A Half-Century of Conflict Over Attempts to ‘Cure’ Gay People

TIME

Fifty years ago today, TIME ran a short article under the headline, “Homosexuals Can Be Cured.” The article reported that male homosexuals responded well to group psychotherapy, under the care of 64-year-old University of Pennsylvania professor and psychiatrist Samuel Hadden. Over the course of four to eight years, Hadden explained, patients shared and interpreted each other’s dreams, cast aside their “flamboyant” clothes and manners, worked through their hostilities and neuroses, and began dating women. Marriages were saved and made.

Hadden was not the only—or most prominent—psychiatrist to claim homosexuality was a curable mental illness, but he was representative. Throughout the 1960s, psychiatrists Irving Bieber and Charles Socarides were regularly quoted in newspapers and magazines, arguing that homosexual desire was a form of psychosocial maladjustment, resulting from childhood. Freudian theory held that all children are inherently bisexual, developing a fixed sexual orientation only in adolescence through identification with the parent of…

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