirteen Theories to Cure Homosexuality” in research for this piece)