An occasional blog of our activities for the LGBT History Project with the odd post on subjects connected to LGBT History generally. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can download our 2016 magazine here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/24371157/P2P-2016.pdf
In 1870, two bedraggled young
women were hauled before Bow Street Magistrates Court, charged with
"the abominable crime of buggery". After a night in the cells, with wigs
slipping and stubble poking through, it was clear to the packed and
excited courtroom that the two tarts were actually young men. Their
names, according to the charge sheet, were Ernest Boulton and Frederick
Park (no realtion to me, that I know of). To their friends they were
Stella and Fanny. And in the newspapers, where they now became
front-page fixtures, they were known as the He-She Ladies.
On the evening of 23rd January 2013, some of the project members attended one of a series of seminars on Psychoanalysis and History at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1. This one was by Chris Waters - ‘Edward Glover and the Politics of Homosexual Law Reform’. We have combined our notes to provide this, no doubt, rough account of the presentation and discussion.
His interest in homosexuality developed after
training, he originally was more interested in criminality and criminal
behaviour. His interest was in crime, the criminal offender and psychological
effects, in particular the conflict between primitive instincts and the
altruistic codes imposed on society.
Glover had a different approach to homosexuality
than his US peers, who felt that homosexuality was something that could
(should?) be cured; he saw it more as an ‘abnormality of [sexual] object choice
than might require an explanation’. In about 1940, a young Michael Schofield
approached him for help understanding his ‘condition’. After asking a very few
questions Glover’s advice was to “Go and enjoy life. Don’t let it worry you.”
Glover penned the first substantial account of
the impact of psychoanalysis on homosexuality and later in life called for
homosexual law reform.
He was a founding member of the Institute for
the Scientific Treatment of Delinquency. A
number of magistrates who were uncomfortable with the draconian gross indecency
laws used to approach the ISTD for psychiatric reports on men charged with
sexual offences under those laws and would make psychiatric treatment a
condition of Probation rather than sending the men to prison. The Home Office
was interested in the work of the ISTD and the ‘new medico-psychological
There was a growing influence of psychiatry in
the social domain after the Second World War and during the 1950s. This contributed
to the developing view that those convicted of sexual offences needed
scientific treatment rather than imprisonment.
He was considered credible by the Wolfenden
Committee because of his scientific detachment and evidence led approach. For
example, he was unwilling to work with any organisation he viewed as a public
advocacy group, eg. The British Sexological Society.
As well as writing the pamphlet, “Social and
Legal Aspects of Sexual Abormality”, Glover submitted a report called “The
Problem of Homosexuality” to the Wolfenden Committee, recommending law reform.
Glover argued that sexual offences which did not impinge on or infringe the
rights of others should be removed from the criminal code. The report was not
accepted by many in the ISTD (of which he was part), which had commissioned it.
He didn’t view homosexuality as a ‘disease’ or as criminal, except where it was
associated with violence or the seduction of minors. Asked directly by a member
of the Committee if he saw any harm in homosexuality, his answer was ‘no’.
He noted that those ‘private homosexuals’ who
avoided conflict with the law did not require treatment to function well in
In the period from the mid-1930s to the
mid-1950s, the number of gay sex cases in court rose by 350%; while the number
of men referred for treatment rose by about 1000%. In that same period, some
500 men were referred to the ISTD.
It was noticed by psychiatrists that the
‘success’ rate for homosexuals who sought out treatment was MUCH higher than
for those who were referred for treatment as a condition of Probation (although
there are no firm figures).
He was clear that sin and crime were not the
same, that deviating from accepted sexual mores and not demonstrating ‘normal’
sexual behaviour was not automatically criminal.
He looked for non-judgemental language to
express his ideas but was prone to lapsing to the more familiar language of
He considered hormone treatment not to be
effective, except in ‘bludgeoning the patient’s sexual system into submission’.
By the 1950s, he viewed that the difficulties
experienced by homosexual men were, at least in part, due to social pressures,
attitudes and expectations. He seems to have had some sympathy with the
approach of the Mattachine Society,
which was more interested in society adjusting to the homosexual than vice
His ideas developed to see homosexuals as social
beings rather than scientific problems and homosexuality as a social condition
rather than criminal behaviour.
Glover’s core ideas about the need to change the
law to decriminalise homosexual behaviours were there in the 1920s. Up to 1950,
his awareness grows of the interplay between the homosexual individual and his
social background and environment. However, he didn’t do much with that, so
that his mantle was taken up by others.
By the 1960s/1970s, activists had moved away
from Glover’s psychiatry-based views of homosexuality and were more interested
in the experience of gay individuals, particularly with a growing social
narrative of ‘gay life’ and a queer culture. Indeed, Chris Waters, who is very
familiar with Glover’s work, is unaware of any publication by him after about
Other stuff that came out along the way:
There’s some evidence that Turing’s treatment
was rare - clear from records that Turing’s lawyer pressed hard for him to be
ordered for treatment as a way to avoid imprisonment.
In 1895, it would never have been suggested that
Oscar Wilde had a ‘condition’ that required treatment. Had he been tried in
1954 (the centenary of his birth), he might have received hormone or
psychiatric treatment in lieu of imprisonment. In 1953, actor John Gielgud was
fined with a proviso that he undergo psychiatric treatment.
Leo Abse, who later went on to steer the 1967
Sexual Offences Bill through Parliament, was co-opted to the ISTD Council in
Chris Waters argued that between 1927-32 the
developments in psychoanalysis had an impact on criminological theory and
psychoanalytic practice which informed policy for the next few decades.