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American Psychiatry and the Pathologizing of Homosexuality during WWII: An Examination of the Impact on US Military, Queer Communities in the Military and Discourses on Masculinity, 1938-1945

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After World War I, the field of psychiatry in the US grew immensely and turned to create the perfect soldier. Increasingly, they advocated screening for mental and physical illness prior to recruits joining the military. Thus by 1939, the psychiatrists such as Dallas G. Sutton in an article entitled The Utilization of Psychiatry in the Armed Forces advocated for screening recruits along those lines. One of the mental illnesses they created as a category for screening was 'homosexuality.' This study examines the impact of such proposed screening for 'undesirable' traits, including homosexuality (defined as 'mental illness' by the psychiatrists). It looks specifically at the impact through three perspectives of those affected. 1) The individual perspective: How were service members and civilians affected personally? How did those who fit under 'mental illness' experience the change in laws and administration? 2) How did the changes affect the community, in particular, queer communities on and off base? 3) How did the new anti-homosexual laws and military policies that followed the psychiatrists' suggestions impact more comprehensive public concepts of (ideal vs. abnormal) masculinity? The project engages with diaries, memoirs, letters, legislation, journal articles, video and audio interviews of veterans, and multiple secondary sources to bring a new understanding of the adverse effects of the Psychologists' interventions in the 1930s on queer service members' lives and their surrounding communities. In the process, it engages with the often-disparate fields of Queer theory, military history, and the history of science and medicine.

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American Psychiatry and the Pathologizing of Homosexuality during WWII: An Examination of the Impact on US Military, Queer Communities in the Military and Discourses on Masculinity, 1938-1945

After World War I, the field of psychiatry in the US grew immensely and turned to create the perfect soldier. Increasingly, they advocated screening for mental and physical illness prior to recruits joining the military. Thus by 1939, the psychiatrists such as Dallas G. Sutton in an article entitled The Utilization of Psychiatry in the Armed Forces advocated for screening recruits along those lines. One of the mental illnesses they created as a category for screening was 'homosexuality.' This study examines the impact of such proposed screening for 'undesirable' traits, including homosexuality (defined as 'mental illness' by the psychiatrists). It looks specifically at the impact through three perspectives of those affected. 1) The individual perspective: How were service members and civilians affected personally? How did those who fit under 'mental illness' experience the change in laws and administration? 2) How did the changes affect the community, in particular, queer communities on and off base? 3) How did the new anti-homosexual laws and military policies that followed the psychiatrists' suggestions impact more comprehensive public concepts of (ideal vs. abnormal) masculinity? The project engages with diaries, memoirs, letters, legislation, journal articles, video and audio interviews of veterans, and multiple secondary sources to bring a new understanding of the adverse effects of the Psychologists' interventions in the 1930s on queer service members' lives and their surrounding communities. In the process, it engages with the often-disparate fields of Queer theory, military history, and the history of science and medicine.