What turns women to Lesbianism? Ideas from 1966.

Chatelaine Magazine featured a 5-page article in October 1966, exploring the phenomenon of lesbianism written by Renate Wilson.  Largely sympathetic, the author contrasted lived experiences of the lesbians she interviewed for the story with academic and psychiatric theories of lesbianism – a certain gulf existed between the two of them.

What turns women to Lesbianism

Lesbians reported feeling fundamentally normal and were proud to be contributing members of society.  Many did not know they were lesbian until their 20s: often after they had married men and had children.

Wilson’s interview subjects reported:

“Until I was twenty I didn’t even know the word lesbian.”

“I read about lesbianism but didn’t connect it with my own situation”

“I got married, had a baby.  then I met this woman and it suddenly hit me like a sledgehammer: I could love her but not him.”

“I don’t hate men, I just don’t want to marry one.”

Wilson remarked that, “most lesbians aren’t distinguishable by appearance.  Of the dozen I met [in] a Vancouver apartment, a few wore slacks, but only one was vehemently against skirts.  They would not have stood out in a group of housewives, office girls or nurses getting together to play bridge or discuss PTA or union affairs.”

The article goes into some detail about potential causes of lesbianism, ruling out heredity, chromosomal abnormality, glandular imbalance, and free choice.  Wilson settled on Freud and current (in 1966) psychological trends, which focus on psychosexual development and the role of parents in a child’s upbringing, which sounds far-fetched and bizarre to a modern-day reader.

Wilson noted that if a girl does have lesbian leanings and is willing to be treated by psychotherapy, a change in orientation does not have the best of chances.  She writes: “According to the Toronto Forensic Service lesbians rarely attempt treatment and when they do they harder to help than males.  In ten years, Dr. Turner hasn’t seen one lesbian persevere in therapy to completion; yet he can count considerable success with male homosexuals.”

The article concluded with the legal context for Canadian homosexuals, noting that in common law lesbianism is mostly ignored.  Wilson explained, “When a revision of English law in 1885 condemned homosexual practices by men and women, Queen Victoria refused to sign it because, as she huffily explained, ‘women can’t do that together.’ Rather than enlighten Her Majesty, her ministers removed women from the clause.”

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