Abstract only
Mental nurses and their patients, 1935–74

Anecdotal evidence of the testimonies of patients who received treatments for sexual deviations and medical attitudes towards them are scattered in the recorded accounts of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, intersex and queer/questioning (GLBTIQ) people. This book examines the plight of men who were institutionalised in British mental hospitals to receive 'treatment' for homosexuality and transvestism, and the perceptions and actions of the men and women who nursed them. It explores why the majority of the nurses followed orders in administering the treatment - in spite of the zero success-rate in 'straightening out' queer men - but also why a small number surreptitiously defied their superiors by engaging in fascinating subversive behaviours. The book is specifically about the treatments developed for sexual deviations in the UK. Transvestism was also treated fairly widely; however, not to the same extent as homosexuality. After an examination of the oppression and suppression of the sexual deviant, the introduction of aversion therapies for sexual deviance is considered. During the 1930s-1950s, mental health care witnessed a spirit of 'therapeutic optimism' as new somatic treatments and therapies were introduced in mental hospitals. The book also examines the impact these had on the role of mental nurses and explores how such treatments may have essentially normalised nurses to implement painful and distressing 'therapeutic' interventions . The book interprets the testimonies of these 'subversive nurses'. Finally, it explores the inception of 'nurse therapists' and discusses their role in administering aversion therapy.

Abstract only

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book outlines the time scale and the geographical location of the research and goes on to debate the concept of 'deviance' and 'sexual deviance'. It considers personal testimony as a historical source, and discusses key moments in the history of sexuality and mental health nursing. The book discusses that with the outbreak of World War II, there appeared to be a relaxing of attitudes towards homosexuality. It examines and interprets the testimonies of the 'subversive nurses'. The book explores the inception of 'nurse therapists' and discusses their role in administering aversion therapy. It then deliberates the implications of the changes and examines how nurses began to view medical treatments for sexual deviation as inappropriate as ideas of deviance shifted.

in ‘Curing queers’

This chapter draws upon publications within the medical press and news media, along with literary, film, legal and sociological depictions of homosexuality. It explores the complex social and cultural climate in which the homosexuals, transvestites and mental nurses were living from the 1930s to the 1960s. In the treatment of sexual deviants two powerful conditioned stimuli were used: chemical and electrical. Most noteworthy in relation to the treatments developed for sexual deviation, was the work of Ivan Pavlov, who developed the theory of 'classical conditioning'. The pathological, psychological and psychoanalytical interpretations and analysis of homosexuality can be seen to be appearing on both sides of the Atlantic during World War II. John Costello argues that the British military authorities did take homosexuality seriously. Roger Davidson argues that some of the fullest and most compelling evidence to the Wolfenden Committee in favour of homosexual law reform came from medical witnesses.

in ‘Curing queers’

This chapter explores the innovative therapies in a bid to gain an insight into the culture and practices within which the mental hospitals' nurses were working during the 1930s to the 1950s. It also explores the hitherto hidden history of gay life among male homosexual nurses within mental hospitals. It deconstructs the contentious dichotomy of these nurses administering treatments for patients 'suffering' from the same 'condition' as themselves. The Mental Treatment Act 1930 brought with it a therapeutic optimism, owing to the possibility of curative treatment for mental patients. The population of psychiatric hospitals rose so sharply during World War II that it became imperative to relieve the pressure on them. The pace of integration of mental health services into the National Health Service (NHS) was disrupted by the relative isolation of the Hospital Management Committee (HMC).

in ‘Curing queers’

This chapter offers an interpretation of some nurses' acceptance of and participation in aversion therapy for sexual deviations. The nurses used humour as a way of coping with the absurdity of administering aversion therapy. Referring to the nurses as 'subordinate' was a self-fulfilling prophecy and it was inevitable that some would take on such an obedient role. The 'subordinate' state enrolled assistant nurse (SEAN) was introduced with the Nurses' Act 1943. Joanna Bourke argues that many health care professionals witnessed the war as an immense laboratory for experimentation and the testing of theories. John Hopton argues that the model of militarisation extended to civilian nursing and nurse discipline became more severe and stressed the importance of class distinction, duty and self-sacrifice. The medical experiments carried out in Nazi Germany and the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment were non-therapeutic experiments.

in ‘Curing queers’

This chapter describes the nurses' experiences when bending the rules in regard to administering aversion therapy, and the meaning they attached to the rule-bending behaviours. An examination of the testimonies demonstrates that femininities and masculinities were sometimes used by the subversive nurses to avert the suspicion of their engaging in resistive activities. Anxiety seems a reasonable response to Una Drinkwater's and Elizabeth Granger's subversive behaviours. A key driver in the development of university-based nurse education was Colin Fraser Brockington, Professor of Social and Preventative Medicine at the University of Manchester. Julian Wills's exposure to homosexuals during World War II had a positive effect on his attitude towards the individuals in his care. The mental nurses were deeply suspicious of state registered nurses (SRNs), as senior positions in mental hospitals were often denied to nurses unless they were dual qualified as a SRN and registered mental nurse (RMN).

in ‘Curing queers’

This chapter explores the consequences of the piecemeal cultural and representational shifts as nurses came to see the treatments they were administering for sexual deviation as inappropriate as ideas of deviance shifted. The advent of 'nurse therapists' witnessed nurses being trained in advanced clinical practice roles, enabling them to be more autonomous practitioners. The chapter then explores the assertive journey to gay liberation. Resistance to homosexual law reform was observed in a number of ways and many reformers were ironically using the same language of illness, sin and despair as those opposing legal change. Nick Crossley argues that counter-psychiatry was essentially a movement which criticised psychiatry. The media were keen to report the decision and ran front-page headlines such as The New York Times' 'Psychiatrists in a Shift. Declare Homosexuality no Mental Illness'.

in ‘Curing queers’
Abstract only

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in this book. The book enhances the understanding of sexuality in relation to nursing as a profession by discovering a hitherto neglected history of gay life in mental hospitals. It focuses on the nexus of memory studies, histories of subjectivities, and histories of post-war Britain. The book offers a new insight into the role of mental nurses caring for patients receiving aversion therapy for sexual deviation. It then offers the insights into the way nurses may behave when a particular set of social, political and contextual factors are at play. The book further presents an important area of nurse ethics and socialisation by analysing how nurses make decisions about what is professionally right and wrong in a context of ambiguity, frustration and conflict.

in ‘Curing queers’
Abstract only

The American Psychiatric Association's (APA) 1974 decision to remove homosexuality from its Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), along with social protests and a newly emerged gay liberation movement, eventually led to the curtailment of medical treatments to cure homosexuality. Before the term 'AIDS' was first coined in 1982, it had been labelled 'Gay Cancer' or Gay-related immune deficiency (GRID), and there was a strong sense that the condition was associated with sexual identity rather than sexual practice. The media were shaping a lot of public perception regarding the epidemic, and headlines such 'Gay Plague' characterised gay men as plague bearers who were highly contagious. Gay men were also gaining a higher profile in the arts and media by the late 1980s, with Sir Ian McKellen sensationally 'coming out' during a radio debate.

in ‘Curing queers’