Contented Deviants

Professor Carstairs Calls Homosexuals ‘Deviants’ In Medical Handbook

19720901-04A non-gay woman member of SMG brought disturbing news to the Chairman, Ian C Dunn, recently. Researching for her final year studies in Dietetics at the Edinburgh College of Domestic Science, she discovered some particularly unpleasant writing on homosexuality in the prestigious medical handbook “The Principles and Practice of Medicine” (10th edition, eds. Sir Stanley Davidson and John Macleod, published by E & S Livingstone, Edinburgh, 1971).

The offending passage occurs in the section “Personality Disorders” (pp 1076-1078). Homosexual activity is described as “.. . abnormal practices which do interfere with other people”. A little later the writer suggests that “the Sexual Offences Act 1967 for the first time in Great Britain” (my italics) gave freedom to homosexuals. This is a blatant error of fact. Prior to 1885 homosexuals did have the freedom to make love in private, Moreover, prior to 1871, the age of consent was lower than the artificially high 21 years it is today. The writer also fails to point out that both Scotland and Northern Ireland remain outside the law reform of 1967.

“Most forms of deviant behaviour, such as homosexuality, seem to be the result of distorted experiences at the stage of development when boys and girls learn their sexual role.” What sort of advice is this to present to medics-in-training? The writer would do well to undertake a study of heterosexual behaviour before making such sweeping generalisations about homosexuals. Is there a “cure”? The best advice the writer can come up with is a suggestion that these poor people could “dampen down their drives” (by drug ingestion? – we are not informed). “Deviants seem rather content with their lot” is the final remark, and one almost feels like saying, “gosh, sir, thanksalotsir!” It is a thoroughly bad piece of psychiatric writing.

But who wrote (or approved) the article? This is where the shock comes in: for it was Professor M Carstairs himself who acknowledged responsibility when Ian Dunn rang him up to discuss the matter. Did he (Prof. Carstairs) consider the article compatible with his publicly expressed views on homosexuality made as Honorary Vice-President of SMG?

The Professor said that he would have to re-read the article. Would he consider re-writing the section for the 11th Edition (due 1973)? The Professor agreed to consider this, and asked for some notes to aid him in his task.

Here, then, is an opportunity for the gay community to ensure that the real life facts on being homosexual get inserted into the best reference books. I would like to make a direct appeal to those readers who may have the time to undertake this work to get in touch with Ian Dunn, 15 Hope Park Terrace, Edinburgh, EH8 9LZ. Please send in suggestions backed up with chapter and verse references, if possible. Maximum 750 words.