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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.

Christmas Day 1943 by smuggling wine, champagne and good food into the infirmary. She created a makeshift table in the attic and covered it with a clean white bed sheet. She then prepared and served a Christmas dinner to the Polish prisoners who worked in the infirmary – an act that would certainly have put her life at risk. Stromberger evaded being caught and reprimanded for her subversive behaviour because she was easily identifiable as a nurse in her white coat and able to move around Auschwitz freely without suspicion.3 Irena Sendler was a social worker in Warsaw

in ‘Curing queers’
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ways and covertly undermine their superiors by engaging in some fascinating subversive behaviours. Essentially, these nurses were doing the opposite of some of the subordinate nurses: they were questioning the orders they had been given by those in authority. In parallel with some of the subordinate nurses, they also argued that their behaviours were based on the notion of beneficence. Nevertheless, in contrast to the subordinate nurses, the subversive nurses were upholding the principle of non-maleficence when they chose to engage in resistive practices. Indeed, one

in ‘Curing queers’

volume measurements, the success of the treatment and, therefore, the patient’s discharge was based mainly on self-reported outcomes from the patient.220 Some patients in this study were able to use this to their advantage and engaged in subversive behaviours in order to be discharged from the hospital. Indeed Percival Thatcher states that his aversion therapy was stopped, ‘. . . because I lied, and told them that it had worked’.221 Greta Gold recalls a similar narrative: I suddenly had a ‘eureka moment’ and thought, how do the doctors actually know what I’m thinking

in ‘Curing queers’
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fascinating subversive behaviours in order to avoid participating in this aspect of clinical practice. Chapter 4 examines and interprets the testimonies of these ‘subversive nurses’. By the 1970s, individuals were beginning to question the defini­ tion of ‘difference’. Gay men and women were starting to unite and promote  sexual and subcultural difference as positive and lifeenhancing as gay liberation emerged – individuals were actively and vocally refuting the sickness label and the treatment that had come to accompany it. This eventually led the APA to remove the term

in ‘Curing queers’

authority can work. There were others, however, who were able to covertly undermine their superiors by engaging in some fascinating subversive behaviours. Chapter 4 introduces the ‘subversive nurses’ in this book, and seeks to explore their testimonies, to discover how some nurses appeared to resist the powerful influences discussed above. Notes 1 Ursula Vaughan, interviewed 12 February 2010. Parts of this chapter have been recycled from Tommy Dickinson, Matt Cook, John Playle and Christine Hallett, ‘Nurses and Subordination: A Historical Study of 172 ‘Subordinate

in ‘Curing queers’
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FANY service after the Armistice 1918–19

: as an independent organization they made their own rules and gave women opportunities for training, leadership, fun and adventure; however, once established they worked within the system and did ‘play the game all through’. Unfortunately this game also included a return to more traditional gender relations when the war was over. In this way the FANY were groundbreaking in challenging the regulatory norms of gender and by living unconventional lives and doing work often coded as masculine. Through these subversive behaviours they were able to develop feminine

in War girls
Race, culture and power in the Trinidad ‘Carnival Queen’ beauty competition, 1946–59

in kalinda as fighters has also been written out of Carnival history.23 Meanwhile the Carnival performance of the ‘respectable’ classes was largely transferred behind doors. The wealthy, conspicuous by their absence from street masking, at least by day, poured scorn on Carnival through the press, creating a gendered discourse of degeneration and dis­ order around the black jamette Carnival. They reserved particular ire and disapprobation for the behaviour of poor women at Carnival. Women’s deliberately subversive behaviour became, according to the Catholicoriented

in Imagining Caribbean womanhood
Open Access (free)
La colonie Française

engaged in subversive activities. This might have sounded a severe sanction, but was yet again a fudge. Not only did repatriation remain a virtual impossibility in 1941 (witness the problems with the French consular staff later that year), but few Frenchmen were likely to be caught engaging in subversive behaviour, especially given the way in which the colony remained a community apart. Nor was there government consensus over the issue. The Ministry of Labour feared Germany would exploit any gesture towards conscription for propaganda purposes.265 After all, it was not

in The forgotten French