In 1899, a German psychiatrist electrified the audience at a conference on hypnosis with a bold claim: He had turned a gay man straight. All it took was 45 hypnosis sessions and a few trips to a brothel, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing bragged. Through hypnosis, he claimed, he had manipulated the man’s sexual impulses, diverting them from his interest in men to a lasting desire for women. He didn’t know it, but he had just kicked off a phenomenon that would later be known as “conversion therapy”—a set of pseudoscientific techniques designed to quash LGBTQ people’s sexuality and make them conform to society’s expectations of how they should behave. Though it’s dismissed by the medical establishment today, conversion therapy was widely practiced throughout the 20th century, leaving shame, pain and self-hatred in its wake.
June 20 / History Channel