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Conversion Gay Therapy and Asylums. What does this have in common?

Atualizado: 12 de mai. de 2023

Recent news reports portray an incredibly old problem, in fact, a problem that has been part of human history since the beginning.

Discussions about the Conversion Therapy, called as “Gay Cure” in Brazil, trigger the most heartfelt debates, often more heartfelt than polished. The law that allows the return of asylums is curiously simultaneously approved at the same time of an exhibition about the art works of Nise da Silveira’s patients at Engenho de Dentro Hospice. The exhibition was at Itaú Cultural, in São Paulo [1].

Perhaps everyone knows, but I will remember, that homosexuals were considered mentally disturbed, since the end of XIX century, when the German Psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing had defined homosexuality as a degenerative disorder. Since then, homosexuals have been locked up in asylums and excluded from society for a long time, until WHO, only thirty years ago have removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases.

Mental illness and human sexuality have always faced taboos and prejudices, and even though some of us may feel proud of the economic and cultural progress in which we live, there are controversies.

Humanity's progress is not linear, we go one step forward, two steps back, sometimes several steps forward, and so many steps back, in a back and forth of changes and setbacks.

This “Gay Cure” suffers, you see, it really suffers! of the most varied interpretations. One is that gays need therapy to stop being gay. On the other hand, the therapy would help gays to accept and lead a more fulfilling life. These two attitudes treat gays as beings unable to decide their own destiny or how to conduct their own treatment if they really want it, or presupposes that sexuality, or homosexuality is the only possible subject of the psychotherapy.

Part of society wants gays to disappear, either because of they could be "cured" or by the wish of they are not being represented in the media, which has been criticized by part of the population, and supported by another.

Jung says that any unilateral attitude triggers its opposite attitude, so that a balance is sought, but before balance, there is conflict, disagreements and attempts to control and dominate the opposite polarity. However, a conflict is only integrated and elaborates by analyzing the interest of all parties, since all repression will cause a revolution, which will remind us that the other polarity exists.

Now you must be wondering, after all, what does the return of asylums have to do with it?


Mental illness implies difference, implies the challenge of accepting and understanding the other, as well as sexual diversity. The "crazy" brings the difference to the fore, disorder causes discomfort, and take us away from the comfort zone. Homosexuality too.

The different scares, embarrasses, challenges my repertoire of thought and action, since I do not even know what to say, much less what to think in the face of the different. But the different triggers two antagonistic polarities, repudiation, and fascination. Homosexuals, transgender and “crazy” of all kinds fill the television programs, everyone wants to see what they are like, almost as if they were some kind of exotic animal, but how many want this exoticism at home?

Be aware that when I compare the “Gay Cure” with the return of asylums, I do not compare the condition of homosexuality with mental illness in any way. In fact, I compare the passionate reaction that both homosexuality and mental illness trigger in society at our time.

Societies are often defined much more by exclusion than by inclusion. Which is still funny, since in a country so full of prejudice as Brazil, we are better known because of Pele (the football player) and Carnival, both black and of poor origin, than for anything else.

The different may even exist as an exotic and recreational factor, since homosexuals, transgender and “crazy people” fill comedy programs and jokes of all kinds, which is hidden and that while they are exotic and excluded from the possibility of a normal and ordinary life, all right. The problem starts when stereotypes are abandoned and a human being appears, there the barriers of acceptable are crossed.

The situation is not quite different in relation to the poverty and misery that plagues this country, and all the consequences that this brings, as social exclusion and prejudice.

We are a modern society full of taboos and superstitions. It is believed that if homosexuals expose their same-sex partners in public, they will cause massive “contagion”! The "crazy people", ah, the "crazy people" will remind me all the time that the unconscious exists, and worse, that this can happen to anyone, even me, since we are all subject to a depression, an outbreak, or a simple rage in traffic that could destroy our lives forever - Who has never had a trace of homicidal fantasy, revenge, or at least sadistic in the infernal traffic of São Paulo?

In more than 35 years of clinical practice, I have never received a homosexual wanting to stop being a homosexual, nor have I heard it from any of my gay friends, who are many, but I certainly heard many complaints and anguishes about their destinies:

- What will become of me if my parents find out and expel me from home?

- Will I get a job?

- My life would be easier if I were "equal" to everyone ...

- How will others react?

- I think it is better to be discreet, and pretend I am no different, so I do not cause any problems ...

What I have seen in my clinical practice were families asking for their children to be "cured", or be hidden in the closet, bosses demanding that they be discreet so as not to "distort" the work environment, and many people pretending that they do not see.

When I do not accept the other as different, I do not accept what is different about myself, I create self-prejudices against my own being, more popularly known as low self-esteem or crisis of self-image.

Seeing and being seen is part of the human condition, I only exist when I am seen and recognized by the other - social networks confirm this all the time, isn’t? Then to deny the other the right to be seen and recognized is the same as to deny the very existence of someone, which is, to say the least, unimaginable cruelty!

Has anyone tried to ignore someone? Or has it ever been ignored like that? Does it hurt, doesn’t?

The exposure that some consider excessive by the media makes only the counterpoint, who was previously hidden, today wants to be seen.

The same happened with mental illness, with the disabled of various types, who could not leave the house or be "introduced" to society.

I don't know if today we have more homosexuals, more “bipolar”, more “depressive”, more “Down syndrome” and autists than before, what I know is that today they are no longer hidden, they are exposed and occupying spaces which, if it is public, is not everyone's? And there are a lot of people bothered, and yes, many are! To the point of playing around trying to change the laws ... not to mention the money this will pay, to those who dare to call themselves psychologists and who propagate conversion gay healing, since they are a minority restricted to some clans, and who will have their offices (maybe ...) filled with sent gays - because I believe that the demand for a gay cure is, at best, a desperate attempt at social insertion in a society that dictates abusive rules of various kinds - in search of a supposed cure.

To the future, or perhaps defaulters, asylum owners, they can easily rescue the concept of sub-people deposit (which is how mental patients were considered for a long time, doubting whether they even had a soul!). Since they are considered subhuman, they can be treated as such, a cheap treatment for cheap people, and a lot of people could take advantage and a good profit from it, since you don’t even need to invest in qualified professionals.

It smells of bribes in the air, or at least the prospect of a significant financial profit hovering around not only the return of asylums, like the conversion gay healing itself.

My question is: Who will profit from this? Certainly, neither gays nor the mentally ill, who are the real stakeholder and who have been treated as cheap currency since the beginning of history.

[1] To learn more about the exhibition, and about Dr. Nisei da Silveira, follow the link

The photo was taken from the following article, which I recommend reading:

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