The Daily Agenda for Friday, November 9

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2012

Groundbreaking and Naming Ceremony for LGBT-Friendly Low-Income Senior Housing Complex: Philadelphia, PA. Project planners, LGBT-advocates and public officials will mark the start of construction on Philadelphia’s LGBT-friendly low-income senior housing complex, which is being billed as the first urban project of its kind in the nation. The six-story building will feature 56 one-bedroom units, with a 5,000 square-foot enclosed courtyard and multi-purpose spaces to be shared by residents and the larger community. The plans also include nearly 2,000 square feet of rentable ground floor retail space fronting 13th Street in the heart of Philadelphia’s neighborhood. Mayor Michael Nutter will reveal the project’s name, and LGBT civil rights pioneers Randy Wicker (see Jul 15), Ada Bello (see Aug 7), Mark Horn, Jeff Fouratt, Michael Lavery, and Mark Segal (see Dec 11) will also be on hand. The groundbreaking ceremony will take place at 249 South 13th Street,  between Spruce and Locust Streets, from 11:00 a.m. and noon.

Transgender Leadership Summit: Berkeley, CA. The Transgender Law Center will present their seventh annual Transgender Leadership Summit, which will present several workshops ranging from legal, health care, organizational development and much more. The Transgender Advocacy Network, a national network of transgender advocacy and educational organizations, will also be there presenting workshops of lessons learned from advocacy work across the country. The summit takes place today and tomorrow at the University of California, Berkeley. You can follow the event on Twitter at  #TLS12, and they will also livestream portions of the Summit.

Other Events This Weekend: Daytona Beach Pride, Daytona Beach Florida; Gay Day Disney, Hong Kong, China.

“They Cannot Whistle”: A European Overview of Sexual Inversion: 1894. Most original thought on homosexuality in the nineteenth century was being published in Germany and France, two nations whose obscenity laws declined to interfere with what was billed as “scientific” material. The same was not necessarily true in Britain or the U.S., where authorities were more strict about what could be published. But if a publication first appeared abroad in a foreign language, its translation into English and publication in journals and books sold exclusively to the medical professions was typically allowed. This had the effect of stifling the study of sexuality in Britain and the U.S. while the new science of sexology on the continent enjoyed a multi-decade head start. Consequently, late nineteenth century American and British medical professionals were still dependent on French, German and Italian sources for information on sexuality. And so the November 1894 edition of the American journal Physician and Surgeon included this lecture by Dr. Paul Blocq from Paris on the topic of “sexual inversion”:

It is important, first of all, to explain what we mean by sexual inversion, and show how it differs from the other perversions of the genital instinct. We may arrange these aberrations in three classes: (1) Where the instinct is abolished, impotence and agenisis. (2) When it is exaggerated, satyriasis and nymphomania. (3) Perversions. This last class includes onanism, fetichism, masochism, and sadism. Then comes inversion, which may be defined as a sexual attraction between individuals of the same sex — homo-sexuality. In man we may, according to [Albert] MOLL, give it the name of uranism, keeping the expression, pederast (sodomist) for the group of persons who practice coitus in ano. In woman it is called tribadism, saphism or lesbism [sic], according to the method they may employ to produce the sexual orgasm. [All parentheticals and italics in the original, bracketed info added.]

Acknowledging that “the medical study of this state is quite modern,” homosexuality itself has existed in Biblical times “and in the ancient history of different nations.” He reviewed the European literature on homosexuality (Richard von Kraftt-Ebing, Heinrich Kaan, Albert Moll, Julien Chevalier, Karl Friedrich Otto Westphal, among others), and concluded — not by science but solely by way of analogy — that homosexuality was a pathological condition:

