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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, January 9

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2013

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Marriage Equality Bill Introduction: Springfield, IL. The legislative sponsors of the Illinois marriage equality bill plan to file separate Senate and House bills on the first day of the new legislative session. Sponsors Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) will file the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, shortly after members of the 98th General Assembly are sworn in. Illinois marriage advocates believe that they have a strong chance to bring marriage equality to the Land of Lincoln thanks to Democratic supermajorities in both houses. The bill also enjoys the support of Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady.

Events This Weekend: Arosa Gay Ski Week, Arosa Switzerland; Aspen Gay Ski Week, Aspen, CO; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC;  Utah Gay and Lesbian Ski Week, Park City, UT; Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, Washington, DC.

An unidentified patient at Worcester State Hospital (Photo by Herbert Gehr/Life Magazine, 1949)

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
Hormone Treatments Found Ineffective for Altering Homosexuality (Or, More Precisely, Gender Identity): 1941. It’s a good thing this idea was knocked down rather early in the twentieth century. Unfortunately, it took a series of medical experiments on a mental hospital patient (almost certainly without the patient’s consent) to arrive at that conclusion. Worse, in an example which brings to mind the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiments, the experiments were performed on an African-American patient. According to Dr. Saul Rosenzweig and R.G. Hoskins, working at Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts, the patient, apparently transgender (in 1941, the concept of gender identity being distinct from sexual orientation was still unknown in the medical literature), was admitted to the hospital following the death of her male lover:

The patient, A.D., a male negro of 46, entered the Northampton State Hospital in 1921 and 4 years later was transferred to the Worcester State Hospital with a diagnosis of “constitutional psychopathic personality without psychosis.” …[His symptoms] consisted mainly of seclusiveness, shyness, pronounced effeminacy, and excessive preoccupation with drawing, painting, designing of women’s clothes and similar “artistic” activities. His speech became disjointed and unresponsive and for two years he refrained from leaving his home. He talked of wearing women’s clothes and often went to bed with presumably imaginary ailments. Upon admission to the Worcester State Hospital he showed no pronounced psychotic symptoms.

He is a short, stocky negro who, except for his large masculine genitals, is in every respect a woman. He shows an exaggerated female gait and speech and all the mannerisms of a clinging-vine type of female, spends hours at his toilette, and says he is fond of being well-groomed. With men he is coy, silly, and affected. With the other sex he talks as one woman to another. He daily asks for cathartics and is overinterested in the needs of his lower intestinal tract. He knows he is considered effeminate, but says that that is the way God made him. He further excuses his peculiarities on the ground that he is an artistic genius and therefore entitled to a few eccentricities.

A.D. had been a patient for 20 years with little change in his mannerisms or appearance. What is alarming about this report so far is the admission that A.D. is a long-term mental patient “without psychosis.” It’s hard to imaging what the doctors would be looking for as a sign that A.D. was ready to be discharged, although it’s equally hard to imagine how A.D. would have been able to function in the world if he had been discharged after 21 years of confinement. But of course, the alarm doesn’t end there. Rosenzweig and Hoskins decided that A.D. was the perfect candidate for a series of experiments:

From October 16 to November 10, 1939 he was given orally the potent synthetic estrogen, Stilboestrol (Squibb), in dosage of 5 mgm. three times a week.

On December 6 he received an implant of a 150-milligram tablet of Testosterone (Schering), which was embedded in the subcutaneous tissues beneath the inferior angle of the left scapula.

On December 20, 1939 to February 7, 1940, intramuscular injections were given of a gonadotropic preparation derived from pregnant-mare serum (Anteron-Schering). The dosage was 1 cc. or 250 units twice weekly. Because of an upper respiratory infection medication was omitted during the week of January 11.

An attempt was then made to enhance the responsivity to sex hormones by the use of desiccated thyroid (Armour). This was begun on February 1 at 1 grain daily and continued throughout the remainder of the study.

On February 9, Pituitary Gonadotropic — Pranturon (Schering) — was substituted for the pregnant-mare preparation, also in dosage of 1 cc. twice weekly. At the same time Testosterone Propionate by intramuscular injection was begun in dosage of 50 mgm. twice a week. Both were continued until February 29.

On March 9 another estrogenic preparation was begun, Ayerst Mc-Kenna and Harrison’s Emmenin being used in dosage of 1 teaspoonful three times daily. This was discontinued on March 11.

Finally, from April 6 to 11 another estrogen, Estriol (Lilly), was given in the large dosage, 6.24 mgm. three times a day.

What was the point of all of this bizarre hormonal treatments on A.D.? Rozenzweig and Hoskins believed that homosexuality was caused by an “imbalance of male and female sex-hormone production,” and that by altering that ratio, they hoped to be able to observe changes in A.D.’s behavior. They failed. “No influence upon the behavior or the personality of the patient could be detected.” For Rozenzweig and Hoskins, it was back to the drawing board. But for A.D., we may never know what became of her.

[Source: Saul Rosenzweig & R.G. Hoskins. “A note on the ineffectualness of sex-hormone medication in a case of pronounced homosexuality.” Psychosomatic Medicine 3, no. 1 (January 1941): 87-89.]

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?

Comments

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F Young
January 9th, 2013 | LINK

The medical experiments were shocking. BTW, it appears from your description that the efforts were aimed to change gender expression rather than gender identity or sexual orientation.

Steve
January 9th, 2013 | LINK

The general problem at the time – as hinted in the article – was that *a lot* of such testing was done without the patients’ consent. They just did random experiments on people without telling them. Especially on racial minorities and mental patients. That’s deeply unethical and criminal.

Aside from that I think it’s a valid experiment considering the time and their lack of knowledge. If a patient had voluntarily undergone it, it would have been fine. It’s mostly with hindsight that it seems absurd on its face, though the mix of male and female hormones in short succession seems weird.

@F Young
At that time, doctors pretty much considered those three things one and the same

Jim Burroway
January 9th, 2013 | LINK

F Young.

BTW, it appears from your description that the efforts were aimed to change gender expression rather than gender identity or sexual orientation.

That’s how I think we would interpret it today. But if you had asked Rosenzweig and Hoskins in 1941 what they where trying to do, they would have made no such distinction because the medical establishment didn’t understand that there was a distinction between gender identity/expression and sexual orientation. They really thought that it was all the same.

It’s also interesting to read the early magazines written by gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. They too thought it was all the same although they understood that there was an awful lot of variety under what was called “homosexuality.” It wasn’t until the 1960s and, more strongly, in the 1970s when clinicians began to understand that there were clear difference between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. I still think some are confused today.

Jim Burroway
January 9th, 2013 | LINK

Oh, and look at the paper’s title: “A note on the ineffectualness of sex-hormone medication in a case of pronounced homosexuality.”

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