The ex-gay movement became politically well-known when it gained the support of the religious right and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family in the mid-1990s.
But the theory behind reparative therapy dates back as far as 1886 and the times of Sigmund Freud. By the 1950s, the ex-gay movement’s forefathers — and its empty promises of undefined “change,” its stereotypes, distortions of science, and condescension — were all too evident in popular media.
Case in point: An April 3, 1957, ad that ran in The Village Voice. The ad was recalled for posterity recently in the Voice’s “Runnin’ Scared” weblog.
“In writing this book, I am thinking of the mass of young people‚Äîunhappy, bewildered, uninformed, sometimes suicidal‚Äîwho, because of an appalling unavailability of accurate information, erroneously consider their homosexual difficulties to be their final destiny. I am thinking of the young wives of “bisexuals’…I am also thinking of the unhappy parents of young homosexuals…All this can be remedied by information combined with treatment, provided the prospective patient really wants to change.” From the Author’ Forward. Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life? By Edmund Bergler, MD
In case history after case history, this book shows how today’ half-knowledge and ignorance on the subject of homosexuality is being used to bewilder and seduce a whole new age group. This is no book for the idly curious. It discusses, in clear terms, the causes and treatment of an increasingly serious social problem. $5.00
Fifty-one years ago, Edmund Bergler practiced half-truth and ignorance even as he projected these traits onto his would-be patients and their families — in an era when openly gay individuals faced great hostility, discrimination, and prosecution, even in major cities.
According to the book Anything But Straight by Wayne Besen, Bergler was “the indisputable psychoanalytic king of gay bashing“; he claimed that 99.9 percent of all cases of homosexuality could be cured, and wrote diatribes against his own gay patients. Bergler’s idea of science consisted of statements that homosexuals tend toward “megalomaniacal superciliousness” and an “amazing degree of unreliability.”
Bergler, who died in 1962, was considered a leading expert on homosexuality and his pattern of stereotypes about gay people were a foundation for antigay therapists to come.
Hat tip: Good As You