Aversion therapy

Concerned about living a 'double life', Bill asked for 'treatment' for being gay from his doctor in the 1960s. He tried aversion therapy and describes what it involved.

Duration 02:12


Image of Lancaster Moor Hospital:
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Peter McDermott – geograph.org.uk/p/4294953


So I was aware of living a double life, so I went to my doctor, I had registered with my doctor there and I went to my doctor and said to him I’m gay, or whatever term I used then, homosexual or whatever, can I have some treatment please? So he arranged for me to see this other bloke who would see if I was a suitable person to have this treatment. This bloke I saw was really ahead of his time because he said to me, OK, so you are gay, just accept it and live with it, but if you want treatment I will arrange it for you.

So, I said yes, I would like treatment and he arranged treatment for me which meant going to Lancaster Moor Hospital every Friday afternoon and the treatment was that you chose, I think, 40 slides of men who would be the men you found most attractive, and generally they would be generally men who were wearing shorts or trunks; and then 40 females slides, bearing in mind that I’m gay and not interested in women, just choose 40 slides which you think would be the most attractive. Then what they did, they would put electrodes on your wrists and show you the slides, and I think it was a female slide for 20 seconds, and a male slide for ten seconds, and an electric shock; then a female slide for 20 seconds and a male slide then an electric shock; and go through the whole lot three times every session and adjust the shocks to the maximum that you could stand.

I went through this process, I can’t remember for how long exactly, but certainly for a few weeks but, at one point, I said to the bloke administering it, do you think if you had this in reverse, it would make you gay? And he said, well, it’s bound to have some effect, but I just thought it was a total waste of time and so I packed it in. And then the following year I went to Leeds and it was the start of Gay Lib, so that changed my life.