The Daily Agenda for Thursday, July 19

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2012

TODAY’S AGENDA (Ours):
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Charlotte, NC (Black Pride); Colorado Springs, COFrankfurt, Germany; Hull, UK; Kitsap, WANewcastle-Upon-Tyne, UKPortland, OR (Latino Pride); Rochester, MNSan Diego, CATampere, Finland; York, UK

Other Events This Weekend: Sand Blast Weekend, Asbury Park, NJOutfest Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA; QFest Film Festival, Philadelphia, PA.

TODAY’S AGENDA: (Theirs):
Courage/EnCourage Conference 2012: Emmitsburg, MD. Exodus International certainly manages to get the lion’s share of attention in the ex-gay world, but it is far from being the only religiously-based organization with the goal of keeping gay people out of the so-called “homosexual lifestyle.” Courage is the Roman Catholic counterpart to the Evangelical Exodus, while EnCourage is an auxiliary group “dedicated to the spiritual needs of parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of persons who have same-sex attractions.” Beginning today they will hold a conference on the campus of Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD, and it will be a decidedly Catholic affair, mixing daily Masses, Confessions, Benedictions and Eucharistic Adoration with the more conventional line-up of plenary talks and workshops. The conference kicks off at 5:00 p.m. today with a Mass and continues through Sunday.

Eagle Forum Collegians Summit: Washington, D.C. It’s that time of year again when 87-year-old Phyllis Schlafly throws her annual hootenanny for conservative college students.  Her two-day circuit party known as the Annual Eagle Forum Collegians Summit begins today at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., and features a lineup that is guaranteed to elicit squeals of delight from the assempled co-eds, including: Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Reps. Allen West (R-FL), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY), Steve King (R-IA), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ). Don’t be jealous!

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Medical Journal Describes “Perverted Sexual Instinct”: 1884. One of the many startling things one encounters in nineteenth-century medical journals is the terminology which writers deployed to describe something which heretofore had no name. The German word Homosexualität wouldn’t make its way into the English language for another decade when Dr. George F. Shrady, editor of The Medical Record, penned a short article describing those whose inclinations were not toward procreation:

SIR THOMAS BROWN once wrote, platonically, that the act of procreation was “the foolishest act a wise man commits in all his life. Nor is there anything that will more deject his cooled imagination.” The physician learns, however, that man, so far from tending toward this ideal, is more apt to show instincts of a violently opposite character, and finds, far down beneath the surface of ordinary social life, currents of human passion and action that would shock and sicken the mind not accustomed to think everything pertaining to living creatures worthy of study. Science has indeed discovered that, amid the lowest forms of bestiality and sensuousness exhibited by debased men, there are phenomena which are truly pathological and which deserve the considerate attention and help of the physician.

That Shrady used the word “pathological” shows that already he had been influenced by various German authors — Carl Westphal, Karl Heinrich Ulrich, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, to name a few — who had already made a name for themselves in the study of Homosexualität (or Urnings, a term that was more widely used in Germany.) Before homosexuality became the subject of serious study, it had been written off as mere evil or vice. Viewing it as pathology invited society to consider that homosexuals weren’t criminals, but were merely acting upon what came naturally to them.

And what was the name of this condition? American writers tended to use the term “perverted sexual instinct,” with “perverted” taking on its original meaning as something which “has been corrupted or distorted from its original course, meaning, or state.” In the nineteenth century, all sorts of things could be “perverted,” including the understanding of religious doctrine (its original meaning), the application of economic incentives or the course of justice. It would only take another decade or so before “perverted sexual instinct” became shortened to “perversion,” and the “pervert” would become synonymous with gay people.

