When I'm 89, I'll be grateful if I have a quarter of Szasz's insight and writing ability. Here's his latest - the fascinating tragedy of mathematician and AI pioneer Alan Turning:
In 1951 Turing... confessed to his homosexual affair and was charged with "gross
indecency," a crime then punishable by a maximum of two years'
imprisonment. The judge, taking into account Turing's intellectual
distinction and social position, sentenced him to probation, "on the
condition that he submit for treatment by a duly qualified medical
practitioner." In April 1952 he wrote to a friend, "I am both bound
over for a year and obliged to take this organo-therapy for the same
period. It is supposed to reduce sexual urge whilst it goes on, but one
is supposed to return to normal when it is over. I hope they're right."
Turing was never the same again. His body became feminized. He grew
On June 8, 1954, Turing was found dead by his housekeeper, a partly
eaten apple laced with cyanide next to his bed. At the inquest... [t]he
verdict was "suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed." ...
In 1967 the UK decriminalized homosexuality. Overnight it ceased to
be a disease in England but not the United States, where for six more
years it remained both a crime and a "treatable disease."
Turing's biographer, Andrew Hodges, notes that Turing did not
consider his homosexuality a disease, a crime, or a shameful condition.
He suggests that Turing opted for medical treatment rather than a brief
period of imprisonment because he feared that a criminal conviction
would be fatal for his career...
In the last couple of decades, a lot of people have apologized for the past crimes of the groups with which they identify: the U.S. for Japanese internment, the Church for Galileo, Swiss bankers for Nazi money laundering, even the Japanese (kind of) for their war crimes. I'd like to see psychiatrists do the same - to admit that unusual preferences are not "disease," affirm that it is wrong to treat people against their will, and turn their backs on the "greats" of their profession who believed in and practiced coercive therapy.