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Anti-gay therapy: this way it was trying to

Anti-gay therapy: this way it was trying to "cure" homosexuality

July 18, 2024

The conception of homosexuality as a moral or biological problem has existed in many societies throughout history. Christianity in particular has exerted a great influence in this regard in European and American countries.

During the twentieth century the developments of psychological therapy were used to modify the behavior and relieve the discomfort of people with "disorders" very varied. These included what some experts still call "egodistonic homosexuality," which was supposed to be cured through the reorientation of sexual impulses.

Although the "anti-gay therapy" was born in disrepute and he has never abandoned it, to this day it is still practiced surrounded by controversy.

  • Related article: "5 myths about homosexuality disassembled by science"

What is "antigay therapy"?

Sexual conversion therapy is a pseudoscientific practice, that is, it falsely states that its approaches are based on research. Many studies have reported the lack of effectiveness of this form of behavior modification , to the point that in the scientific community there is no longer a real debate about it.

The poor results of the reorientation therapy are probably due to the fact that its objective is not only to modify behavioral or behavioral habits but also impulses with a biological origin, difficult to modify.

While today the most common forms of "anti-gay therapy" focus on conversation and visualization, they have also been used more controversial techniques such as aversive therapy, electroshock and even lobotomy .

The most common is that homosexual people who agree to submit to this type of "treatment" do so for moral reasons, because they see themselves as sick or abnormal and to avoid the social rejection they receive from their environment.

The most important advocates of sexual conversion therapy are Christian fundamentalist groups that seek for others to adhere to behaviors they consider ethical, especially members of their religious community.

  • Related article: "What is a lobotomy and with what purpose was it practiced?"

History of conversion therapy

In 1935 Sigmund Freud answered the letter of a woman who asked him to treat his homosexual son, denying that this orientation was an illness and that it could be "cured". According to Freud, all children are bisexual and develop their definitive sexual orientation during adolescence according to whether they identify with the mother or with the father.

However, the popularization of behavior modification since the 60s promoted the emergence of treatments that would come to be known as Reorientation therapy or sexual conversion . Psychiatrists and psychologists such as Edmund Bergler, Samuel Hadden, Irving Bieber, Joseph Nicolosi and Charles Socarides defended the efficacy of behavioral techniques to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals.

The scientific literature clearly discredited conversion therapy and recorded that increased the risk of isolation, anxiety, depression and suicide . Likewise, social activism achieved that homosexuality ceased to be considered a disorder in the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II), which appeared in 1968.

However, in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) the diagnosis "Egodistonic sexual orientation" is still valid, which applies to people who feel discomfort due to their sexuality, and many are still practiced. forms of "anti-gay therapy" that deny the evidence provided by the research , especially in religious areas or with the objective of obtaining an economic benefit.

  • Related article: "Behavioral Therapies: first, second and third wave"

Homosexuality as a paraphilia

Reorientation therapy for homosexuality has close similarities with those carried out in paraphilias. This term now encompasses the targeting of sexual impulses in animals, objects or behaviors that involve people who do not consent.

A) Yes, paraphilic disorders include pedophilia, bestiality, exhibitionism , voyeurism or frotteurism, in addition to other sexual preferences that may cause discomfort in the person who feels them or in others, as can happen with sadism.

This malaise is one of the main criteria that continues to be used today to justify conversion therapy in cases of homosexuality.The problem is that the emotional problems do not derive directly from the fact of being attracted to people of the same sex, but from the negative social conception that may exist in this regard.

The way in which the ICD describes "egodistonic sexual orientation" is closer to the so-called "gender identity disorders", still in force in the DSM. In both cases the diagnostic category itself has a pathological effect and moralizing since it separates discomfort due to sexuality or the identity of other causes, promoting the adaptation of the person to specific social norms and taking responsibility away from the environment.

So to speak, diagnosing egodistonic homosexuality or a gender identity disorder would be similar to doing the same with victims of bullying or gender violence, emphasizing that the person is a boy or a woman.

How was homosexuality "cured"?

Conversion therapy does not follow official guidelines because it is not recognized by associations of psychologists and doctors. None of these treatments has proven effective and most are in disuse.

We recommend those who are interested in learning more about sexual reorientation therapy to watch the television series Masters of Sex, where some of these treatments are portrayed and the vision of homosexuality in general in the context of the birth of sexual therapy, in the United States of the 50s and 60s.

1. Aversive therapy

This type of therapy consisted in presenting a punishment along with the stimulus that was intended to stop being attractive; in the case of homosexuality, erotic images with people of the same sex were used.

It was assumed that the punishment, normally substances that produced nausea or electric currents, would that homosexual images stop provoking excitement . In fact, aversive therapy only increased the feelings of guilt and fear of the people who submitted to it.

2. Psychotherapy

In the past, some psychoanalytic theorists argued that homosexuality it was due to unconscious conflicts originated in childhood and could be "cured" resolving these conflicts through psychotherapy.

Currently "anti-gay therapy" is carried out mainly through dialogue, at least when practiced openly. Some professionals in psychology and religious bodies exercise a kind of counseling centered on convincing the person to repress their homosexual impulses.

  • Related article: "The Theory of the Unconscious of Sigmund Freud (and the new theories)"

3. Masturbation reconditioning

This technique is used regularly in the treatment of paraphilias. It consists of masturbating using the exciting stimuli which are considered inadequate (in the case of conversion therapy, homosexual images) but when reaching orgasm visualize the stimuli that are intended to be more desirable (people of the opposite sex).

Following the principles of conditioning, heterosexual images should become desirable with repeated practice and the newly developed attraction to the opposite sex could replace homosexual impulses. Masturbation reconditioning has not proved effective as a conversion therapy.

4. Electroconvulsive therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy involves transmitting low intensity electrical currents to the brain of an anesthetized person to alter brain chemistry in cases where other forms of treatment are ineffective.

Although if practiced correctly it can be effective to treat some resistant cases of depression , mania and schizophrenia , not only does homosexuality not "cure", but at the time when conversion therapy was in vogue, electroshock most frequently produced side effects such as memory loss and bone fracture.

5. Medical treatments

In this category are included some of the most aggressive therapies that have been applied to "cure" homosexuality. For example, in the middle of the last century it was not uncommon for lobotomies to be practiced, that is, surgical incisions in the brain; concretely, homosexuality was related to the action of the hypothalamus.

They have also come to be applied treatments with estrogen and even chemical castration to reduce the libido of homosexual people.

Gay Aversion Therapy 1970 (July 2024).

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