But back to Shrady’s 1894 paper. He reviewed the literature and found:

Up to that time (1883) only twenty-one cases were on record, three being reported by Americans, the rest mainly by Germans, and none at all by English observers. In a recent number of the Irrenfreund (vol. xxvi., No. I, 1884), Krafft-Ebing has reported six more cases. …In the reported cases of congenital perversion, the abnormal instinct begins oftenest as early as the eighth or ninth year, but shows itself at first, perhaps, only in an inclination to adopt the manners and practices of girls or women. The victims show the somatic basis of their trouble in various ways. There is often an hereditary psychopathic or neuropathic taint. Epilepsy is sometimes present. There are noticed in some cases, though not often, defects of the genital organs, such as hypospadias or epispadias, small or defective testicles. The hair on the face is sometimes thin, the voice almost always soft. The” Urnings” have a mincing gait, and sometimes the hips are broad like those of women. Exacerbations of the perverted feeling appear periodically. It may be accompanied with melancholia and end in insanity or suicide.

The mental peculiarities of these unfortunates have much in common. They are of the artistic, poetical. and imaginative temperament, often exhibiting a tendency to rather weak philosophizing. Sometimes they are of a vigorous understanding. In most cases there is great mental distress felt through a consciousness of their unnatural instincts. Two or three have, like Ulrichs, boldly defended their practices.

As for what to do about these individuals:

If congenital perverted sexual instinct is a pathological rather than a vicious condition, the query arises whether there is any remedy for it. The history of cases reported shows that sometimes the instinct is cultivated and intensified by bad surroundings in childhood, such as, for example, the exclusive society of women and immoral nurses. Excessive sexual indulgence seems to increase it, and we may question whether in a few cases the condition would have ever developed, were it not for an early abuse and misdirection of the sexual powers. In conditions of nervous exhaustion and weakness, the symptoms are exaggerated, and Krafft-Ebing, in his last communication, reports the case of a married man, previously healthy, who experienced an entire change in the sexual feeling, which lasted for twenty-five years. He was then cured by general faradization and other tonic measures.

“Faradization” refers to the use of electrical instruments to induce an electrical current or magnetic field. The late nineteenth century belief in the power of electricity and magnetism to cure all sorts of maladies gave rise to a thriving industry geared toward providing doctors with all sorts of “quack” instruments. “Tonic measures,” of course, refers to who knows what sort of snake oil which would may have been prescribed to restore masculine vigor to the unfortunate soul. (One wonders why NARTH hasn’t looked into these.) Shrady closes with this description:

In conclusion, we believe it to be demonstrated that conditions once considered criminal are really pathological, and come within the province of the physician. We have undertaken, therefore, the disagreeable task of laying some of the facts regarding sexual perversion before our readers. The profession can be trusted to sift the degrading and vicious from what is truly morbid.

We cannot do better than append the conclusions which Krafft-Ebing has reached upon this subject. He says: ” 1. There exists a congenital absence of sexual feeling toward the opposite sex, at times even disgust of sexual intercourse. 2. This defect occurs in a physically differentiated sexual type and with a normal development of the sexual organs. 3. Absence of the psychical qualities corresponding to the anatomical sexual type, but the feelings, thoughts, and actions of a perverted sexual instinct. 4. Abnormally early appearance of sexual desire. s. Painful consciousness of the perverted sexual desire. 6. Sexual desire toward the same sex. 7. The sexual desire remains purely platonic or finds gratification in mutual onanism, or in feeling of the object of the affections. Often there is self-pollution, but for the want of something better. 8. There are symptoms of a morbid excitability of the sexual desires, together with an irritable weakness of the nervous symptoms, so that sensuous feelings, magnetic sensations, and even pollutions occur in simply touching the object of the affections. 9. The perverse sexual impulse is abnormally intense and rules all thought and sensation. The love of such individuals is excessive even to adoration, and is often followed by sorrow, melancholy, and jealousy. 10. People afflicted with this abnormity frequently possess an instinctive power to recognize one another.”

In this last conclusion we cannot agree. The power of mutual recognition is not instinctive but acquired.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

luke

July 20th, 2012

Who knew, the gaydar debate has been going on for over a century

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