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Homosexuality and Its Cure (1936)

Sexology : The Magazine of Sex Science was a magazine founded by Hugo Gernsbach ('the father of Science Fiction') and seems to have flourished in the 1930s. It had many anatomical diagrams and articles about 'female inverts', pregnancy, infibulation, venereal disease etc. It probably sold well. This letter is in the 'Questions and Answers' column and has to be assumed to be typical of its time, regarding homosexuality as a sickness to be cured by determination and the love of a good woman. Autre temps, autre moeurs. What is slightly strange is that the 'doctor' providing the answer suggests physical violence if the other man persists in his attentions - 'beat him up.' Odd advice from a doctor. The reference to drink - 'you got drunk and became intimate' may refer to other matter in an abridged letter or simply be an assumption…again, curious.

Editor, Sexology.

 My pastor, a newly ordained priest, has advised me to present my case to you,  in the hope that you may be of help.  I am 25 years old and, for four years, have indulged in homosexual practices with a younger man. It began when I, who had given up studying for a clergyman, in the belief that it was not my vocation went with this young man to pique the girl with whom I had been keeping company.  He professed love for me; but, when we went to confession, we had the wrongful nature of our acts pointed out, and had to promise not to see each other again. It was much easier to promise this than to do this.  He protested love for me, and when he was ill, sent for me, and begged  me "not to let any girl get me."  But now he's keeping steady company with a girl, to drown suspicions people may have of us. I hate to give him up, though I know it is the right thing to do, so far as society and the church are concerned.  But I want to have a home of my own, a wife and children. Will I ever be a will to do this, in spite of years of the wrong kind of activities?  My pastor  says he believes that your answer, as a physician, will be valuable to me, as well as his, as a priest. He tells me "Suffer if you must, but be pure."  You can see how little it helps. Can this other man possibly make a success of marriage? I am a nervous wreck and don't know which way to turn.  A.N. Maryland

Answer: 

 I thank your priest for his kind thoughts in regard to me, and the work that I'm trying to do. He is a Catholic and I am a Protestant;  that makes no difference when it comes to helping the sick abnormals of life.

 Now, you're been simply a sick man since you got drunk and became intimate with this other man.  Understand, I am saying that you are sick, not that you are bad. The moralist says you are sinful, and so does the clergyman; but I say you are "sick,"  just as though you had rheumatism or cancer. But the idea is that you know just what the sickness is; you have brought it on yourself and are continuing it by this desire for another man.

 And you will have to make up your mind whether you are going to keep on being sick. That is for you to decide; no use in your going to confession, repenting, but doing nothing to stop the recurring symptoms of the sickness.

First you have to stop seeing this other man, writing to him, or even thinking of him. If separation hurts him, that is his misfortune, not yours.  If you find that he will not help you in this program by kindness and advice, and keeps on seeking your company, I advise you to use physical force -beat him up - and tell him  that you're going to keep on till he leaves you.  Will it make you nervous? Very much so, but you are that way already.

Then, deliberately cultivate the company of good women-  call on them, take them out socially – just as you would take a dose of medicine once a day.  One day, you will find one you can love and you will love you. Then, if you marry, life will be more normal.

There are no drugs to help you:  the cure is simply a realisation on your part that you are sick, and the determination to cure yourself. And I would advise you to do it, no matter how much it hurts you. - Editor

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2 thoughts on “Homosexuality and Its Cure (1936)

  1. Anonymous

    As ridiculous as this advice sounds to modern ears, it is commendable that this unfortunate gay man's pastor suggested he seek out "scientific/medical" advice in 1936 rather than simply condemning his behavior outright. Labeling a gay person as "sick," in a medical sense, rather than just "bad," with the belief that the person is still human and has value however much behavioral change is desired sounds quite modern, at least to me. In 2014, sadly, there are still many people, religiously-inclined or not, who believe gay people to be both sick AND bad. A recent documentary of the persecution of gay people in Russia comes to mind, not to mention the American evangelical media stars who blame gays for everything from tsunamis to Obamcare. To the bigots and persecutors of today, the editor's final words of advice also apply.

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    1. Bob

      Luchino ViscontiLuchino Visconti’s film career spnnaed over four decades, making him a key force in 20th-century Italian cinema. However, it was in Paris that his career began when he befriended the fashion designer Coco Chanel, who introduced him to Jean Renoir. Visconti worked with Renoir on various film projects, one of which was the film Une Partie de Campagne (1936), as costume designer and assistant director. During this period, and contrary to his aristocratic upbringing, he became influenced by Marxist ideology, and these beliefs would later shape his own style of film-making.Visconti did not direct his first film until 1942, when he returned to Italy. Ossessione was based on the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain. Visconti’s adaptation was unauthorised – which meant the film was rarely screened in the USA – and heavily censored by fascist officials of Mussolini’s regime. Despite all its difficulties, it remained a success in Italy and is regarded as the first film of the Italian neo-realist movement.Visconti’s political leanings were expressed in his second film La Terra Trema (The Earth Trembles) (1947), which tells the story of class exploitation in a small Sicilian fishing village. This theme continued with the 1960 film, Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli (Rocco and his Brothers).In his later work, Visconti seemed to move away from the neo-realist style towards more historical and literary themes. The battle between progress and nostalgia is constantly fought in this director’s work, but towards the end of his career Visconti seemed to favour the latter with a definite air of scepticism about the value of progress.One such film was the cinematic epic Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) (1963), starring Burt Lancaster as the Prince of Salina. By arranging the marriage of Tancredi, his nephew, and Angelica, the daughter of a rich merchant, the Prince attempts to financially rescue and secure the future of his family by joining the old aristocracy with the new money of the bourgeoisie. This film’s operatic style was a cross over from Visconti’s theatre work.Visconti was openly gay, but few of his films dealt with the issue of male homosexuality. The most notable exception to this was the 1971 film Morte a Venezia (Death In Venice) from the novel by Thomas Mann. Dirk Bogarde plays the lead character, the reserved composer Gustav Aschenbach who, when confronted with the purity and beauty of a young boy, played by Bjorn Andresen, allows the secret passion within him, his homosexuality, to awaken.Visconti returns to the topic of the aristocracy in the melodrama L’Innocente (The Intruder) (1976). This was to be his final film. As a result of the strokes he suffered in 1972 and 1974, which left him completely paralysed, Visconti died at the age of 70 before editing was completed.During his life, Visconti had made over 20 films, many of which are considered cinematic masterpieces, directed plays by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, and staged ballets and operas, such as La Vestale (1954) and La Sonnambula (1955), starring Maria Callas.”Visconti’s death marked the end of an era of Italian cinema” – Geoffrey Nowell-Smith

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