‘Curing Queers’: Mental Nurses and Their Patients, 1935-74 by Tommy Dickinson

curing queers

This is an utterly fascinating, engrossing, and at times completely horrifying book. Dickinson has written a history of conversion therapy on homosexual men and transgender patients, and the horrors that were advocated by medical practitioners at the time.

Based on an extensive review of the available literature, Dickinson interviews a number of mental nurses (as they were known then) who administered such therapies, which included shock treatment such as ECT and emetics to induce vomiting (I’ll leave the rest upto your imagination), but he also interviewed a number of patients who went through these procedures (interestingly, unbeknownst to both, there was a case where a nurse and patient were talking about each other).

Written from the perspective of nurses and nursing history, this is a fascinating account of what was done to gay and trans patients during this time, and how the medical field slowly changed. It’s also very interesting to read of the lack of faith that the nurses who administered the treatment had in it, but with strict status systems in play (nurses do what doctors tell them), they complied.

Also discussed in one chapter is the discussion of gay male mental nurses administering this these treatments to gay patients, and the contradiction of it, especially since, as is documented, there was a subculture in some hospital of groups of gay male nurses.

This review doesn’t really do it justice, and there is a lot more that I could discuss. It’s a fascinating, essential, and timely book given that the UK is seeking to wholly outlaw any use of conversion therapies. Not for the faint of heart, but recommended who want an accurate account of a time thankfully, mostly consigned to history.

One thought on “‘Curing Queers’: Mental Nurses and Their Patients, 1935-74 by Tommy Dickinson

  1. Pingback: (My) Books of the Year | South Dublin Reads

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