To: The Secretary,
Royal College of Psychiatrists,
17 Belgrave Square, London SW1.
Dear Vanessa Cameron,
We are writing to express our concern at the long history of psychiatric abuse suffered by lesbians, gays and bisexuals. For most of this century, the psychiatric profession labelled us as "mentally ill" and "pathological". Because we were deemed to be sick, we were pressured, and sometimes forced, to undergo psychiatric treatment in a bid to make us heterosexual.
This treatment consisted, most notoriously, of aversion therapy: the administration of electric shocks or nausea-inducing drugs, coinciding with the showing of homoerotic images. These attempts to cure homosexuals were common until the mid-1970s. They caused untold suffering and harm to many gay and bisexual people.
Aversion therapy is still used occasionally today. John Beckett, a naval weapons engineer, was offered aversion therapy by the Royal Navy when it was discovered he was gay. The fact that there are still apparently psychiatrists who are willing to administer this barbaric psuedo-medicine is scandalous.
It is time the Royal College of Psychiatrists took official action to stamp out lingering homophobia vithin the profession. Specifically, we urge the Royal College to:
Faced with mounting pressure in support of McNally, the Manhattan Theatre Club has now reversed its previous ban, and has agreed to stage Corpus Christi in September.
Update, Sunday Times, 20-June-1999
'Gay cure' therapy offered on NHSby Lois Rogers Medical Correspondent
DOCTORS claiming to "cure" homosexuality are offering a range of controversial therapies on the NHS. The treatment - known as aversion therapy - involves attempting to instil a loathing for gay sex.
Such therapies were thought to have been abandoned after homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, but new evidence indicates that some survive. A leading psychiatrist has described how he recently treated a 24-year-old man for "sexual orientation". John Kellett, a consultant psychiatrist at St George's hospital in south London, reported in Trends in Urology, a medical journal, that the therapy was successful.
The patient, the son of an army sergeant, sought treatment because he wanted to have a conventional marriage and children. Kellett treated the man, who worked in a City broking firm, by attempting to steer the focus of sexual arousal towards pornographic magazines and female clothing. After a period of months, he said, the man reported that he was cured and subsequently regarded his homosexuality as "an aberration which was vaguely repulsive".
Last week Kellett admitted that he had not kept in touch with the patient to check whether he had remained heterosexual. "I suspect it is like alcoholism: if such people have a disaster in their lives, they may well relapse," he said.
Other health workers said they continued to use aversion treatments for gay patients. Philip Soker, an NHS psycho-analyst, maintained that he would not try to change someone who did not want it. But he said he had used behaviour modification therapies: "I don't think there is any evidence that sexuality is determined biologically. People can convince themselves they are of a particular sexual orientation when they are not."
Mental health and homosexual rights groups believe pyschiatrists offering the therapy are simply demonstrating their own prejudices. They are campaigning for an end to such practices, which they believe can cause long-term mental illness.
Mike King, professor of psychiatry at the Royal Free Hospital in London, said: "I still get people referred to my clinic who have been told their sexuality is a disease, and we do see people who have been thoroughly messed up by attempts at treatment."
Peter Price, 53, a gay radio broadcaster in Liverpool, recently revealed his experience of such therapy during the 1960s. More than 700 people have since contacted him to say they had received similar treatment. Many of them said they had not recovered from the psychological trauma.
Price said he agreed to undergo treatment because his mother could not bear the idea of her 18-year-old son being homosexual. "I was locked up alone in a mental institution for 72 hours with supposedly gay pornograpy, and given drugs to make me vomit and become incontinent," he said.
"There was no lavatory and no water supply in the room. They said the next part of the treatment was to apply electrodes to my genitals. After three days I begged to be let out."
Such is the level of concern about the long-term damage suffered by many homosexual men and women that King has this month been awarded a £ 400,000 grant from the national lottery fund, to be shared with mental health charity Mind. They will investigate links between various types of aversion therapy and later psychological problems, such as depression, in gay people.
Homosexuality ceased to be classified as a mental disorder by the World Health Organisation only in 1992.
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