Take hunger, for instance: it recalls to the normal organism the want of food, but of course we know plenty of states where this instinct is wanting and yet the stomach is in a normal condition. It is probably the same in a man whose sexual organs are in a normal state and yet his instinct is perverted. That is to say, it is easy to understand that the genital instinct can present the same abnormalities that the other functions do. Nevertheless, the objection will be made that a person in good health is pushed by nature to perpetuate his species, and one cannot qualify as morbid the absence of sexual desire when its reproduction is possible, for it is known that some uranists have had wives and had children by them. But take up the comparison again. We can see also that there is no sufficient reason for denying the pathological nature of inversion in these facts, for no one, for instance, will deny that the absence of appetite is pathological whether the  organism receives the usual quantity of food or not, and the default of sexual propensity is likewise a pathological fact whether coition is possible or not.  The comparison is possible also with those persons who have a taste for indigestible substances, such as chalk, lead, et cetera. These are pathological tastes and yet the normal one for nutritive substances may and often does exist with this state.

That is what passed for science in the late nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. His descriptions  of gay men is equally based on impressions rather than rigorous scientific study:

The first thing noticed in such patients, as a rule, is effeminacy. This modifies the physiognomy, voice, attitude and walk. It must not be supposed, though, that all persons who act and walk like women are of this class, n0r that there are not any uranists who preserve the normal appearance of man. It is only to be remarked that many of them take the woman type, or at least they imitate it and make efforts to reproduce it artificially by shaving off the beard or moustache, some going so far as to have it pulled out (epilation). If they have not naturally a soprano or alto voice they will try to cultivate one. [Karl] ULRICHS states that they cannot whistle but this sign is not proven. …

They will adopt ladies’ silk stockings, high heeled boots and even wear corsets. The furniture of their rooms will show the same tendency, with a profusion of fans, toys, and perfumes. Some of them will even work at crochet and women’s needlework. GYURKOWECHSKY [?] says that they resemble women more than men by their caprices, changeableness, and facility for telling lies (not gallant) while they have an excessive prudery.

Their intellectual state is not, however, as a rule bad, as they ha”e been known to direct large business enterprises with some ability. They possess a real aversion to women and never approach them if possible. …

As to their sexual feelings, they make ‘psysical manifestations of inversion by making the actual love they seem to feel to the person they have chosen and express their passion just as normal men do for the women of their choice. They seem to feel the same passion as men do for women and express it strongly in letters of which many hundreds are extant. … According to their own confessions they know one another by an oblique look of the eyes, but this sign is certainly very indefinite.

What caused this condition?

A large number of theories have been proposed to account for the genesis of this state. [Paulo] MANTEGAZZA thinks that it is anatomical in its origin. For instance, in passive sodomists, the nervous filaments which should be distributed to the genital organs are given off to the rectal mucous membrane, but there is no demonstration given of this idea. As the normal excitation of these nerves comes from the brain and cord it is more likely that [Valentin] MAGNAN and [Eugene] GLEY are in the right in thinking that it is a corticle trouble. KRAFT-EBING [sic] is also of this opinion, and while we have no confirmation of it by post-mortems, still, it is a possible explanation of the state. Personally, we share the ideas of MOLL, who thinks that there is an abnormal genital instinct in these cases simply because this instinct in degenerated subjects is their locus minoris resistentiæ.

Once a diagnosis is made, what should the physician do then?

About treatment:— Two indications present themselves. In some of these subjects there is a sort of hyperesthesia of the genital organs and this must be met by proper medication. Warm douches, bromides, and camphor combined with lupulin are useful drugs, and in the other cases one can insist on their returning to the normal as regards sexual life. Sometimes this is best carried out by suggestion without hypnotism. Surgical intervention by castration has been suggested.

[Source: Paul Blocq. “Sexual Inversion.” Physician and Surgeon 16, no. 11 (November 1894): 549-553. Available online here.]

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?

Willie Hewes

November 9th, 2012

Just wanted to say I really appreciate when you quote these historical sources in the agenda. I think it’s really interesting.

Keep em coming.


November 9th, 2012

“coitus in ano” Oh. So that’s what that’s called.

G.I. Joe

November 12th, 2012

Love those entries.

I’ve read it aloud to my boyfriend and we laughed hysterically. I mean, wow.

Then we sobered up and thought of the thousands of gay men and women who were tortured because of those types of writing.

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